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fourteenth century literature, John Wyclyf, Christianity


In 1983 we shall be observing the six hundredth anniversary of the death of one of England's great contributors, along with William of Ockham and John Duns Scotus, to the thought, learning, and literature of the fourteenth century. John Wyclyf died at the comparatively advanced age oof sixty-four after two years' illness attendant upon a stroke, on St. Sylvester's day, December 31, 1384. He had been stricken a second time while hearing Mass said by his curate in his parish church at Lutterworth, some thirteen miles northeast of Coventry. We know nothing about his burial, save that in accordance with medieval custom he was probably laid to rest either near the altar of the church or in consecrated ground in the churchyard. Nevertheless, a committee of four at the Council of Constance reported to the Assembly that Wyclyf, having been successfully accused of two hundred and sixty instances of heresy, should be punished by having all his writing extirpated. The compliance of the Council was extended to a decree which ordered "his bones to be dug up and cast out of the consecrated ground provided they could be identified from those of Christians buried near."