Open main menu


CHRISTOPHERSON, JOHN (d. 1558), bishop of Chichester, was a native of Ulverstone in Lancashire, and was educated in the university of Cambridge, first at Pembroke Hall, ana then at St. John's College, under John Redman. He graduated B. A. in 1540-1, and about the same time was elected a fellow of Pembroke Hall, whence he again migrated to St. John's, where he was elected to a foundress's fellow hip, being subsequently on 9 May 1542, by the authority of the visitor, removed to a fellowship of Mr. Ashton's foundation (Baker, Hist. of St, John's, ed. Mayor, i. 117, 284). He commenced M.A. in 1543, and was appointed one of the original fellows of Trinity College by the charter of foundation in 1546. He was one of the first revivers of the study of the Greek language and literature in the university.

Being conscientiously attached to the Roman catholic churchy he retired to the continent during the reign of Edward VI, but was supported by Trinity College. As an indication of his gratitude he dedicated to that society in February 1553 his translation of 'Philo Judæus.' He was then residing at Louvain.

On the accession of Queen Mary he returned to England, and was appointed master of Trinity College in 1553, Dr. William Bill, a decided protestant, who had filled that office in the latter part of King Edward's reign, being ejected by two of his own fellows, who removed him from his stall in the chapel in a rude and insolent manner, in order to make room for Christopherson (Baker, Hist. of St, John's, i. 127). He was also nominated chaplain and confessor to Queen Mary, to whom he dedicated his 'Exhortation to all Menne,' written immediately after the suppression of Wyatt's rebellion in 1554. He tells the queen that his duty obliged him to write the book, because her majesty's bountiful goodness, when he was destitute of all aid or succour, so liberally provided for him that now he might without care serve God, go to his book, and do his duty in that vocation to which God had called him. He was installed dean of Norwich on 18 April 1554. On 9 Oct. 1555 he was present at Ely when Wolsey and Pigot were condemned to be burnt for heresy; and on the 25th of the same month he was elected prolocutor of the lower house of the convocation of the province of Canterbury (Cardwell, Synodalia, ii. 443). In the next year he was instituted to the rectory of Swanton Morley in Norfolk. He was one of the persons deputed by Cardinal Pole to visit the university of Cambridge in 1556–7, being styled bishop-elect of Chichester, although the bull for his provision to that see was not issued until 7 May 1557, and he was not consecrated till 21 Nov. following. In the bull or consistorial act appointing him to the see, John Scory, the Edwardian bishop, who had been consecrated after the new ordination service in 1551, is ignored, and the catholic succession is traced to George Day, who had been consecrated during the schism with Rome, but according to the catholic rite, and who had been deprived of his see because of his opposition to the new ordination service (Brady, Episcopal Succession, i. 65). As a member of the commission for burning the bodies of Bucer and Fagius at Cambridge he incurred the dislike of the protestants, one of whom relates that on Candlemas day 1556–7, while Watson, bishop of Lincoln, was preaching at St. Mary's, the university church, the bishop-elect of Chichester, 'beinge striken with a sodayne sycknesse, fel downe in a swound amonge the prease;' and while unconscious talked so excitedly that his enemies attributed his distraction to some misappropriation of college property of which he had been accused (Briefe Treatise concerning the Burnynge of Bucer and Phagius, translated by Goldyng, 1562, sig. G. viii).

