Saturday, November 2, 2013

THE THREE OXFORD MARTYRS


The humble cross in Broad Street in front of Balliol College, shown below, marks the spot where Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley and then later Thomas Cranmer were martyred during the reign of Queen Mary I of England (aka known as Bloody Mary).

The first time I visited, I did not have my camera with me, nor did I when I attended mass at St Mary Magdalen Church, which is nearby.  On the third visit, the light was fading, and I feared the pictures might not come out well, but fortunately they did. 


I concur with my friends on Facebook who say, the crude brick marker is a most solemn and sacred place. Quotes from friends on Facebook:
"I spent a long time there on the sidewalk meditating on the events commemorated by these markers. Latimer, Ridley and Cranmer. We owe them so, so much."

"For me, that little brick cross is the most solemn spot in Oxford."

"I've stood there too. It felt a most sacred spot."

"He was a great man, and a better poet. Such a shame that we have to kill so many of them for our mad illusions."

And me: "The Book of Common Prayer is a masterpiece."
John Foxe's account of the burning of Ridley and Latimer:
Dr. Ridley, the night before execution, was very facetious, had himself shaved, and called his supper a marriage feast; he remarked upon seeing Mrs. Irish (the keeper's wife) weep, "Though my breakfast will be somewhat sharp, my supper will be more pleasant and sweet."

The place of death was on the northside of the town, opposite Baliol College. Dr. Ridley was dressed in a black gown furred, and Mr. Latimer had a long shroud on, hanging down to his feet. Dr. Ridley, as he passed Bocardo, looked up to see Dr. Cranmer, but the latter was then engaged in disputation with a friar. When they came to the stake, Mr. Ridley embraced Latimer fervently, and bid him: "Be of good heart, brother, for God will either assuage the fury of the flame, or else strengthen us to abide it." He then knelt by the stake, and after earnestly praying together, they had a short private conversation. Dr. Smith then preached a short sermon against the martyrs, who would have answered him, but were prevented by Dr. Marshal, the vice-chancellor. Dr. Ridley then took off his gown and tippet, and gave them to his brother-in-law, Mr. Shipside. He gave away also many trifles to his weeping friends, and the populace were anxious to get even a fragment of his garments. Mr. Latimer gave nothing, and from the poverty of his garb, was soon stripped to his shroud, and stood venerable and erect, fearless of death.

Dr. Ridley being unclothed to his shirt, the smith placed an iron chain about their waists, and Dr. Ridley bid him fasten it securely; his brother having tied a bag of gunpowder about his neck, gave some also to Mr. Latimer.

Dr. Ridley then requested of Lord Williams, of Fame, to advocate with the queen the cause of some poor men to whom he had, when bishop, granted leases, but which the present bishop refused to confirm. A lighted fagot was now laid at Dr. Ridley's feet, which caused Mr. Latimer to say: "Be of good cheer, Ridley; and play the man. We shall this day, by God's grace, light up such a candle in England, as I trust, will never be put out."

When Dr. Ridley saw the fire flaming up towards him, he cried with a wonderful loud voice, "Lord, Lord, receive my spirit." Master Latimer, crying as vehemently on the other side, "O Father of heaven, receive my soul!" received the flame as it were embracing of it. After that he had stroked his face with his hands, and as it were, bathed them a little in the fire, he soon died (as it appeareth) with very little pain or none.

Well! dead they are, and the reward of this world they have already. What reward remaineth for them in heaven, the day of the Lord's glory, when he cometh with His saints, shall declare.
Thomas Cranmer's Recantacyons sermon before his execution:
Every man desireth, good people, at the time of their deaths, to give some good exhortation that others may remember after their deaths, and be the better thereby. So I beseech God grant me grace, that I may speak something at this my departing, whereby God may be glorified and you edified.

First, it is an heavy case to see that many folks be so much doted upon the love of this false world, and so careful for it, that for the love of God, or the love of the world to come, they seem to care very little or nothing therefore. This shall be my first exhortation: That you set not overmuch by this false glosing world, but upon God and the world to come. And learn to know what this lesson meaneth, which St John teacheth, that the love of this world is hatred against God.

The second exhortation is, that next unto God, you obey your king and queen, willingly and gladly, without murmur and grudging. And not for fear of them only, but much more for the fear of God: Knowing, that they be God's ministers, appointed by God to rule and govern you. And therefore whoso resisteth them, resisteth God's ordinance.

