John Stone was a Doctor of Theology, living in the Augustinian friary at Canterbury, England. The place where the Augustinian friary once stood on St George’s Street is still called Whitefriars.
During the time of the Reformation, Stone publicly denounced the behavior of King Henry VIII from the pulpit of the Austin Friars and stated his approval of the status of monarch’s first marriage — clearly opposing the monarch’s wish to gain a divorce. The Act of Supremacy of 1534 declared the king to be the only supreme head of the Church in England. This was followed by the Treasons Act which enjoined the penalty of high treason on anyone who might maliciously desire to deprive the king of his title of supreme head of the Church.
All bishops, priests and religious were required to acknowledge his title. On 14 December 1538, the Anglican bishop of Dover, Richard Ingworth, a former Dominican, visited Canterbury and called on the Augustinian friary with an order to close it down as part of the dissolution of monasteries in England. Every friar was forced to sign a formal document agreeing to the Act of Supremacy; Stone refused to sign.
After being held in the Tower of London for some time he was sent back to Canterbury to be tried under the Treasons Act. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. He is probably the Austin Friar of whom Ingworth complained on 14 December, 1538, that “at all times he still held and still desired to die for it, that the king may not be head of the Church of England”.
When in prison before his martyrdom “after an uninterrupted fast of three days, he heard a voice, but without seeing the presence of anyone, calling him by name and exhorting him to be of good courage and not to hesitate to suffer with constancy for the truth of the opinion which he had professed”. Before his execution at the Dane John (Dungeon Hill), Canterbury, Friar John Stone said: “I close my apostolate in my blood. In my death I shall find life, for I die for a holy cause, the defense of the Church of God, infallible and immaculate”.
Stone was hanged, drawn and quartered. From the scaffold John could look down on his former friary. He was hung, but not to death. While still conscious his heart was removed; his head and limbs were severed and parboiled. His head and body were placed on display to dishonor his corpse as a traitor. In the account books of Canterbury, there appears an expense of two shillings and six pence “Paid for a half-ton of wood to build the gallows on which Friar Stone was brought to justice.”
The picture of St John Stone in his prison cell awaiting execution is from an engraving which was printed in 1612 at Liege in a volume by Georges Maigret Buillonoy (1573 – 1633), O.S.A.
Cor unum et anima una in Deum! = One heart and one soul to God!
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