One interesting thing leads to another, and this Saxon tower is no exception. (This is why it takes me such a long time to write this kind of blog post!) Access to the tower is through St. Michael's, City Church of Oxford, parts of which date to the 13th century.
Saxon Tower of St. Michaels
Of course, we had to climb the easy 97 steps to the top of the tower for views of the city, although there were some pretty skinny passageways enroute.
Sign on the door reads:
"This is the door through which Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and Bishops Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley, known as the Oxford Martyrs, were led to their deaths. It was the entrance to their cell, originally located in the Bocardo Prison, which was constructed over the North Gate of the city, and could be entered through this tower."
There was a bit more to the sign which didn't make it into the photo, but the fact is, these men were burned at the stake in 1555-1556. Thomas Cranmer, responsible for The Book of Common Prayer, was deemed a traitor by Mary, the reigning Catholic monarch, who had the men put to death.
More of the story...
"Once his appointment [as Archbishop] was approved by the pope, Cranmer declared Henry's marriage to Catherine void, and four months later married him to Anne Boleyn. With Thomas Cromwell, he supported the translation of the bible into English. In 1545, he wrote a litany that is still used in the church. Under the reign of Edward VI, Cranmer was allowed to make the doctrinal changes he thought necessary to the church. In 1549, he helped complete the book of common prayer.
"After Edward VI's death, Cranmer supported Lady Jane Grey as successor. Her nine-day reign was followed by the Roman Catholic Mary I, who tried him for treason. After a long trial and imprisonment, he was forced to proclaim to the public his error in the support of Protestantism, an act designed to discourage followers of the religion. Despite this, Cranmer was sentenced to be burnt to death in Oxford on 21 March 1556. He dramatically stuck his right hand, with which he had signed his recantation, into the fire first." - from this BBC article.
Before his death, Cranmer is supposed to have made a very looong speech, which can be found here.
According to This Website, "Cranmer five times wrote a letter of submission to the Pope and to Roman Catholic doctrines, and four times he tore it up. In the end, he submitted. However, Mary was unwilling to believe that the submission was sincere, and he was ordered to be burned at Oxford on 21 March 1556. At the very end, he repudiated his final letter of submission, and announced that he died a Protestant."
However, the part that I've found in many sources, including Foxe's Christian Martyrs, is a variation of the following:
'He said, "I have sinned, in that I signed with my hand what I did not believe with my heart. When the flames are lit, this hand shall be the first to burn." And when the fire was lit around his feet, he leaned forward and held his right hand in the fire until it was charred to a stump. Aside from this, he did not speak or move, except that once he raised his left hand to wipe the sweat from his forehead.'
I realize there was some repetition in the above paragraphs, but I think you can piece it together. The point is, Cranmer, whose Book of Common Prayer is used by the Anglican communion today, and the other two martyrs, walked to their executions through that door that you see in the photo above. So the tower wasn't just any old tower. I don't know how people in England get anything at all done. There's just way too much to see and learn!
Now, finally, are the views of the city as seen from the tower:
One of the locals who frequently hangs out at the tower
Bells, viewed from the landing
Find them on Amazon:
The Book of Common Prayer
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Have a great weekend, everyone!
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