1528: Patrick Hamilton, Scotland’s first Protestant

1 comment February 29th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 1528, Lutheran Patrick Hamilton was condemned to death for heresy and immediately* burned at the stake outside St. Salvator’s Chapel in St. Andrews, Scotland.

The “first reformer” of Scotland — and practically the only one of note during the Reformation’s earliest phase — Hamilton sprang from noble stock and was studying in Paris just when Martin Luther’s doctrines roiled Europe’s ecclesiastical scene.

He traveled widely on the continent, visiting Luther himself along with a passel of the era’s humanists and reformers, returning to Scotland late in 1527 on what looks like the missionary equivalent of a suicide mission. Given a few weeks’ latitude to pontificate publicly, he had armed the guardians of the faith with more than enough evidence of his heterodoxy.

Hamilton was alive to the public relations potential of a gaudy public death for the faith. And he was right.

An opposing prelate would soon caution against making similar examples, noticing that “the reek of Maister Patrik Hammyltoun has infected as many as it blew upon.” In his ashes glowed the ember that would ignite the Scottish Reformation. The young** martyr bequeathed it his nation’s first Protestant text, Patrike’s Places

Nor is Hamilton’s legacy in St. Andrew’s strictly theological. The spot of his passion is marked with the initials “P.H.” on the street — a modest but powerful public testament to the courageous young man’s (ultimately fruitful) sacrifice.

* Though the sentence was put into effect immediately, a paucity of fuel made a weak fire, and Hamilton’s death consumed six agonizing hours on the spit.

** Only 23 or 24 at his death.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 16th Century,Botched Executions,Burned,God,Heresy,Martyrs,Popular Culture,Public Executions,Religious Figures,Scotland,Summary Executions,The Supernatural

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