“Play The Man, Master Ridley”

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, in 1845, just two years before Newman completed his conversion to Rome. Newman was later rewarded for his labors with a Roman cardinal’s 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. Read more»

R. Scott Clark, “Latimer, Ridley, and Cramner: The Oxford Martyrs,” Reformation and Revival: A Quarterly Journal for Church Leadership 7 (1998): 167-79


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