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Nicholas Sander

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Born at Charlwood, Surrey, in 1530; died in Ireland, 1581. Educated at Winchester and New College, Oxford, he graduated in 1551, and took a share in Pole's reform of the university. He had to flee under Elizabeth and was ordained at Rome, afterwards receiving the degree of Doctor of Divinity. He also wrote there in 1560 a remarkable "Report on the State of England" for Cardinal Moroni (Catholic Record Soc., I). He attended the Council of Trent as a theologian of Cardinal Hosius and afterwards accompanied him and Cardinal Commendone in legations to Poland, Prussia, and Lithuania. In 1565 he returned to Louvain, then much frequented by Catholic exiles, amongst whom was his mother, his sister Elizabeth being a nun of Syon at Rouen. Nicholas became professor of theology there, and soon joined in the great controversy over Jewel's "Apologie", in which the English exiles first appeared to the world as a learned and united Catholic body. Sander's contributions were, "The Supper of the Lord", "A Treatise of Images", "The Rock of the Church" (Louvain, 1565, 1566, 1567), followed by his great work, "De visibili monarchia ecclesiae" (Louvain 1571). These works, joined with the proofs he had already given of diplomatic ability, and the high esteem of the nobles and gentry who had fled from England after the Northern Rising (1569), caused Sander to be regarded as practically the chief English Catholic leader. Almost the earliest attempt to restore ecclesiastical discipline in England after the fall of the ancient hierarchy was the Rescript of Pius V (14 August, 1567), granting to Sander, Thomas Harding, and Thomas Peacock (the former treasurer of Salisbury and president of Queen's College, Cambridge; see "Dict. Nat. Biog.", xxiv, 339; xliv, 143) "bishoply power in the court of conscience", to receive back those who had lapsed into heresy (Vatican Arch., Var. Pol, lxvi, 258; Arm., 64, xxviii, 60). When Sander was summoned to Rome in 1572, his friends believed that he would be made a cardinal, but Pius V died before he arrived. Gregory XIII kept him as consultor on English matters, and many letters of this period are still preserved in the Vatican. In 1573 he went to Spain to urge Philip II to subsidize the exiles, and when in 1578 James Fitzgerald had persuaded Sega, papal nuncio at Madrid, with the warm approbation of Gregory, and the cold connivance of Philip, to fit out a ship to carry arms to Ireland, Sanders went with him as papal agent, but without any title or office. They landed in Dingle Bay (17 July, 1579) and the Second Desmond war ensued with its terrible consequences. Sander bore up with unshaken courage, as his letters and proclamations show, in spite of all disasters, till his death. He belonged to the first group of English exiles, who, never having lived in England during the persecution, never realized how complete Elizabeth's victory was. He believed, and acted consistently in the belief, that strong measures, like war and excommunication were the true remedies for the great evils of the time; a mistaken policy, which though supported by the popes of that day, was subsequently changed. The most widely known of Sander's books is his short "De schismate Anglicano". It was published after his death, first by E. Rishton at Cologne in 1585, then with many additions by Father Persons at Rome in 1586. Translated into various languages and frequently reprinted, it was fiercely controverted especially by Bishop Burnet, but defended by Joachim Le Grand. It is now acknowledged to be an excellent, popular account of the period from a Catholic point of view.


POLLEN in English Historical Review (Jan., 1891); IDEM in The Month (Jan., 1903); GILLOW, Bib. Dict. Eng. Cath., V, 476; BELLESHEIM, Gesch. der Kat. Kirche in Irland, II (Mainz, 1890), 168; LEWIS, Sander's History of the English Schism (London, 1877). He is also frequently mentioned in the English, Irish, and Spanish State Papers, and there are many of his papers in the Vatican Archives.

About this page

APA citation. Pollen, J.H. (1912). Nicholas Sander. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Pollen, John Hungerford. "Nicholas Sander." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Joseph E. O'Connor.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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