John Jewel, a key figure in defining the Anglican Church

John JewelJohn Jewel (1522-71) was a leading Protestant reformer who did much to start to define what was unique and different about the English church.

Jewel was born in north Devon and entered Oxford when he was just 13. graduating with a BA in 1540 and an MA in 1545. Three years later he was appointed as a reader in humanity and rhetoric and became involved with the Italian theologian Peter Martyr who had been appointed as a professor at the university. Jewel was ordained around 1551.

Jewel’s radical reforming views caused him to fall from favour during the move back towards Catholicism that accompanied the accession of Queen Mary, and he eventually fled to the continent to escape persecution. He stayed in Frankfurt for a time before joining Peter Martyr in Strasbourg and then Zurich where he developed further his reforming ideas.

After Mary’s death in 1559 Jewel returned to London and was appointed as Bishop of Salisbury in 1560. He was noted for his sermons, his desire to be an active pastor and for his evangelization. He attempted to enforce standards of residency and hospitality among canons, and introduced a preaching rota for the cathedral clergy. He made a serious effort to repair the cathedral fabric.

Jewel was an energetic writer. His most important publication is the Apologia pro Ecclesia Anglicana of 1561. This was a Latin treatise in which Jewel defended the Church of England against the charge of heresy and systematically set forth the basis of its doctrine and practices, highlighting how they differed from the church of Rome.

The Apologia is divided into six parts. There is an explanation of the reasons for writing the book, then a brief summary of the reformed doctrine of the English church which saw Christ as the sole mediator, just the two sacraments of baptism and eucharist, accepted married clergy, and rejected the Bishop of Rome as ‘Lucifer’ and a man who ‘has forsaken the faith and is the forerunner of Antichrist’. The next three parts reject the various charges that had been made against the English church, namely that the Protestants would destroy all civil authority and had broken the unity of the ”true” church.

Jewel became involved in protracted debates with Thomas Harding who had been a prebendary of Salisbury but had lost this office when he refused to take the oath of supremacy on Elizabeth’s accession. Harding had remained loyal to the Pope and lived in exile in Louvain. He published An Answere to Maister Juelles Chalenge, which refuted Jewel’s ideas and Jewel subsequently responded with an equally massive work, A defence of the ‘Apologie of the Churche of England’ (1567). Throughout Jewel contended that the English church had ‘returned again unto the primitive church of the ancient fathers and apostles … [having] searched out of the Holy Bible, which we are sure cannot deceive, one sure form of religion’

Jewel remained unmarried and died at Monkton Fairleigh in 1571 whilst on a visit to the northern part of his diocese.

The Sarum College library has a modern copy of the Apologia plus a four-volume, mid-nineteenth century work by John Ayre that contains a copy of the Apologia and also his A defence. The library also holds a biography on Jewel and various other books that deal with the ideas he proposed.

  • John Jewel, An apology of the Church of England (2002)
  • W M Southgate, John Jewel and the problem of doctrinal authority (1962)
  • John Ayre, The Works of John Jewel 4 vols (1845-50)
  • Charles Webb Le Bas, The Life of Bishop Jewel (1835)
  • Sermons or Homilies (1986) [Book II is credited with mostly containing homilies written by Jewel]
  • T Cooper, An answer in defence of the truth against the apology of private mass to which is prefixed the work answered, entitled an apology of private mass, an anonymous popish treatise against Bishop Jewel (1850)

– John Elliott
February 2013

John Jewel is buried in Salisbury Cathedral, and was the subject of a talk given by Bishop Graham Kings on 27 February 2013, the final in the Cathedral’s Winter Lecture Series.



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One Response to John Jewel, a key figure in defining the Anglican Church

  1. It is fascinating to read about Bishop Jewel. At University I was head of the Bishop Jewel Society, but I had forgotten that he was a Bishop of Salisbury.

    It would be good to read some of the material available in the Library.

    Canon Jeremy Cresswell

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