Ridley, Latimer, And Cranmer: The Oxford Martyrs -- By: R. Scott Clark
RAR 7:1 (Winter 1998) p. 167
Ridley, Latimer, And Cranmer: The Oxford Martyrs
One of the most interesting bits of Oxford history is the story of the Oxford Martyrs and the statue by which they are remembered. The history of the monument itself is fascinating. In 1833, John Henry Newman (1801–90), an Anglican priest, began publishing a series of pamphlets called Tracts for the Times.1 By them he intended to defend the Anglican church as a divine institution, the doctrine of apostolic succession and the Book of Common Prayer. He was followed by John Keble (1792–1866) and E. B. Pusey (1800–82) in the Oxford Movement. Some critics saw these emphases as a drift back to Roman Catholicism.2 By 1838, the Oxford Movement was in full swing. Some more vigorous Protestant Anglicans, concerned about the powerful tug of the Oxford Movement’s account of the tradition of the western church on the hearts and minds of Oxford, commissioned the Martyrs’ Memorial in remembrance of the death of three of the English Reformation’s most well-known and fascinating heroes, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, Bishop Hugh Latimer and Bishop Nicholas Ridley. The construction of the memorial was funded through subscriptions, which was also a vehicle by which various Anglican pastors could register their support of ideas for which the memorial would stand. It was not well supported locally. The memorial was completed just two years before Newman completed his conversion to Rome, in 1845. Newman was later rewarded for his labors with a Roman cardinal’s
RAR 7:1 (Winter 1998) p. 168
hat. Along with him several other prominent Anglicans converted to Rome, apparently justifying the fear of some of the movement’s critics. It was ironic that the monument honoring England’s most famous Reformers should be built in the midst of controversy involving Rome. For it was a very similar controversy that made three churchmen into martyrs.
Cranmer suggested to Henry that he
might consult the universities who in
turn might be able to find grounds in
canon law for the divorce. Henry was
delighted with this suggestion. This
would not be the last time Cranmer
would be of such assistance to Henry.
The First To Recant
The most fascinating of the three martyrs is the reluctant Archbishop, Thomas Cranmer (c. 1489–1556). Thomas, like his fellow martyrs, was educated at Cambridge. Raised a loyal son of the church and a loyal servant of his king, Cranmer took priestly orders and became a fellow in Jesus College, Cambridge, in 1514. Soon after, he abandoned his order to marry. He became a reader at Buck...
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