Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 234. WILLIAM GARDINER, MARTYRED IN PORTUGAL

234. WILLIAM GARDINER, MARTYRED IN PORTUGAL

 

The history, no less lamentable than notable, of William Gardiner, an Englishman, suffering most constantly in Portugal, for the testimony of God's truth.

oming to the next year following, now we will for a time depart, and leave the coasts and country of England, whereupon our style hath now long stayed; and with open sails, as it were, following the tempests of persecution, pass over into Portugal amongst the popish merchants there, whereunto William Gardiner, an Englishman, of necessity calleth me, who was burned in Lisbon, the chief city of Portugal, in the year of our Lord 1552. A man verily, in my judgment, not only to be compared with the most principal and chief martyrs of these our days, but also such a one as the ancient churches, in the time of the first persecutions, cannot show a more famous, whether we do behold the force of his faith, his firm and stedfast constantness, the invincible strength of his spirit, or the cruel and horrible torments; the report only and hearing whereof were enough to put any man in horror or fear. Yet notwithstanding, so far off it was that the same did discourage him, that it may be doubted whether the pain of his body or the courage of his mind were the greater; when as indeed both appeared to be very great.

            Wherefore, if any praise or dignity amongst men, as reason is, be due unto the martyrs of Christ for their valiant acts, this one man, amongst many, seemeth worthy to be numbered, and also to be celebrated in the church, with Ignatius, Laurentius, Ciriatius, Crescentius, and Gordianus. And if the church of Christ do receive so great and manifold benefits by these martyrs, with whose blood it is watered, by whose ashes it is enlarged, by whose constancy it is confirmed, by whose testimony it is witnessed, and, finally, through whose agonies and victories the truth of the gospel doth gloriously triumph; let not us, then, think it any great matter to requite them again with our duty, by committing them to memory, as a perpetual token of our good will towards them. Albeit they themselves receive no glory at our hands, and much less challenge the same, but, referring it wholly unto the Lord Christ, from whom it came, whatsoever great or notable thing there was in them: notwithstanding, forasmuch as Christ himself is glorified in his saints, we cannot show ourselves thankful unto him, except we also show ourselves dutiful unto those by whom his glory doth increase.

            Hereupon I think it came to pass, that the ancient Christians, in the time of the first persecutions, thought good to celebrate yearly commemorations of the martyrdom of those holy men, not so much to honour them, as to glorify God in his soldiers, unto whom all glory and praise doth worthily belong; and moreover that we, being instructed by their example, might he the more prompt and ready in the policies of those wars, to stand more stoutly in battle against our adversaries, and learn the more easily to contemn and despise this world. For, in considering the end and death of these men, who will greatly long or lust after this life, which is so many ways miserable, through so many afflictions dolorous, through so many casualties ruinous, wherein consisteth so little constancy, and less safety, being never free from some hard calamity one or other? What good man would have this world in reputation, wherein he seeth so many good men so cruelly oppressed, and wherein no man can live in quietness, except he be wicked? Wherefore I do not a little marvel, that in this great slaughter of good men, with so many spectacles and examples of cruel torment, Christians do yet live, as it were, drowned in the foolish desires of this world; seeing daily before their eyes so many holy and innocent men yield up their spirits under the hands of such tormentors, to lie in filthy prisons, in bonds, darkness, and tears, and, in the end, to be consumed with fire. We see so many prophets of God, even Christ himself, the Son of God, to be so cruelly and many ways afflicted in this world, turmoiled, scourged, and crucified; and yet we laugh, drink, and give ourselves unto all looseness of life, and all lasciviousness. For honour and great possessions we contend; we build; we study and labour by allmeans to make ourselves rich: unto whom it loth not suffice, that we, with safety and freedom from their afflictions, racks, wheels, scourges, irons red-hot, gridirons, flesh-hooks, mallets, and other kind of torments, may serve our Christ in peace and quiet; but being herewith not content, will give over ourselves to all kind of wickedness, to be led away at the will and pleasure of Satan.

