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The Most Famous

RELIGIOUS FIGURES from United Kingdom

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This page contains a list of the greatest British Religious Figures. The pantheon dataset contains 2,238 Religious Figures, 113 of which were born in United Kingdom. This makes United Kingdom the birth place of the 5th most number of Religious Figures behind Turkey and Germany.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary British Religious Figures of all time. This list of famous British Religious Figures is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of British Religious Figures.

Photo of Saint Patrick

1. Saint Patrick (385 - 461)

With an HPI of 72.30, Saint Patrick is the most famous British Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 63 different languages on wikipedia.

Saint Patrick (Latin: Patricius; Irish: Pádraig [ˈpˠɑːɾˠɪɟ] or [ˈpˠaːd̪ˠɾˠəɟ]; Welsh: Padrig) was a fifth-century Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. Known as the "Apostle of Ireland", he is the primary patron saint of Ireland, the other patron saints being Brigid of Kildare and Columba. Patrick was never formally canonised, having lived before the current laws of the Catholic Church in these matters. Nevertheless, he is venerated as a saint in the Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, the Church of Ireland (part of the Anglican Communion), and in the Eastern Orthodox Church, where he is regarded as equal-to-the-apostles and Enlightener of Ireland.The dates of Patrick's life cannot be fixed with certainty, but there is general agreement that he was active as a missionary in Ireland during the fifth century. A recent biography on Patrick shows a late fourth-century date for the saint is not impossible. According to tradition dating from the early Middle Ages, Patrick was the first bishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland, and is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland, converting a pagan society. He has been generally so regarded ever since, despite evidence of some earlier Christian presence.According to Patrick's autobiographical Confessio, when he was about sixteen, he was captured by Irish pirates from his home in Britain and taken as a slave to Ireland. He writes that he lived there for six years as an animal herder before escaping and returning to his family. After becoming a cleric, he returned to spread Christianity in northern and western Ireland. In later life, he served as a bishop, but little is known about where he worked. By the seventh century, he had already come to be revered as the patron saint of Ireland. His feast day is observed on 17 March, the supposed date of his death. It is celebrated in Ireland and among the Irish diaspora as a religious and cultural holiday. In the dioceses of Ireland, it is both a solemnity and a holy day of obligation.

Photo of Saint Ursula

2. Saint Ursula (400 - 383)

With an HPI of 70.90, Saint Ursula is the 2nd most famous British Religious Figure.  Her biography has been translated into 36 different languages.

Saint Ursula (Latin for 'little female bear', German: Heilige Ursula) is a legendary Romano-British Christian saint who died on 21 October 383 or 385. Her feast day in the pre-1970 Calendarium Romanum Generale (General Roman Calendar) is 21 October. There is little information about her and the anonymous group of holy virgins who accompanied and, on an uncertain date, were killed along with her at Cologne. They remain in the Roman Martyrology, although their commemoration does not appear in the simplified General Roman Calendar of the 1970 Missale Romanum.The earliest evidence of a cult of martyred virgins at Cologne is an inscription from c. 400 in the Church of St. Ursula, located on Ursulaplatz in Cologne which states that the ancient basilica had been restored on the site where some holy virgins were killed. The earliest source to name one of these virgins Ursula is from the 10th century.Her legendary status comes from a medieval story in which she was a princess who, at the request of her father King Dionotus of Dumnonia in south-west Britain, set sail along with 11,000 virginal handmaidens to join her future husband, the pagan governor Conan Meriadoc of Armorica. After a miraculous storm brought them over the sea in a single day to a Gaulish port, Ursula declared that before her marriage she would undertake a pan-European pilgrimage. She headed for Rome with her followers and persuaded the Pope, Cyriacus (unknown in the pontifical records, though from late 384 AD there was a Pope Siricius), and Sulpicius, bishop of Ravenna, to join them. After setting out for Cologne, which was being besieged by Huns, all the virgins were beheaded in a massacre. The Huns' leader fatally shot Ursula with an arrow in about 383 AD (the date varies). There is only one church dedicated to Saint Ursula in the United Kingdom. It is located in Wales at Llangwyryfon, Ceredigion.The Virgin Islands and the Ursulines are named in her honor.

Photo of Thomas Becket

3. Thomas Becket (1119 - 1170)

With an HPI of 68.30, Thomas Becket is the 3rd most famous British Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 55 different languages.

