Defence of the Seven Sacraments

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Defence of the Seven Sacraments
AuthorHenry VIII, Thomas More
TranslatorLouis O'Donovan
CountryKingdom of England
PublisherKing's College Press
Publication date
Media typePrint

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

Henry started to write it in 1519 while he was reading Martin Luther's attack on indulgences.[3] 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."[4] It went through some twenty editions in the sixteenth century and, as early as 1522, had appeared in two different German translations.

It 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,[5] but re-awarded to his heir by the English Parliament).[6]

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 humanist party in England (Responsio ad Lutherum).[7]

English Language Translations and Editions[edit]

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, Dalcassian Publishing Company

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Scarisbrick, Henry VIII, 1968, pp. 110–113.
  2. ^ Tudor, Henry VIII. Defence of the Seven Sacraments. ISBN 9781538092026.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Scarisbrick, J. J.. Henry VIII. 2 ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997. 113
  5. ^ 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
  6. ^ Tudor, Henry VIII. Defence of the Seven Sacraments. ISBN 9781538092026.
  7. ^ Scarisbrick, J. J.. Henry VIII. 2 ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997. 113.