Thomas Spofford’s Broken Gravestone

This is the gravestone of Thomas Spofford, Abbot of St Mary’s at York and later Bishop of Hereford. He was an important man in his day, highly regarded and extremely influential. He was one of the twenty-three English delegates to the Council of Constance (1414-1418). This great gathering of Catholic clergy and several popes (it was called, in part, to determine which of these claimants was the real one) condemned the great John Wyclif as a heretic, finding him guilty of 260 errors. All his writings were ordered to be burned and his body was condemned to be dug up and cast out of consecrated ground at his beloved Lutterworth. Worse still, they condemned the great proto-Protestant Jan Hus from Bohemia of heresy. Despite promising him safe conduct, they handed him over to die at the stake. Jerome of Prague, who came to assist him, suffered likewise. Their ashes were dumped in the Rhine. Spofford, on the other hand, returned home to a comfortable retirement at York, buried with pomp and dignity in a tomb of Purbeck marble in his abbey’s chancel.

At the Reformation, Hus’ and Wyclif’s ideas were embraced and St Mary’s at York was torn down, Spofford’s tomb being smashed. Judgement, perhaps, on the man who denied his opponents their lives and decent burials. Worse still is the judgement God reserves for his soul:

When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.

 Revelation 6:9-11