23 April 1500
|Died||17 March 1565 (aged 64)
Leipzig, Electorate of Saxony
Originally Alexander Alane, he was born at Edinburgh. He studied at St Andrews in the newly founded college of St Leonard's, where he graduated in 1515. Some time afterwards he was appointed a canon of the collegiate church, where he contended vigorously for the scholastic theology as against the doctrines of the Reformers. His views entirely changed, however, on the execution of Patrick Hamilton, abbot of Fern, in 1528. He had been chosen to meet Hamilton in controversy, with a view to convincing him of his errors, but the arguments of the Scottish proto-martyr and, above all, the spectacle of his heroism at the stake impressed Alesius so powerfully that he was won over to the cause of the Reformers.
A sermon he preached before the Synod at St Andrews against the dissoluteness of the clergy offended the provost, who placed him in prison, and might have carried his resentment further if Alesius had not escaped to Germany in 1532. After travelling through northern Europe, he settled down at Wittenberg, where he made the acquaintance of Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon, and signed the Augsburg confession. Meanwhile, he was tried in Scotland for heresy and condemned without a hearing. In 1533 a decree of the Scottish clergy, prohibiting the reading of the New Testament by the laity, drew from Alesius a defence of the right of the people, in the form of a letter to King James V of Scotland.
A reply to this by Johann Cochlaeus, also addressed to the Scottish king, occasioned a second letter from Alesius, in which he amplified his argument with great force and entered into more general questions. In August 1534 he and a few others were excommunicated at Holyrood by the deputy of the archbishop of St Andrews. When King Henry VIII of England (1509–47) broke with the church of Rome Alesius was persuaded to go to England, where he was cordially received (August 1535) by the king and his advisers, Thomas Cranmer and Thomas Cromwell. He briefly attended the court of Henry's queen, Anne Boleyn, of whom he thought very highly and he was actually in London during the circumstances of her downfall, although it was his belief that she was not guilty of adultery or any of the crimes for she was put to death. Later, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Anne Boleyn's daughter, he wrote a letter to the new Queen detailing his memories of her mother's final weeks in power.
After a short stay at Lambeth Palace he was appointed, through the influence of Cromwell, then chancellor of the university, to lecture on theology at the Queens' College, Cambridge; but when he had delivered a few expositions of the Hebrew psalms, he was prevented from continuing by the papal party. Returning to London he supported himself for some time by practising as a physician. In 1537 he attended a convocation of the clergy, and at the request of Cromwell conducted a controversy with John Stokesley, Bishop of London, on the nature of the sacraments. His argument was published in 1544 under the title Of the auctorite of the word of god agaynst the bisshop of london wherein are conteyned certen disputacyons had in the parliament howse betwene the bisshops a bowt the nomber of the sacramen[n]ts and other things, very necessary to be known, made by Alexa[n]der Alane Scot and sent to the duke of Saxon.
In 1539 Alesius was compelled to flee for a second time to Germany, as a result of Thomas Cromwell's fall from power and the enactment of the statute of the Six Articles. He was appointed to a theological chair at the university of Frankfurt (Oder), where he was the first professor to teach the reformed doctrines. He was in England again for a short time during Edward VI's reign, and was commissioned by Cranmer to make a Latin version of the First Prayer-Book (1549) for the information of Martin Bucer, whose opinion was desired.
His writings were both exegetical and controversial, but chiefly the latter. They include Expositio Libri Psalmorum Davidis (1550). His controversial works refer to such subjects as the translation of the Bible into the vernacular, against Servetus, etc.
Alesius published a large number of exegetical, dogmatic and polemical works, of which over twenty are mentioned by Bale in his List of English Writers. In his controversial works he upholds the synergistic views of the Scottish theologian John Major. He displayed his interest in his native land by the publication of a Cohortatio ad Concordiam Pietatis, missa in Patriam suam (1544), which had the express approval of Luther, and a Cohortatio ad Pietatis Concordiam ineundam (1559).
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Ales, Alexander". Encyclopædia Britannica. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 542–543.
- "Alesius, Alexander, alias Aless and Alane (ALSS500A)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
- "Alesius, Alexander". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Cousin, John William (1910). "Alesius, Alexander". A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: J. M. Dent & Sons. Wikisource
- Chambers, Robert & Thomson, Thomas Napier (1857). Ales or Alesse, Alexander. A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen. 1. Glasgow: Blackie and son. pp. 41–42.
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