The third exhortation is, that you love all together like brethren and sisters. For alas, pity it is to see, what contention and hatred one Christian man hath to another; not taking each other, as sisters and brothers; but rather as strangers and mortal enemies. But I pray you learn and bear well away this one lesson, To do good to all men as much as in you lieth, and to hurt no man, no more than you would hurt your own natural and loving brother or sister. For this you may be sure of, that whosoever hateth any person, and goeth about maliciously to hinder or hurt him, surely, and without all doubt, God is not with that man, although he think himself never so much in God's favour.

The fourth exhortation shall be to them that have great substance and riches of this world, that they will well consider and weigh those sayings of the Scripture. One is of our Saviour Christ himself, who saith, It is hard for a rich man to enter into heaven; a sore saying, and yet spoke by him, that knew the truth. The second is of St John, whose saying is this, He that hath the substance of this world, and seeth his brother in necessity, and shutteth up his mercy from him, how can he say, he loveth God?  Much more might I speak of every part; but time sufficeth not. I do but put you in remembrance of things. Let all them that be rich, ponder well those sentences; for if ever they had any occasion to shew their charity, they have now at this present, the poor people being so many, and victuals so dear. For though I have been long in prison, yet I have heard of the great penury of the poor. Consider, that that which is given to the poor is given to God; whom we have not otherwise present corporally with us, but in the poor.

And now forsomuch as I am come to the last end of my life, whereupon hangeth all my life passed, and my life to come, either to live with my Saviour Christ in heaven, in joy, or else to be in pain ever with wicked devils in hell; and I see before mine eyes presently either heaven ready to receive me, or hell ready to swallow me up; I shall therefore declare unto you my very faith, how I believe, without colour or dissimulation. For now is no time to dissemble, whatsoever I have written in times past.

First, I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and every article of the Catholic faith, every word and sentence taught by our Saviour Christ, his Apostles and Prophets, in the Old and New Testament.

And now I come to the great thing that troubleth my conscience more than any other thing that ever I said or did in my life: and that is, the setting abroad of writings contrary to the truth. Which here now I renounce and refuse, as things written with my hand contrary to the truth which I thought in my heart, and writ for fear of death, and to save my life, if it might be: and that is, all such bills, which I have written or signed with mine own hand, since my degradation; wherein I have written many things untrue. And forasmuch as my hand offended in writing contrary to my heart, therefore my hand shall first be punished. For if I may come to the fire, it shall be first burned. And as for the Pope, I refuse him, as Christ's enemy and antichrist, with all his false doctrine.
An eye-witness account of Cranmer's execution by a Roman Catholic known only as J. A. is here.

Martyrs' Memorial
Intersection of St. Giles', Magdalen Street, and Beaumont Street

9 comments:

  1. I'm curious, Mimi, whether you had heard of Latimer, Ridley, or Cranmer, before you became an Episcopalian?

    Though one would go out w/ a bang, those gunpowder bags had to help speed things up (blessed relief).

    Of course, a few short years later, Liz 1 would have RC Edmund Campion (etc) hung, drawn and quartered. It's all obscene madness (IMO, the certitude of the martyred, only somewhat less than the violence of the martyring). Kyrie eleison!

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    1. JCF, I may have heard of Cranmer, but I doubt whether I'd heard of the other two. Of course, that was 16 years ago, and I'm not really sure. Then again, I may have heard of them and not remembered.

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    2. I agree. Too many killings on both sides in the name of religion. On Facebook, Archdruid Eileen said:

      "There were also Oxford Catholic martyrs. Also remembered in St Mary's."

      Here's the link that shows the memorial plaque in St Mary's in Oxford.

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  2. I have to say I know Ridley's famous words from Bradbury: Faherenheit 451, when the woman with her books sets herself on fire. She chooses them for her last words.

    Nice to finally have the full context.

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    1. I'd read Diarmaid MacCulloch's "Thomas Cranmer" and "The Reformation", so I knew the story, but seeing the spot where the three were burned was quite moving. That the original memorial is so crude makes it all the more powerful.

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  3. I've often wondered what might have been if these three men had lived. Thanks for sharing there journey.

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    1. Your's is an interesting thought, Bonnie. We will never know.

      You're quite welcome. I enjoyed putting the post together, and I learned more about the three men in the process.

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  4. Ouch! That should be "their" journey. Sorry.

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    1. Ha ha. I don't take off marks for grammar.

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