Seven centuries ago it was hot Lynn news when William Sawtrey, late of this parish became the first man burned at the stake for his beliefs in England.
And next month a local audience can find out more when “A Nice Guy the Burning of William Sawtrey” is staged as a King’s Lynn Festival fringe event.
This “heretic’s story” is a morality play packed with good tunes and will be performed in the medieval courtyard of Hanse House, Britain’s only surviving Hanseatic building.
The action of the play takes place in William’s divided psyche as Flesh, Mind, Soul, God, World and Devil argue around the bonfire. Admission is free, donations only.
Like its medieval models the play combines life and death questions with a great sense of fun. Look out for Flesh’s café and the Devil’s toasting fork!
It goes back to a time when a revolutionary Christianity inspired by John Wycliffe’s demands for a Bible in English and Christ’s statements in it about the blessedness of the poor was in the air.
“When Adam delved and Eve span who was then the gentleman” the revolting peasants had declared in 1381.
Sawtrey’s demystified Christianity – preaching in English rather than recitation of Latin prayers for example – drew a charge of Lollardy, a belief that the Bible was the sole authority and that ‘man-made’ elements of the church – a pope, bishops, Sacraments, a credo, liturgy pilgrimage, the adoration of saints and angels and of the cross, confession, crusades – were as fallen as mankind itself.
Sawtrey believed (as the protestants would, a century later that the bread and wine of the Eucharist remained bread and wine as well as becoming the body and blood of Christ and reverted to these substances after the mass. This was heresy. Why did it matter so much?
A Nice Guy: The Burning of William Sawtrey, is at the Hanse House Courtyard on the South Quay, Lynn on July 17 at 4pm.
The half-hour performance will feature Gareth Calway, Anto Morra, Bob and Julie Bones, Zariah and Vanessa Wood-Davies, Taj Kandula as God and Baz Allan as the devil.