Sunday, July 6, 2014

Thomas More ~ February 7, 1478 ~ July 6, 1535

Sir Thomas More (7 February 1478 – 6 July 1535), also known as Saint Thomas More, was an English lawyer, author, and statesman who in his lifetime gained a reputation as a leading Renaissance humanist scholar, and occupied many public offices, including Lord Chancellor (1529–1532). More coined the word "utopia,” a name he gave to the ideal, imaginary island nation whose political system he described in Utopia, published in 1516. He was beheaded in 1535 when he refused to sign the Act of Supremacy that declared King Henry VIII Supreme Head of the Church of England.

In 1935, four hundred years after More's death, Pope Pius XI canonized him in the Roman Catholic Church. More was declared Patron Saint of politicians and statesmen by Pope John Paul II in 2000. In 1969, More's name was included in the General Roman Calendar, with a Memorial in which he is venerated with Saint John Fisher on 22 June, the day of the latter's death. In 1980, More was added to the Church of England's calendar of saints, again jointly with John Fisher, but on July 6, the day of More's death.

The 20th-century agnostic playwright Robert Bolt portrayed More as the ultimate man of conscience in his play A Man for All Seasons. Robert Whittington in 1520 wrote of him:

"More is a man of an angel's wit and singular learning. I know not his fellow. For where is the man of that gentleness, lowliness and affability? And, as time requireth, a man of marvelous mirth and pastimes, and sometime of as sad gravity. A man for all seasons."

In 1966, the play was made into the successful film A Man for All Seasons directed by Fred Zinnemann, adapted for the screen by the playwright himself, and starring Paul Scofield in an Oscar-winning performance. The film won the Academy Award for Best Picture for that year.

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Today is also the seventh wedding anniversary of my nephew Sheridan Bell and his wife Sylvie Prost Bell. I sang at their wedding in Nantes seven years ago. My sister Cynthia played the violin. The wedding was a splendid affair, and the reception was at a grand country hotel, formerly a monastery on the outskirts of Nantes. S and S visited me five years ago late June and early July, when they brought me my Blenheim Cavalier puppy Renzo. Dennis would have been so happy for them.

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Titian in the Frari (Venezia)