Thomas Becket (), also known as Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Thomas of London and later Thomas à Becket (21 December 1119 or 1120 – 29 December 1170), was an English nobleman who served as Lord Chancellor from 1155 to 1162, and then notably as Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his murder in 1170. He is venerated as a saint and martyr by the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. He engaged in conflict with Henry II, King of England, over the rights and privileges of the Church and was murdered by followers of the king in Canterbury Cathedral. Soon after his death, he was canonised by Pope Alexander III.

Photo of Saint Boniface

4. Saint Boniface (680 - 754)

With an HPI of 66.33, Saint Boniface is the 4th most famous British Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 40 different languages.

Boniface (Latin: Bonifatius; c. 675 – 5 June 754) was an English Benedictine monk and leading figure in the Anglo-Saxon mission to the Germanic parts of the Frankish Empire during the eighth century. He organised significant foundations of the church in Germany and was made archbishop of Mainz by Pope Gregory III. He was martyred in Frisia in 754, along with 52 others, and his remains were returned to Fulda, where they rest in a sarcophagus which has become a site of pilgrimage. Boniface's life and death as well as his work became widely known, there being a wealth of material available — a number of vitae, especially the near-contemporary Vita Bonifatii auctore Willibaldi, legal documents, possibly some sermons, and above all his correspondence. He is venerated as a saint in the Christian church and became the patron saint of Germania, known as the "Apostle to the Germans". Norman F. Cantor notes the three roles Boniface played that made him "one of the truly outstanding creators of the first Europe, as the apostle of Germania, the reformer of the Frankish church, and the chief fomentor of the alliance between the papacy and the Carolingian family." Through his efforts to reorganize and regulate the church of the Franks, he helped shape the Latin Church in Europe, and many of the dioceses he proposed remain today. After his martyrdom, he was quickly hailed as a saint in Fulda and other areas in Germania and in England. He is still venerated strongly today by German Catholics. Boniface is celebrated as a missionary; he is regarded as a unifier of Europe, and he is regarded by German Roman Catholics as a national figure.In 2019, Devon County Council with the support of the Anglican and Catholic churches in Exeter and Plymouth, officially recognised St Boniface as the Patron Saint of Devon.

Photo of John Wesley

5. John Wesley (1703 - 1791)

With an HPI of 66.29, John Wesley is the 5th most famous British Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 49 different languages.

John Wesley (; 28 June [O.S. 17 June] 1703 – 2 March 1791) was an English cleric, theologian, and evangelist who was a leader of a revival movement within the Church of England known as Methodism. The societies he founded became the dominant form of the independent Methodist movement that continues to this day. Educated at Charterhouse and Christ Church, Oxford, Wesley was elected a fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford, in 1726 and ordained as an Anglican priest two years later. At Oxford, he led the "Holy Club", a society formed for the purpose of the study and the pursuit of a devout Christian life; it had been founded by his brother Charles and counted George Whitefield among its members. After an unsuccessful ministry of two years, serving at Christ Church, in the Georgia colony of Savannah, he returned to London and joined a religious society led by Moravian Christians. On 24 May 1738, he experienced what has come to be called his evangelical conversion, when he felt his "heart strangely warmed". He subsequently left the Moravians and began his own ministry. A key step in the development of Wesley's ministry was, like Whitefield, to travel and preach outdoors. In contrast to Whitefield's Calvinism, Wesley embraced Arminian doctrines. Moving across Great Britain and Ireland, he helped form and organise small Christian groups (societies) that developed intensive and personal accountability, discipleship, and religious instruction. He appointed itinerant, unordained evangelists—both women and men—to care for these groups of people. Under Wesley's direction, Methodists became leaders in many social issues of the day, including the abolition of slavery and prison reform. Although he was not a systematic theologian, Wesley argued for the notion of Christian perfection and against Calvinism—and, in particular, against its doctrine of predestination. His evangelicalism, firmly grounded in sacramental theology, maintained that means of grace sometimes had a role in sanctification of the believer; however, he taught that it was by faith a believer was transformed into the likeness of Christ. He held that, in this life, Christians could achieve a state where the love of God "reigned supreme in their hearts", giving them not only outward but inward holiness. Wesley's teachings, collectively known as Wesleyan theology, continue to inform the doctrine of Methodist churches. Throughout his life, Wesley remained within the established Church of England, insisting that the Methodist movement lay well within its tradition. In his early ministry years, Wesley was barred from preaching in many parish churches and the Methodists were persecuted; he later became widely respected, and by the end of his life, was described as "the best-loved man in England".

