Margery Baxter was an outspoken and unorthodox Lollard from Martham, England. The Lollards were a fourteenth and fifteenth century group of people who followed the teachings of John Wycliffe, an English scholar and theologian who saw corruption in the all-powerful Catholic Church organization and sought after reform.
A few of Wycliffe and his followers' main points of interest were translating the Bible into English for the common man to read, cleansing religion of corruption and excessive wealth, and bringing all Christians in to more direct contact with the God. Ultimately, the Lollards laid the groundwork for the future of Protestantism in England which would flourish in the following centuries. But at the time, all of these ideas were extremely controversial and politically dangerous moves to make as the English monarchy and powerful Catholic church were closely knit together.
Influenced by the revolutionary work of John Wycliffe and by her own personal radical thoughts, Baxter taught a variety of even more controversial Lollard doctrines. She was very critical of regimented church life and spoke out against multiple church practices from Sunday worship traditions to infant baptism to the image of the crucifix. As were many Lollards, Baxter was tried for heresy in 1429 as part of the Norwich Heresy Trials (1428-1431).
Accusations and Trial
Johanna Clifland testified against her, claiming that Baxter had expressed a variety of unorthodox sentiments, speaking out against the traditions of sanctioned marriage, fasting for religious days, and the swearing of religious oaths. Echoing foundational Lollard beliefs, Baxter also opposed the wealth of Catholic clergymen and the practice of confession to church officials.
Six months after Johanna Clifland made her accusations, Margery Baxter confessed in October, 1429, and was sentenced to four Sunday floggings as she walked barefoot around her parish church.
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