The Last Heretic

In 1612, Edward Wightman, described as the 'Jacobean equivalent of a pub bore' became the last person to be burned at the stake for heresy in England. He'd decided he was the third person of the Holy Trinity, prophesied the day of the Last Judgement and bothered the King and Archbishop of Canterbury with presentation copies of his self-scribbled books wherein he denounced the Church of England as radically corrupt and heretical.

Today we'd consider Wightman's eccentricities to be absolutely harmless. We might move away from him on the bus or block him on Twitter but we certainly wouldn't want him to be killed, and we'd be horrifed at the thought of executing anyone by burning them alive, even for the most heinous crimes. Journalist and writer Andrew Brown and Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church in the University of Oxford, look at why such cruel punishment was once accepted as absolutely necessary and how that perception changed.

The programme will include extracts from Wightman's own prophecy of the end of the world. Wightman's words are read by actor Simon Tait.

Andrew Brown and Diarmaid MacCulloch consider why we burned heretics and why we stopped.

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In 1612, Edward Wightman, described as the 'Jacobean equivalent of a pub bore' became the last person to be burned at the stake for heresy in England. He'd decided he was the third person of the Holy Trinity, prophesied the day of the Last Judgement and bothered the King and Archbishop of Canterbury with presentation copies of his self-scribbled books wherein he denounced the Church of England as radically corrupt and heretical.

Today we'd consider Wightman's eccentricities to be absolutely harmless. We might move away from him on the bus or block him on Twitter but we certainly wouldn't want him to be killed, and we'd be horrifed at the thought of executing anyone by burning them alive, even for the most heinous crimes. Journalist and writer Andrew Brown and Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church in the University of Oxford, look at why such cruel punishment was once accepted as absolutely necessary and how that perception changed.

The programme will include extracts from Wightman's own prophecy of the end of the world. Wightman's words are read by actor Simon Tait.

Andrew Brown and Diarmaid MacCulloch consider why we burned heretics and why we stopped.