This article takes a look at 16th century religious strife in the
city when men and women were martyred for their beliefs. Several
roads in Coventry are named after martyrs and there is an area known
as Martyrs Fields.
King Henry VIII has a legacy in Coventry – not just in the shape of
a school bearing his name but also from darker days of religious
turmoil. It is well-known that the monarch was responsible for
dissolving the monasteries and separating England's ties with the
Catholic Church to further his many marriage proposals.
But it was in the years before he was excommunicated and declared
head of the Church of England that the first religious martyrs were
made in Coventry. In 1510, Henry VIII visited the city to stay in
the priory and in the same year – while England was still Catholic –
10 followers of a new religion were persecuted.
The men and women were part of the movement of Lollardy whose
followers went against the Catholic Church's belief that the Bible
could not be printed in any other language than Latin. They traced
their religion back to the 1380s when a scholar named John Wycliffe
initiated the translating of the Bible into vernacular English.