Monday, 15 September 2008

In the footsteps of the Oxford Martyrs

Last week, I had the chance to visit Oxford for the first time and while I was there, I was able to learn a bit more about the three men who became known as the "Oxford Martyrs". During the time of the English Reformation in the 16th century, the Church of England broke away from the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, recognising instead the sole and supreme authority of the Word of God. Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury at that time, played a major role in this. The Anglican bishops Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley had also come to trust solely in the Word of God and the sacrifice of Christ for their salvation. But when the Catholic Queen Mary Tudor (also known as "Bloody Mary") came to the throne, she had these three men imprisoned and demanded that they recant their beliefs and accept the authority of the pope. Latimer, Ridley and Cranmer were held in a prison in Oxford. The prison door is now kept in the Saxon Tower at St. Michael's Church in Oxford:

Since they would not recant their beliefs, Queen Mary ordered to have them burned alive at the stake. Latimer and Ridley were the first to be executed on 16 October 1555. As the flames began to burn, Latimer said to Ridley: "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 place were they were burned is marked by a cross of bricks set in the road on Broad Street:

Thomas Cranmer did recant his beliefs, but was sentenced to death anyway because Queen Mary did not believe him. He then recanted his recantation and when he was burned at the stake on 21 March 1556, he put his right hand into the flames until in burned away and said: "I have sinned, in that I signed with my hand what I did not believed in my heart."

In dying for their faith, the Oxford Martyrs show us that their faith in Christ was better than life to them. They recognised the truth of the Word of God and the importance of trusting God in every situation. One of the famous landmarks in Oxford today is the Martyrs' Memorial at the end of St. Giles Street, not too far from the place of execution:

The inscription on the memorial reads as follows:

To the glory of God
and in grateful commemoration
of His servants
Thomas Cranmer
Nicholas Ridley
Hugh Latimer
Prelates of the Church
of England
who near this spot
yielded their bodies
to be burned
bearing witness
to the sacred truths
which they had
affirmed and maintained
against the errors
of the Church of Rome
and rejoicing that
to them it was given
not only to believe in Christ
but also to suffer for His sake.
This monument was errected
by public subscription
in the year of our Lord God

1 comment:

Ann Garci said...

What a legacy of love, faith and honor they left behind.

Thank you for sharing.