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Sunday, 3 August 2014

Thomas Cranmer

Thomas Cranmer was born on July 2, 1489 in Aslockton in Nottinghamshire, England. His parents, Thomas and Agnes (née Hatfield) Cranmer, were of modest wealth.

He was appointed as a royal chaplain in 1529 by Henry VIII. Cranmer had won the King’s favor by suggesting the King appeal for his divorce from Catherine of Aragon to the universities of Christendom. In conversation with two of Henry's men,  the Nottinghamshire native had suggested that the universities could just as well settle the question as the Pope. Henry swore Cranmer had "the right sow by the ear."

Portrait by Gerlach Flicke, 1545

He married in July 1532 Margarete, the niece of the German Lutheran reformer, Oslander.

One of Cranmer's first actions after being consecrated the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1533 was to pronounce Henry VIII's first marriage invalid. Pope Clement VII was not impressed and excommunicated the English king.

During Cranmer's tenure as Archbishop of Canterbury, he was responsible for establishing the first doctrinal and liturgical structures of the reformed Church of England.

When the Protestant Edward VI  ascended to the throne, Cranmer was able to promote major reforms. He wrote and compiled the first two editions of the Book of Common Prayer, a complete liturgy for the English Church. He also changed doctrine in areas such as the Eucharist, clerical celibacy, the role of images in places of worship, and the veneration of saints.

Thomas Cranmer and four others, including Lady Jane Grey, were accused of high treason under the Catholic Queen "Bloody" Mary I. They were brought to trial, and on November 13, 1553, they were found guilty and condemned to death.

Cranmer made several recantations of his Protestant beliefs. However as Cranmer was being burnt at the stake on March 21, 1556, he thrust his right hand which he signed the form and watched the fire shrivel it crying, “This hand hath offended.” It is said that after his whole body was reduced to ashes his heart was found entire and untouched.

Cranmer's death was immortalized in Foxe's Book of Martyrs and his legacy lives on within the Church of England through the Book of Common Prayer and the Thirty-Nine Articles, an Anglican statement of faith derived from his work.

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