Saint John Fisher ready to frame print.
John Fisher grew up in Yorkshire in England. He was pious and talented in his studies. He was ordained a priest when only twenty-two years old, which required a special dispensation from the pope because he was under the canonical age. The same year he was elected a fellow in his college at the University of Cambridge.
In 1504 he was appointed Bishop of Rochester. He was devoted to his diocese, which at the time was the poorest one in England, but he also remained active in academics and in guiding Cambridge University.
When King Henry VIII of England became determined to dissolve his marriage to Catherine of Aragon because she had not provided him with a son, Bishop Fisher became one of her primary defenders. Speaking on the queen’s behalf in the legates court, Bishop Fisher compared himself to St. John the Baptists (who in the Gospels was martyred after telling King Herrod that his marriage was invalid.) This enraged Henry VIII, and in 1534 he imprisoned Fisher in the Tower of London.
Pope Paul III appointed Bishop Fisher a cardinal in May 1535, a very unusual honor for an Englishman at that time, in hopes that the English king would be hesitant to mistreat a cardinal. This attempt was not successful. Henry VIII had Bishop Fisher tried for treason, on the charge that he refused to acknowledge the king as the sole head of the Church in England. He was beheaded at Tower Hill on June 22, 1535, fulfilling his prophecy that he would be treated like John the Baptist. He was canonized a saint in 1935 and his feast day is June 22.
In this icon, St. John Fisher is dressed in the red of a cardinal. He holds in his hand the crosier of a bishop and a palm symbolizing eternal life. His halo is rimmed with red to show that he died a martyr for the Church.
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