Religion:Defence of the Seven Sacraments

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Defence of the Seven Sacraments
Defence of the Seven Sacraments.jpg
The title page of a printed edition of Henry VIII's Assertio septem sacramentum
AuthorHenry VIII, Thomas More
TranslatorLouis O'Donovan
CountryKingdom of England
PublisherKing's College Press
Publication date
Media typePrint

The Defence of the Seven Sacraments (Latin: Assertio Septem Sacramentorum) is a theological treatise published in 1521, written by King Henry VIII of England, allegedly with the assistance of Sir Thomas More.[1] The extent of More's involvement with this project has been a point of contention since its publication.[2][3]

Henry started to write it in 1519 while he was reading Martin Luther's attack on indulgences.[4] By June of that year, he had shown it to Thomas Wolsey, but it remained private until three years later when the earlier manuscript became the first two chapters of the Assertio, the rest consisting of new material relating to Luther's De Captivitate Babylonica.

Author J. J. Scarisbrick describes the work as "one of the most successful pieces of Catholic polemics produced by the first generation of anti-Protestant writers".[5] It went through some twenty editions in the sixteenth century and, as early as 1522, had appeared in two different German translations.

The treatise was dedicated to Pope Leo X, who rewarded Henry with the title Fidei Defensor (Defender of the Faith) in October 1521 (a title revoked following the king's break with the Catholic Church in the 1530s,[6] but re-awarded to his heir by the English Parliament).[7]

Luther's reply to the Assertio (Against Henry, King of the English) was, in turn, replied to by Thomas More, who was one of the leaders of the Catholic Renaissance humanists in England (Responsio ad Lutherum).[8]

The British Library still has King Henry's personal copy of Marko Marulić's Evangelistiarium, a book that was read in English and much admired by Thomas More. Extensive margin notes in the king's own hand prove that Marulić's book was a major source used by the king in the writing of Defence of the Seven Sacraments.[9]

Editions and translations

  • O'Donovan, L.O. & Gibbons, J. (1908). 'Assertio Septum Sacramentorum' (English and Latin). New York, NY, Benziger Bros. Publishing
  • O'Donovan, L.O. & Curtin, D.P. (2018). 'Defense of the Seven Sacraments' (with additional Papal correspondence). Philadelphia, PA, Barnes & Noble Press

See also


  1. O'Donovan, Louis (5 November 2019). The Defence of the Seven Sacraments. ISBN 9781538092026. 
  2. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII, 1968, pp. 110–113.
  3. Tudor, Henry VIII (5 November 2019). Defence of the Seven Sacraments. ISBN 9781538092026. 
  4. Henry VIII, King of England. Excerpt from "The Defense of the Seven Sacraments", English History in the Making Vol I., William L. Sachse, Ed., New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1967. pp. 182-183.
  5. Scarisbrick, J. J.. Henry VIII. 2 ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997. 113
  6. Assertio septem sacramentorum adversus Martinum Lutherum, Henry VIII, King of England; Pierre Fraenkel, Münster, Aschendorff, 1992, Corpus Catholicorum, vol. 43. ISBN:3-402-03457-3 ISBN:9783402034576
  7. Tudor, Henry VIII (5 November 2019). Defence of the Seven Sacraments. ISBN 9781538092026. 
  8. Scarisbrick, J. J.. Henry VIII. 2 ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997. 113.
  9. Franz Posset (2021), Catholic Advocate of the Evangelical Truth: Marcus Marullus (Marko Marulić) of Split (1450-1524), Wipf and Stock Publishers. Page 18.