This Week in Church History: Latimer and Ridley Burned (1555)

October 16 marks the anniversary of the martyrdom of Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley by Queen Mary of England. Together with the Archbishop of Canterbury and author of the Book of Common Prayer, Thomas Cranmer, these three men make up the Oxford Martyrs. All three died by burning in Oxford, thus the term “Oxford Martyr,” though Cranmer would be martyred in March of 1556, five months after the deaths of Latimer and Ridley.

Prior to the ascent of Mary, Latimer had enjoyed a long career in the English church, serving as Bishop of Worcester and later as a chaplain to the young Reformed king Edward VI. Within six months of Mary’s ascent, however, Latimer was put on trial for heresy. Given his age (he was 67 when the trial began), Latimer’s defenses were presented in writing rather than orally. At their close, he was sentenced to death by burning, where he would join Ridley, the Bishop of London.

On the day of their death, Latimer told Ridley to, “be of good cheer, master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle in England, as I hope, by God’s grace, shall never be put out.”