On 27 Nov. 1558, being the second Sunday after Queen Elizabeth's accession, Christopherson, preaching at St. Paul's Cross, with great vehemence and freedom answered a sermon preached by Dr. Bill at that place on the preceding Sunday declaring that the new doctrine set forth by Dr. Bill was not the gospel but the invention of heretical men. 'or this sermon he was summoned before the queen, who ordered him to be sent to prison, where he died about a month afterwards (Zurich Letters, i. 4). He was buried on 28 Dec. 1558 at Christ Church, London, with heraldic state, five bishops offering at the mass, and there being banners of nis own arms, and the arms of his see, and four banners of saints (Machyn, Diary, 184). By his will dated 6 Oct. 1556, but not proved till 9 Feb. 1562–3, wherein he desired to be buried in the chapel of Trinity College, near the south side of the high altar, he gave to that college many books, both printed and manuscript, in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, and directed that certain copies of his translation of 'Philo Judæus' should from time to time be given to poor scholars. He also gave to his successors in the mastership of Trinity certain hangings and other goods in his study chambers and gallery, and requested the college to celebrate yearly on the anniversary of his death a dirge and mass of requiem wherein mention was to be made of his father and mother, and of his special good master and bringer up, John Redman, D.D. Independent of his own benefactions to Trinity College, he procured considerable donations to that society from Queen Mary.

Fuller says of him: 'This man was well learned, and had turned Eusebius his ecclesiastical history into Latin, with all the persecutions of the primitive Christians. What he translated in his youth he practised in his age, turning tyrant himself; and scarce was he warm in his bishopric, when he fell a burning the poor martyrs: ten in one fire at Lewes, and seventeen others at several times in sundry places' (Church Hist. (Brewer), iv. 184).

He is author of : 1. ‘Jephthah,’ a tragedy. 2. ‘Philonis Judæi Scriptoris eloquentlssimi libri quatuor jam primum de Græco in Latinum conversi,’ Antwerp, 1558, 4to. 3. ‘An exhortation to all menne to take bode and beware of rebellion,’ Lond. 1654, 12mo. 4. The Ecclesiastical Histories of Eusebius, Socrates Sozomen, Evagrius, and Theodoret, translated from the Greek into Latin, Louvain, 1570, 8vo, Cologne, 1570, 1581, 1812, fol. 5. 'Reasons why a Priest may not practice Physic or Surgery,’ MS. Fleming; see Peck's ‘Desiderata Curiosa,’ vol. i. ed. 1732, lib. vi. p. 50. 6. ‘Plutarcus de futili loquacitate,’ manuscript translated from Greek into Latin, and dedicated to the Princess Mary; the king's sister's afterwards queen. He translated ‘Apollinaris’ and other Greek authors. His character as a translator does not stand high. Valesius says that his style is impure and full of barbarisms and sentences confused, and that he often transposed the sense. Huet has passed the same censure on him in his ‘De Interpretatione.’ Baronius, among others, has often been misled by Christopherson.

[Addit. MSS. 5850 f. 130, 5865 f. 40; Aschami Epistolæ [6, 14, 31], 212, 270, 388; Baker's Hist. of St. John's Coll. Camb. (Mayor), 127, 137, 142, 244, 663; Baker's MSS. xiii. 301, xvi. 275, xxvi. 351, xxx. 253; Bedford's Blazon of Episcopacy, 29; Biog. Dramatica; Blomefield's Norfolk, x. 57; Burn's Cumberland and Westmoreland, i. 74; Burnet's Hist. of the Reformation (Pocock); Cooper's Annals of Camb. ii. 92, 112, 127, 128; Cooper's Athenæ Cantab. i. 188, 551; Cowie's Cat. of St. John's Coll. MSS. 84; Dodd's Church Hist. i. 500; Foxe's Acts and Monuments; Fuller's Worthies (Nichols), i. 541; Godwin, De Præsulibus (Richardson), 513; Hawes and Loder's Framlingham, 227; Jewel's Works (Parker Soc.), iv. 1196, 1197; Kennett's MSS. xlvi. 249; Le Neve's Fasti; Machyn's Diary, 58, 124, 184, 369; Maitland's Essays on the Reformation, 300, 417, 545; Index to Parker Society Publications; Philo Judæus, ed. Mangey (1742); Pits, De Angliæ Scriptoribus, 754; Rymer's Fœdera (1713), xv. 480, 532; Strype's Works (general index); Tanner's Bibl. Brit.; Wharton's Specimen of Errors in Burnet's Hist. 152, 153.]

T. C.