            But what do we think in so doing? Either we must reckon those men to be most miserable in this life, or else ourselves to be most unhappy. But if their blessedness be most certain and sure, then let us direct the course of our life to the same felicity. These men have forsaken this life, which they might have enjoyed. But if we cannot willingly put off this life, yet let us not be slow to correct and amend the same; and though we cannot die with them in like martyrdom, yet let us mortify the worldly and profane affections of the flesh, which strive against the spirit; and, at the least, let us not run thus headlong into the licentious desires of the world, as we do. As the life of Christian men is now, I pray thee, what do these bonds, prisons, these wounds and scars, these great fires, and other horrible torments of martyrs, but upbraid unto us our slothful sluggishness, and worthily make us ashamed thereof? which martyrs, if in their lives they lived so innocently, and in their deaths continued so constant, what then is to be deemed of us, which suffer nothing for Christ, and will not take upon us the small conflict against vices and our own affections? How would we suffer the cruel looks of tyrants, the fearful kinds of torments, or the violent assaults of the tormentors, in any quarrel of godliness, if in peace and quietness we are (and that with every small breath or wind of temptation) blown away from God -- so faint-hearted without any resistance, that we are carried headlong into all kinds of wickedness and mischief? One singeth songs of love; another watcheth all the night at dice: some spend their life and time day by day in hawking and hunting; some tipple so at taverns, that they come home reeling. Others, whatsoever desire of revenge doth put into their heads, that, by and by, they seek to put in practice. Some gape after riches; some swell with ambition; some think they are born for no other purpose but for pleasure and pastime. All the world is full of injury and perjury; nay, rather, it is so rare a thing patiently to suffer injuries done unto us, that except we have the sleight to do injury to others, we think ourselves scarce men. There is no love almost, nor charity among men; neither is there any man that regardeth the good name or fame of his neighbour.

            But amongst all the rest, unsatiable covetousness and avarice so reigneth, that no man almost is contented with any tolerable estate of life, either that will prescribe himself any measure in having that he possesseth, or in prowling for that which he lacketh; never quiet, but always toiling; never satisfied, but always unsatiable. But now, setting apart these complaints spent in vain, we will prosecute our purposed story touching good William Gardiner.

            And first, as concerning his kindred, he was of an honest stock, born at Bristol, a town of merchandise on the sea-coast of England; honestly brought up, and, by nature, given unto gravity; of a mean stature of body, of a comely and pleasant countenance, but in no part so excellent as in the inward qualities of the mind, which he always, from his childhood, preserved without spot of reprehension. Also his handsome and indifferent learning, did not a little commend and beautify his other ornaments. When he grew unto those years at which young men are accustomed to settle their minds to some kind of life, it happened that he gave himself to the trade of merchandise, under the conduct and guiding of a certain merchant of Bristol, called Master Paget, by whom he was at the last (being of the age of twenty-six or thereabout) sent into Spain; and by chance the ship arriving at Lisbon, (which is the chief city of Portugal,) he tarried there about his merchandise, where, at the last, he, having gotten understanding of the language, and being accustomed to their manners, became a profitable servant both unto his master and others, in such things as pertained unto the trade of that vocation; whereunto he did so apply himself, that nevertheless he, in that popish country, reserving still the religion of his own country of England, ever kept himself sound and undefiled from the Portuguese superstition. There were also, besides him, divers other good men in the same city. Neither did he lack good books, or the conference of good and honest men, unto whom he would oftentimes bewail his imbecility and weakness, that he was neither sufficiently touched with the hatred of his sins, nor yet inflamed with the love of godliness.

            Whilst he was there abiding, it happened that there should be a solemn marriage celebrated the first day of September in the year abovesaid, betwixt two princes; that is to say, the son of the king of Portugal, and the Spanish king's daughter. The marriage day being come, there was great resort of the nobility and estates. There lacked no bishops with mitres, nor cardinals with their hats, to set out this royal wedding. To be short, they went forward to the wedding with great pomp, where a great concourse of people resorted, some of good will, some for service' sake, and some (as the matter is) to gaze and look. Great preparation of all parties was there throughout the whole city, as in such cases is accustomed, and all places were filled with mirth and gladness. In this great assembly of the whole kingdom, William Gardiner, who albeit he did not greatly esteem such kind of spectacles, yet being allured through the fame and report thereof, was there also; coming thither early in the morning, to the intent he might have the more opportunity, and better place, to behold and see.

Illustration -- The Royal Wedding

            The hour being come, they flocked into the church with great solemnity and pomp; the king first, and then every estate in order; the greater persons, the more ceremonies were about them. After all things were set in order, they went forward to the celebrating of their mass; for that alone serveth for all purposes. The cardinal did execute, with much singing and organ-playing. The people stood with great devotion and silence, praying, looking, kneeling, and knocking; their minds being fully bent and set, as it is the manner, upon the external sacrament. How grievously these things did prick and move this young man's mind, it cannot be expressed -- partly to behold the miserable absurdity of those things, and partly to see the folly of the common people; and not only of the common people, but, especially, to see the king himself, and his council, with so many sage and wise men as they seemed, to be seduced with like idolatry as the common people were; insomuch that it lacked very little, but that he would, even that present day, have done some notable thing in the king's sight and presence, but that the great press and throng that was about him, letted that he could not come unto the altar. What need many words? When the ceremonies were ended, he cometh home very sad and heavy in his mind, insomuch that all his fellows marvelled greatly at him; who, albeit upon divers conjectures they conceived the cause of his sadness, notwithstanding they did not fully understand that those matters did so much trouble his godly mind; neither yet did he declare it unto any man: but, seeking solitariness and secret places, falling down prostrate before God, with manifold tears he bewailed the neglecting of his duty, deliberating with himself how he might revoke that people from their impiety and superstition.