Photo of Saint Walpurga

6. Saint Walpurga (710 - 779)

With an HPI of 65.58, Saint Walpurga is the 6th most famous British Religious Figure.  Her biography has been translated into 31 different languages.

Walpurga or Walburga (Old English: Wealdburg, Latin: Valpurga, Walpurga, Walpurgis, Swedish: Valborg; c. AD 710 – 25 February 777 or 779), also spelled Valderburg or Guibor, was an Anglo-Saxon missionary to the Frankish Empire. She was canonized on 1 May c. 870 by Pope Adrian II. Saint Walpurgis Night (or "Sankt Walpurgisnacht") is the name for the eve of her feast day in the Medieval period, which coincided with May Day; her feast is no longer celebrated on that day, but the name is still used for May Eve.

Photo of John Knox

7. John Knox (1514 - 1572)

With an HPI of 65.07, John Knox is the 7th most famous British Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 57 different languages.

John Knox (Scottish Gaelic: Iain Cnocc; born c. 1514 – 24 November 1572) was a Scottish minister, Reformed theologian, and writer who was a leader of the country's Reformation. He was the founder of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Born in Giffordgate, a street in Haddington, East Lothian, Knox is believed to have been educated at the University of St Andrews and worked as a notary-priest. Influenced by early church reformers such as George Wishart, he joined the movement to reform the Scottish church. He was caught up in the ecclesiastical and political events that involved the murder of Cardinal David Beaton in 1546 and the intervention of the regent Mary of Guise. He was taken prisoner by French forces the following year and exiled to England on his release in 1549. While in exile, Knox was licensed to work in the Church of England, where he rose in the ranks to serve King Edward VI of England as a royal chaplain. He exerted a reforming influence on the text of the Book of Common Prayer. In England, he met and married his first wife, Margery Bowes. When Mary I ascended the throne of England and re-established Catholicism, Knox was forced to resign his position and leave the country. Knox moved to Geneva and then to Frankfurt. In Geneva, he met John Calvin, from whom he gained experience and knowledge of Reformed theology and Presbyterian polity. He created a new order of service, which was eventually adopted by the reformed church in Scotland. He left Geneva to head the English refugee church in Frankfurt but he was forced to leave over differences concerning the liturgy, thus ending his association with the Church of England. The University of Edinburgh Heritage Collection holds a copy of Knox's Liturgy, translated into Scots Gaelic by John Carswell. It is the first book printed in any Gaelic language.On his return to Scotland, Knox led the Protestant Reformation in Scotland, in partnership with the Scottish Protestant nobility. The movement may be seen as a revolution since it led to the ousting of Mary of Guise, who governed the country in the name of her young daughter Mary, Queen of Scots. Knox helped write the new confession of faith and the ecclesiastical order for the newly created reformed church, the Kirk. He wrote his five-volume The History of the Reformation in Scotland between 1559 and 1566. He continued to serve as the religious leader of the Protestants throughout Mary's reign. In several interviews with the Queen, Knox admonished her for supporting Catholic practices. After she was imprisoned for her alleged role in the murder of her husband Lord Darnley, and King James VI was enthroned in her stead, Knox openly called for her execution. He continued to preach until his final days.

Photo of William Laud

8. William Laud (1573 - 1645)

With an HPI of 64.97, William Laud is the 8th most famous British Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 31 different languages.

William Laud (LAWD; 7 October 1573 – 10 January 1645) was a bishop in the Church of England. Appointed Archbishop of Canterbury by Charles I in 1633, Laud was a key advocate of Charles I's religious reforms; he was arrested by Parliament in 1640 and executed towards the end of the First English Civil War in January 1645. A firm believer in episcopalianism, or rule by bishops, "Laudianism" refers to liturgical practices designed to enforce uniformity within the Church of England, as outlined by Charles. Often highly ritualistic, these were precursors to what are now known as high church views. In theology, Laud was accused of Arminianism, favouring doctrines of the historic church prior to the Reformation and defending the continuity of the English Church with the primitive and medieval church, and opposing Calvinism. On all three grounds, he was regarded by Puritan clerics and laymen as a formidable and dangerous opponent. His use of the Star Chamber to persecute opponents such as William Prynne made him deeply unpopular.

