William Peryn

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William Peryn (died 1558) was an English Catholic theologian and prior of the short-lived Marian Priory of St Bartholomew's, Smithfield, London.


Peryn was educated at Blackfriars in Oxford and there are records of him being there in 1529 and 1531, the year in which he was ordained.[1] He went to London and was a preacher strongly against heresy, and a chaplain to Sir John Port. He went into exile with the declaration of royal supremacy in 1534 but returned to England in 1543, when he applied for a degree of BTh at Oxford. He became a chantrist at St Paul's and in early 1547 preached in favour of images in religious services.[1]

With the accession of the Protestant Edward VI in 1547 he went into exile again, spending several years in Louvain before returning to England in 1553 upon the accession of the Catholic Mary I. That year he was appointed prior of the Dominican house at St Bartholomew's in Smithfield, London. This was the first religious house founded by Mary. On 8 February 1556 Peryn is recorded by the diarist Henry Machyn as preaching at Paul's Cross.[1]

Peryn was the author of three books: Thre Godly Sermons of the Sacrament of the Aulter (1546); Spirituall exercyses and goostly meditacions, and a neare waye to come to perfection and lyfe contemplatyve (1557); and De frequenter celebranda missa (of which no copy survives).

The three sermons published were originally preached at St. Anthony's Hospital in London, and are dedicated to Edmund Bonner, Bishop of London. He borrowed heavily from Bishop of Rochester John Fisher's De veritate corporis et sanguinis Christi in eucharistia and in the preface Peryn explains why he has published the sermons:

...in homely and playne sentens, by cause that I have cheflye prepared them...for the unlearned. And the veryte (beyng delectable and bewtifull of herselfe) nedeth not, the gorgius ornamentes, of eloquens. Also the matters of our fayth, hath moche lesse nede of rethoricall perswacyons, havynge theyr grond, and fundacyon, upon the infallyble veritie, of goddes holy worde.[1]

Peryn's Spirituall exercyses was dedicated to two exiled English nuns: Katherine Palmer, abbess of the nuns at Syon in Isleworth, and Dorothy Clement, a Poor Clare at Louvain and the daughter of Sir Thomas More's adopted daughter Margaret Clement.[2] It was also based on Nicolaus van Esch's Exercitia theologiae mysticae. This work by Peryn was to have a long readership among English recusants and was much treasured by Margaret Clitheroe. It would be republished by a Catholic press of Caen in 1598.[1][3]

Peryn died in 1558 and was buried in St Bartholomew's on 22 August, at the high altar.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f L. E. C. Wooding, 'Peryn, William (d. 1558)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 20 Feb 2012.
  2. ^ Eamon Duffy, Fires of Faith. Catholic England under Mary Tudor (London: Yale University Press, 2009), p. 191.
  3. ^ Duffy, pp. 191-192.


  • L. E. C. Wooding, ‘Peryn, William (d. 1558)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 20 Feb 2012.

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