For immediate release.
When Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of
Canterbury, was burnt at the stake on 21 March 1556 it must have seemed as
if his life’s work had been wasted. Yet Cranmer’s influence on
the Church of England, on the English language and on our political life and
national identity endures 450 years after his martyrdom.
Cranmer’s liturgy, which survives more or less intact in the 1662 Book
of Common Prayer, remains the liturgical standard of the Church of England.
His 42 Articles were reworked into the 39 Articles which remain the official
statement of the foundational beliefs of the Church.
When the services of the Church were largely conducted in Latin, which ordinary
people could not understand, Cranmer was instrumental in securing an English
Bible (which had previously been banned) and he himself compiled, and largely
wrote, an English liturgy whose richness influenced the development of the
Cranmer was also instrumental in breaking, after centuries of occasional conflict,
the political power of the Papacy over the English political life, thus paving
the way for genuine constitutional democracy.
Cranmer was not without his faults yet, having been thrust into the political
as well as spiritual office of Archbishop under the despotic Henry VIII he
tried wherever possible to direct Henry gently and deal fairly with opponents.
Under intense pressure and having witnessed several of his fellow Bishops
sent to their deaths Cranmer regrettably signed a statement recanting his reformed
beliefs. However, recognising his error he used his final speech to reaffirm
his clear commitment to the biblical teaching which shaped his work and the
Church of England for centuries to come.
See also Cranmer
pages on this website