            In this deliberation and advice his mind being fully settled, and thinking that the matter ought not to be any longer deferred, he renounced the world, making up all his accounts so exactly, (as well of that which was due unto him, as that which he owed unto others,) that no man could justly ask so much as one farthing. Which thing done, he continued night and day in prayer, calling upon God, and in continual meditation of the Scriptures, that scarcely he would take any meat by day, or sleep by night, or at the most above one hour or two of rest in the night; as Pendigrace, his fellow companion both at bed and board, being yet alive, can testify.

            The Sunday came again to be celebrated either with like pomp and solemnity, or not much less, whereat the said William was present early in the morning, very cleanly apparelled, even of purpose, that he might stand near the altar without repulse. Within a while after, cometh the king with all his nobles. Then Gardiner setteth himself as near the altar as he might, having a Testament in his hand, which he diligently read upon, and prayed, until the time was come, that he had appointed to work his feat. The mass began, which was then solemnized by a cardinal. Yet he sat still. He which said mass, proceeded: he consecrated, sacrificed, lifted up on high, showed his god unto the people. All the people gave great reverence, and as yet he stirred nothing. At last, they came unto that place of the mass, where they use to take the ceremonial host, and toss it to and fro round about the chalice, making certain circles and semicircles. Then the said William Gardiner, being not able to suffer any longer, ran speedily unto the cardinal; and (which is incredible to be spoken) even in the presence of the king and all his nobles and citizens, with the one hand he snatched away the cake from the priest, and trod it under his feet, and with the other hand overthrew the chalice. This matter at first made them all abashed, but, by and by, there arose a great tumult, and the people began to cry out. The nobles and the common people ran together, amongst whom one, drawing out his dagger, gave him a great wound in his shoulder; and, as he was about to strike him again to have slain him, the king twice commanded to have him saved. So, by that means, they abstained from murder.

            After the tumult was ceased, he was brought to the king; by whom he was demanded what countryman he was, and how he durst be so bold to work such a contumely against his Majesty, and the sacraments of the church? He answered, "Most noble king, I am not ashamed of my country, who am an Englishman both by birth and religion, and am come hither only for traffic of merchandise. And when I saw, in this famous assembly, so great idolatry committed, my conscience neither ought nor could any longer suffer, but that I must needs do that, which you have seen me presently do. Which thing, most noble prince, was not done or thought of me, for any contumely or reproach of your presence, but only for this purpose, as before God I do clearly confess -- to seek only the salvation of this people."

            When they heard that he was an Englishman, and called to remembrance how the religion was restored by King Edward, they were, by and by, brought in suspicion, that he had been suborned by Englishmen thus to do, to mock and deride their religion: wherefore they were the more earnest upon him to know who was the author and procurer, that he should commit that act. Unto whom he answered, desiring them that they would conceive no such suspicion of him, forasmuch as he was not moved thereunto by any man, but only by his own conscience. For, otherwise, there was no man under the heaven, for whose sake he would put himself into so manifest danger; but that he owed this service, first, unto God, and secondarily, unto their salvation. Wherefore, if he had done any thing which were displeasant unto them, they ought to impute it unto no man, but unto themselves, who so irreverently used the holy supper of the Lord unto so great idolatry; not without great ignominy unto the church, violation of the sacrament, and the peril of their own souls, except they repented.

            While he spake these, with many other things more unto this effect, very gravely and stoutly, the blood ran abundantly out of the wound, so that he was ready to faint; whereupon surgeons were sent for, whereby he might be cured, if it were possible, and be reserved for further examination, and more grievous torment. For they were fully persuaded, that this deed had divers abettors and setters-on; which was the cause that all the other Englishmen, also, in the same city, came into suspicion, and were commanded to safe custody: amongst whom Pendigrace, because he was his bed-fellow, was grievously tormented and examined more than the residue, and scarcely was delivered after two years' imprisonment. The others were much sooner set at liberty, at the intercession of a certain duke. Notwithstanding, their suspicion could not yet be thus satisfied, but they came into his chamber, to seek if there were any letters, to understand and find out the author of this enterprise. And when they could find nothing there, they came again unto him, being grievously wounded, with torments to extort of him the author of this fact, and to accuse him as guilty of most grievous heresy: of both which points, with such dexterity as he could, he cleared himself; wherein albeit he spake in the Spanish tongue well, yet he used the Latin tongue much more exactly.

            But they, not being therewith satisfied, added another strange kind of torment, which (as I suppose) passeth the bull of Phalaris. Because there should no kind of extreme cruelty be left unassayed, they caused a linen cloth to be sewed round like a ball, the which they with violence put down his throat unto the bottom of his stomach, tied with a small string which they held in their hands; and when it was down, they pulled it up again with violence: plucking it to and fro through the meat pipe, in such sort as that with much less grief they might have rid him out of his life at once.

