Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Oxford Martyrs

Oxford, England.  Visited November 1997

This entry is dedicated to the Oxford Martyrs, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley (Thomas Cranmer, who is also included in the group, will be treated as a separate post). These first generation Anglican leaders were burned at the stake for their commitment to the Protestant Reformation.

Hugh Latimer

Hugh Latimer (born c.1487) was a churchman who rose to the position of chaplain to protestant King Edward VI. Latimer was educated at Cambridge and was initially a vocal opponent against the new reformation ideas coming from Europe to England. But somewhere in his time in Cambridge he encountered Thomas Bilney, whose biblical arguments convinced Latimer of the soundness of the protestant view of the faith. Latimer soon fell in with the first generation of English Reformers in Cambridge including Tyndale, Coverdale, Bilney and Cranmer. It is properly said that the English Reformation began in the fellowship among this group that occurred at the White Horse Inn in Cambridge.

The blogger standing at the former site of the
White Horse Inn in Cambridge in 1997.  A plaque referencing
the Inn is nearby.

Latimer preaching to Edward VI
 During the religiously turbulent reign of Henry VIII Latimer rose to the rank of Bishop, but at least once found himself in trouble with the King over his reformed theology.  Under the more fully protestant reign of Edward VI, Latimer became a key advisor to the boy king. With Edward’s death at 15 in 1553 and the ultimate ascension to the throne by the Catholic Mary I, Hugh Latimer found himself now branded a protestant heretic and was arrested.

Nicholas Ridley

Nicholas Ridley (born c. 1500) was also Cambridge-educated and ascended up the ecclesiastical ladder under Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer, who was seeking to fill the church with protestant minded clergymen. Ridley, a moderate reformer, rose to the influential position of Bishop of London. However, he also was caught up in the turmoil following the death of Edward, particularly through his support of the ill-fated attempt to establish protestant Lady Jane Grey on the throne. With Mary’s ascension Ridley was arrested as a heretic.

Latimer, Ridley and Cranmer were tried as heretics and enemies to the throne in Oxford. The main issues of dispute were the papacy and the protestant denial of transubstantiation in the mass. After a short, politically rigged trial all three were convicted and sentenced to death. Cranmer recanted (for a time) but Ridley and Latimer were burned at the stake October 16, 1555.

Martyrdom of Latimer and Ridley

The martyrdom of Ridley and Latimer has been famously described in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. It is said with some authority that as the flames burned around the two men, the elder Latimer turned to Ridley to encourage him, declaring,

"Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out."

The spot where the Martyrs were burned is in the middle of a street in Oxford, marked with a tile cross. Nearby is the Martyrs Memorial, commemorating the event and the Reformation it ignited in Great Britain. There is no burial place recorded for the remains of the Martyrs.

Marker where the martyrdom of Ridley and Latimer
took place in Oxford

Marker near the site of martyrdom in Oxford.  I never
saw this when I was there - my friend Aaron Mayfield
gave me his picture

My brother John and I visited Oxford when he was on retreat from the mission field in November 1997.

The blogger on a cold November day 1997at the
Martyrs Memorial in Oxford

1 comment:

  1. I love it! Standing in this spot is one of my favorite memories from my time in Oxford. Very sobering to consider the price these men paid to take a stand for their faith.

    Great post, Andy!