FISHER, JOHN: Bishop of Rochester; b. at Beverley (9 m. n.n.w. of Hull), Yorkshire, 1459; d. in London June 22, 1535. He was educated in his native town and at Michaelhouse, Cambridge (B.A., 1487; M.A., 1491), of which he became master in 1497. In this same year he was appointed confessor of Margaret, Countess of Richmond and mother of the king. Four years later he was elected vice-chancellor of his university, and in 1503 he was appointed by Margaret to her newly established professorship of divinity, and in 1504 was chosen chancellor of Cambridge, being reelected annually until 1514, when he was appointed for life. In 1504 he was consecrated to the see of Rochester, but his interest in his university was undiminished, and he was active in the foundation both of Christ's College and of St. John's College, in addition to holding the presidency of Queen's College from 1505 to 1508. Though he induced Erasmus to visit Cambridge, Fisher was a faithful adherent of Roman Catholicism, and assailed the teachings of Luther in his Confutatio assertionis Lutheranæ (Antwerp, 1523) and other treatises, criticizing as well Œcolampadius and Velenus--the latter maintained that the Apostle Peter never was in Rome.
Fisher lost the royal favor by his opposition to Henry's claim to spiritual supremacy and to the divorce of Queen Catherine, whose confessor he was. His unpopularity was increased by his unfortunate belief in the impostures of Elizabeth Barton (q.v.), the Maid of Kent, who named him one of her confederates. Early in 1534 he was sentenced to be attainted of misprision, to be imprisoned at the king's pleasure, and to forfeit all his goods, although he was released on the payment of £300. On Apr. 13, however, he was cited to appear at Lambeth to take the oath of compliance with the Act of Succession, but though he and Sir Thomas More were willing to admit the succession of the children of Henry and Anne Boleyn, both refused to declare the children of Catherine and the king illegitimate. Three days later Fisher was committed to the Tower, and with the passage of the Act of Supremacy in Nov., 1534, both Fisher and More were again attainted of misprision of treason and the see of Rochester was declared vacant from Jan. 2, 1535. Fisher's doom was sealed by the inadvertent act of Paul III., who on May 20 created him cardinal priest of St. Vitalis, not knowing the extreme danger in which the bishop stood. Henry, in fury, forbade the hat to be brought to England, and Fisher was trapped into statements which were twisted into treason. On June 17 he was condemned to be executed at Tyburn as a traitor, but the sentence was changed to decapitation at Tower Hill, where it was carried out a fortnight before the execution of More. The chief works of Fisher were his De unica Magdalena (Paris, 1519) and his De eucharistia contra Johannem Œcolampadium (Cologne, 1527); the greater part of his Latin writings were collected and published at Würzburg in 1597. A volume of a projected edition of his English works was edited for the Early English Text Society by J. E. B. Mayor (London, 1876), and a few other writings by him are extant in manuscript.