Martyr George Wishart remembered, 500 years on

The life of George Wishart – a Scottish reformer who was burnt at the stake for his beliefs – has been marked with a special event, 500 years after his birth.

Mr Wishart was put on trial in 1546 on charges that included challenging the concepts of purgatory and praying to saints.

He is known as a powerful preacher, and delivered his sermons around Britain – speaking in places such as Dundee and Bristol.


As Wishart produced more spoken sermons than written material, academics say pinning down his views is difficult.

But at a conference last week, held at the University of St Andrews, over a hundred people heard about the latest research into his life, work and lasting influence.

Ahead of the conference the University noted that one of Wishart’s supporters was John Knox, and even questioned whether Knox would “have been so resolute had he not met Wishart”.

Wishart’s death is recorded by Foxe’s Book of Martyrs which speaks of the forgiveness he had for his executioners.


It says: “On the morning of his execution there came to him two friars from the cardinal; one of whom put on him a black linen coat, and the other brought several bags of gunpowder, which they tied about different parts of his body.

“As soon as he arrived at the stake, the executioner put a rope round his neck and a chain about his middle, upon which he fell on his knees and thus exclaimed:

“‘O thou Savior of the world, have mercy upon me! Father of heaven, I commend my spirit into Thy holy hands.’

“After this he prayed for his accusers, saying, ‘I beseech thee, Father of heaven, forgive them that have, from ignorance or an evil mind, forged lies of me: I forgive them with all my heart. I beseech Christ to forgive them that have ignorantly condemned me.'”