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Museum of Oxford Digital Exhibitions

Burned for translating the Bible

Photo credit: With the permission of the Principal, Fellows and Scholars of Hertford College in the University of Oxford

This stained-glass window commemorates a martyr who had studied at Oxford.  William Tyndale was burnt at the stake in Antwerp in 1536. He had left England in 1524 to produce an English translation of the Latin Bible (known as the Vulgate). At the time, the Roman Catholic authorities in England associated the Bible in English with new religious ideas of the German Protestant reformer Martin Luther and would not permit a translation to be printed and widely read. As a result, Tyndale’s New Testament was printed in Germany. It was the first English translation of scripture ever to be printed, and perhaps as many as 16,000 copies reached England by 1536.

Tyndale had been a student at Magdalen Hall, now Hertford College, and this stained-glass window in its chapel was installed in 1994 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of his birth, thought to be 1494. The image at the bottom of the window shows Tyndale examining page proofs and is based on drawings of a typical sixteenth-century printer’s shop in Antwerp, where he published most of his books. The names of the first translators of the Bible into other languages appear around the border.