Photo of Thomas Wolsey

9. Thomas Wolsey (1473 - 1530)

With an HPI of 64.80, Thomas Wolsey is the 9th most famous British Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 47 different languages.

Thomas Wolsey (c. March 1473 – 29 November 1530) was an English statesman and Catholic bishop. When Henry VIII became King of England in 1509, Wolsey became the king's almoner. Wolsey's affairs prospered and by 1514 he had become the controlling figure in virtually all matters of state. He also held important ecclesiastical appointments. These included the Archbishopric of York—the second most important role in the English church—and that of papal legate. His appointment as a cardinal by Pope Leo X in 1515 gave him precedence over all other English clergy. The highest political position Wolsey attained was Lord Chancellor, the king's chief adviser (formally, as his successor and disciple Thomas Cromwell was not). In that position, he enjoyed great freedom and was often depicted as an alter rex ("other king"). After failing to negotiate an annulment of Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Wolsey fell out of favour and was stripped of his government titles. He retreated to York to fulfil his ecclesiastical duties as archbishop, a position he nominally held but had neglected during his years in government. He was recalled to London to answer to charges of treason—charges Henry commonly used against ministers who fell out of his favour—but died on the way from natural causes.

Photo of William Tyndale

10. William Tyndale (1494 - 1536)

With an HPI of 64.29, William Tyndale is the 10th most famous British Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 46 different languages.

William Tyndale (; sometimes spelled Tynsdale, Tindall, Tindill, Tyndall; c. 1494 – c. 6 October 1536) was an English biblical scholar and linguist who became a leading figure in the Protestant Reformation in the years leading up to his execution. He is well known as a translator of the Bible into English, and was influenced by the works of prominent Protestant Reformers such as Martin Luther.Luther's translation of the Christian Bible into German appeared in 1522. Tyndale's translation was the first English Bible to draw directly from Hebrew and Greek texts, the first English translation to take advantage of the printing press, the first of the new English Bibles of the Reformation, and the first English translation to use Jehovah ("Iehouah") as God's name as preferred by English Protestant Reformers. It was taken to be a direct challenge to the hegemony both of the Catholic Church and of those laws of England maintaining the church's position. The work of Tyndale continued to play a key role in spreading Reformation ideas across the English-speaking world and eventually across the British Empire. Tyndale's translation of the Bible was used for subsequent English translations, including the Great Bible and the Bishops' Bible, authorized by the Church of England. In 1611, after seven years of work, the 47 scholars who produced the King James Version drew extensively from Tyndale's original work and other translations that descended from his. One estimate suggests that the New Testament in the King James Version is 83% Tyndale's words and the Old Testament 76%.A copy of Tyndale's The Obedience of a Christian Man (1528), which some claim or interpret to argue for Caesaropapism: the idea that the Monarch should control the country's church rather than the Pope, came to the hands of King Henry VIII, providing a rationalization for breaking the Church in England from the Catholic Church in 1534. In 1530, Tyndale wrote The Practice of Prelates, opposing Henry's plan to seek the annulment of his marriage on the grounds that it contravened scripture. Fleeing England, Tyndale sought refuge in the Flemish territory of the Catholic Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. In 1535 Tyndale was arrested, and jailed in the castle of Vilvoorde (Filford) outside Brussels for over a year. In 1536 he was convicted of heresy and executed by strangulation, after which his body was burnt at the stake. In 2002, Tyndale was placed 26th in the BBC's poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.

Pantheon has 113 people classified as religious figures born between 300 and 2008. Of these 113, 11 (9.73%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living religious figures include Roger Deakins, Richard Williamson, and Christian Horner. The most famous deceased religious figures include Saint Patrick, Saint Ursula, and Thomas Becket. As of April 2022, 15 new religious figures have been added to Pantheon including Sigfrid of Sweden, Mary Ward, and Richard of Chichester.

Living Religious Figures

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Deceased Religious Figures

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Newly Added Religious Figures (2022)

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Which Religious Figures were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Religious Figures since 1700.