Alexander Alesius

1500-1565. Scottish Reformer. Born Alexander Alane in Edinburgh, he graduated at St. Andrews and became canon of the priory there. Applauded for public refutation of Luther's arguments (he admitted later to have borrowed his major points from Bishop Fisher of Rochester), he was selected in 1528 to reclaim Patrick Hamilton* from Lutheranism. This produced only a change of heart in himself and his own imprisonment and subsequent flight to Germany (1532), where he met Luther and Melanchthon. About 1535 he went to England, was warmly welcomed by Cranmer and Latimer, and by Henry VIII himself who secured for Alesius a teaching post at Cambridge where he was said to have been the first to deliver lectures on the Hebrew Scriptures. Finding his life endangered there, however, he returned to London and practised medicine. When the king changed direction once more and issued decrees upholding transubstantiation and clerical celibacy, Alesius went back to Germany (1540). He taught briefly at Frankfurt, then spent the rest of his life at Leipzig University, where he was rector at least twice. It was Melanchthon* (with whom he was a great favorite) who gave him the name Alesius, because of his earlier wanderings. Alesius revisited England and translated into Latin Edward VI's first liturgy, and published also many exegetical, dogmatic, and controversial works. In Germany he was continually active in the Protestant cause, and arranged many disputations. He was the first to plead in his writings for free circulation of the Scriptures in Scotland-a land which inexplicably has failed to realize the full significance of the contribution made by this great native son.

A.F. Mitchell, The Scottish Reformation (1900), pp. 239-83; J.H. Baxter, “Alesius and Other Reformed Refugees in Germany,” Records of the Scottish Church History Society, V, 2 (1934), pp. 93-102; F.S. Pearson, “Alexander Alesius and the English Reformation,” ibid., X, 2 (1949), pp. 57-87.