Religious Figures Put on Trial after their Death

It’s one thing to be put on trial for your religious beliefs, but it is something entirely different when you are brought before a court when you’re not even alive. For some of the people mentioned in this article, they were placed on trial regarding their religion when they weren’t even able to receive the punishment or had wrongdoings corrected for a botched legal experience when they were alive.  

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc was only a teenager when she infamously claimed divine guidance when she led the French army towards numerous significant victories during the Hundred Years’ War. Twenty-four years had passed after Joan of Arc was tried and burned at the stake by rebellious bishops; Pope Callixtus III reopened her case. The trial found that a great injustice had been done. Joan of Arc had been vindicated and the bishops who condemned her were implicated with heresy and for condemning an innocent woman. After another 500 years, Pope Benedict XV declared the Patron of France a saint.

Thomas Becket

During the 12th century, Thomas Becket served as the Archbishop of Canterbury. He had fought with passion against the proposed church reforms of King Henry II. Because of this, the King ordered Becket to be killed and he was murdered in the cathedral. It was after 300 years had passed that King Henry VIII (who established the Anglican religion) actually ordered the bones of Becket be placed on trial because he was not able to divorce his wife. Becket was found guilty and his bones were burned in public. Ironically, Thomas Becket is now venerated by the Anglican Church.

Pope Formosus

During the 9th century, Pope Formosus was a religious leader who wanted to resign the papal throne during a time of scandal, but he eventually returned to it. When he died, Pope Stephen VI dug up the corpse of Formosus and placed it on trial. The former pope was accused of breaching church law and pretending to be a bishop, as well as for not telling the truth. Stephen had the papal clothing of Formosus removed. Two fingers from his right hand were also cleaved off. The body was tossed into the Tiber River. The public eventually turned against Pope Stephen and he eventually met his death by being strangled.

John Wycliffe

Wycliffe is not only known for being a Catholic who opposed papal power in the secular world during the 14th century, but he also translated the Latin Bible into English. With all of the controversy that came with him, Wycliffe was never excommunicated for his thoughts. When he died in 1385, the Council of Constance declared him a heretic, and ordered all of his books to be burned.  It was 12 years later that Pope Martin V requested that his bones should be dug up and burned to ashes, where they were then tossed into the River Swift.