Shop  |  Calendar  |  Join  |  Buy Tickets  |  Hamnet  |  Site Rental  |  Press Room  
About UsWhat's OnUse the CollectionDiscover ShakespeareTeach & LearnFolger InstituteSupport Us
Folger Exhibitions
• Past Exhibitions
Vivat Rex!
Defender of the Faith

   Sign up for E-news!
   Printer Friendly

Defender of the Faith

When Martin Luther published his ninety-five Theses (1518) and his On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church (1520), he ignited a controversy far greater than any he intended or imagined. While many agreed with his desire for a reformation of the Church’s excesses, others leapt to defend the papacy and its teachings. For his Assertion (Defense) of the Seven Sacraments against Martin Luther (1521), Pope Leo X named Henry VIII “Defender of the Faith,” a title still held today by British monarchs.

Henry VIII. Assertio septem sacramentorum: or, a defence of the seven sacraments, against Martin Luther. London, 1687

Prominent churchmen on the Continent and in England wrote spirited defenses of the Church against Luther’s “heresies.” People stood for hours inside churches and outdoors in churchyards to listen to sermons like the one shown at right, by John Fisher. These sermons would have been delivered with enthusiasm and fervor. Copies of Fisher’s attack on Luther are very rare, this being one of only two complete survivors.


The battle between Martin Luther and the Roman Catholic Church continued with polemical writings emanating from both camps. Attack followed attack, and others like John Fisher and Thomas More joined Henry in defense of the Church and the papacy against Lutheran heresies.


With hindsight, the irony is clear: within a dozen years, Henry VIII would break from Rome and establish himself as head of the Church of England.


Click the links at right to hear curator Arthur Schwarz talk about Henry's new title, "Defender of the Faith," and the gift thought to have been given to him by Pope Leo X.


Next -->
John Fisher. The sermon of Johan the bysshop of Rochester. London, 1521?


A Grand New Title

Golden Gospels

Bookmark and Share   
     Copyright & Policies   |   Sitemap   |   Contact Us   |   About This Site
201 East Capitol Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
Get directions »

Federal Tax ID #04-2103542
PublicReading Room
10am to 5pm, Monday through Saturday8:45am to 4:45pm, Monday through Friday
12pm to 5pm, Sunday9am to noon and 1pm to 4:30pm, Saturday
Main: 202 544 4600
Box Office: 202 544 7077
Fax: 202 544 4623