John Wyclif


Writer and “reformer”. It is difficult to ascertain the events of his early life, but it is presumed that he studied at Balliol College, Oxford, and resigned the mastership in 1361, on receiving the living of Fillingham. In 1373 he took the rich living of Lutterworth in Leicestershire, having received the degree of Doctor of Theology a short time before, and about this time he began to concern himself with public affairs. His theories of the subjection of Church property to the civil prince made him a useful ally of the anti-clerical oligarchic party headed by King Edward III’s son, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, and when his “barking against the Church” caused the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London to bring him before a council, Lancaster’s control of the Government stood Wyclif in good stead. A series of Bulls issued from London concerning Wyclif had little more effect and a council of doctors declared his propositions not erroneous, though ill-sounding. Before his next summons in 1381, however, his heretical tendencies had developed so rapidly that he lost much of his popularity, and when in 1380 he attacked Transubstantiation, calling the Host merely “an effectual sign,” an Oxford council of doctors condemned his teaching and an ecclesiastical court at Blackfriars gave sentence against 24 of his propositions (1381 and 1382, respectively.) Several of his most prominent followers were forced to make retractions, but a promise not to preach seems to have been the only thing demanded from Wyclif himself, and he died as rector of Lutterworth. The tradition of his teaching was carried on imperfectly by the English Lollards, and if he had any direct connection with the Reformation it was through his “spiritual inheritor,” John Hus. Besides various Latin works, Wyclif is credited, even by contemporaries, with having translated the whole of the Bible, and two “Wyclifite” versions are in existence.


MLA Citation

  • “John Wyclif”. New Catholic Dictionary. CatholicSaints.Info. 24 November 2018. Web. 17 April 2021. <>