            Thus at the last, when all torments and tormentors were wearied, and that it did nothing at all prevail to go this way to work, they asked him, whether he did not repent his wicked and seditious deed? As touching the deed, he answered, that it was so far off that he did repent, that if it were to do again, he thought he should do the same. But as touching the manner of the deed, he was not a little sorry that it was done in the king's presence, to the disquietness of his mind. Howbeit, that was not to be imputed unto him, who neither enterprised nor thought upon any such matter; but was rather to be ascribed unto the king, in that he, having power, would not prohibit so great idolatry used among his people.-- This he spake with great fervency.

            After they had used all kind of torments, and saw that there could nothing more be gathered of him, and also that through his wounds and pains he could not long live, they brought him, three days after, to execution. And first of all, bringing him into the vestry, they cut off his right hand, which he, taking up with his left hand, kissed. Then he was brought into the market-place, where his other hand also was cut off; which he, kneeling down upon the ground, also kissed. These things thus done, after the manner and fashion of Spain, his arms being bound behind him, and his feet under the horse's belly, he was carried to the place of execution.

Illustration -- The execution of William Gardiner

            There was in that place a certain engine, from which a great rope coming down by a pulley was fastened about the middle of this Christian martyr, which first pulled him up. Then was there a great pile of wood set on fire underneath him, into which he was, by little and little, let down, not with the whole body, but so that his feet only felt the fire. Then was be hoisted up, and so let down again into the fire; and thus oftentimes pulled up and down.

            In this great torment, for all that, he continued with a constant spirit, and the more terribly he burned, the more vehemently he prayed.

            At last, when his feet were consumed, the tormentors asked him whether he did not yet repent him of his deed; and exhorted him to call upon our Lady and the saints. Whereunto he answered, that as he had done nothing whereof he did repent him, so be had the less need of the help of our Lady, or any other saint; and what external torments soever they used, the truth, he said, remaineth always one, and like unto itself; the which as he had before confessed in his life, so would he not now deny it at his death: desiring them to leave off such vanities and folly; for when Christ did cease any more to be our Advocate, then he would pray to our Lady to be his Advocate. And said, "O eternal God, Father of all mercies, I beseech theelook down upon thy servant," &c. And when they sought, by all means possible, to stop or hinder his praying to and praising God in this sort, he cried out with a loud voice, rehearsing the forty-third Psalm, "Judge me, O God, and defend my cause against the unmerciful people."

            He was not come unto the latter end of the Psalm, when, as they pulling him up and down in the fire for the more torment, the rope being burnt asunder, he fell down into the midst thereof; where, giving his body for a sacrifice, he changed his temporal pains for perpetual rest and quietness.

            Thus it seemed good in the sight of God, by this messenger to provoke the Portuguese to the sincere knowledge of him; and therefore they ought the more to have acknowledged the great love and kindness of God offered unto them, and also the more to be mindful of their own duty and thankfulness towards him. And if it be so great an offence to violate the ordinance of man's law, and to contemn the ambassadors of kings and princes, let the Portuguese, and all others, look well unto it, what it is so cruelly to handle the heavenly messenger of the high God. Neither was this their cruelty altogether unrevenged by the mighty hand of God, when as not only the very same night, amongst divers of the king's ships which were in the next haven ready to sail, one was burned, being   set on fire by a sparkle of Gardiner's fire driven thither with the wind, but also the king's son, who then was married, died within half a year, and, in the next year after, the king himself also died; and so both within one year after the tormenting of this blessed martyr.

            Thus the body of the said Gardiner being consumed, yet the rage and fury of the common people so ceased not, but they were as cruel against him, being dead, as they were when he was alive, and with their tongues tormented this martyr, when they could do no more with their hands; yea, for very madness, they would scarce tarry until he were burned, but every man, as they could catch any piece of him half burned, threw it into the sea.

            This sacrifice thus ended, the clergy, to pacify God's wrath, which they feared for the violating of their altar, appointed a solemn fast of certain days, for penance to purge that fact; which fact rather should have taught them to purge themselves, and to put away their filthy idolatry; and much rather they should have fasted and repented for that their extreme cruelty, which they had showed unto the lively member of Christ.

            Albeit this death of William Gardiner seemeth to have profited very many of them little or nothing; yet, for all that, there are some (as I have heard divers report) out of whose minds the remembrance of this constant martyr can never he pulled, and is so fresh yet amongst them, as if it were now lately done: and finally, albeit it be a good while since he was put to death, yet the memory of his death, as fruitful seed, hath taken such root in some, that even unto this present day he is a lively and diligent preacher unto them, against superstition and idolatry used in their churches.

 

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