Martyrs’ MemorialOxford
St Giles Street
Oxon OX1 2LN
 
 
 
The memorial is a fine example of Victorian Gothic architecture.  A young George Gilbert Scott won a competition to design a memorial to the ‘Oxford Martyrs’.  He based his elaborate design on the 13th century Eleanor Cross at Waltham Cross in Hertfordshire.
 
The neo-Decorated Gothic monument with its spire and pinnacles took two years to construct and was completed in 1842.
 
The ‘Oxford Martyrs’ had been burned at the stake 300 years before so why did it take so long to erect a memorial to them?  First we need to know who they were and why they were burned.
 
The Oxford Martyrs
It all goes back to when Protestantism became the official religion of Britain.  The Roman Catholic Church would not grant King Henry VIII a divorce from his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, to marry Anne Boleyn.  Henry broke from Rome, formed the Church of England  and declared his marriage to Katherine invalid.  In doing so he made their child, Mary Tudor, illegitimate.
 
Ultimately the staunchly Catholic Mary came to the throne and embarked on a bloody campaign to return Britain to the Roman Catholic faith.
 
Bishops Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley were committed Protestants and did their best to introduce the new religion to their flocks.  Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, was responsible for introducing the king’s reforms.  He was instrumental in dissolving the king’s marriage to Katherine and marrying Henry to Anne Boleyn.
 
In 1555 Queen Mary took her revenge.  Latimer, Ridley and Cranmer were tried for their religious beliefs and teachings in the University Church of St Mary the Virgin.  They were found guilty of heresy and were burned at the stake in Broad Street, 22 yards (20 metres) from the current memorial.
 
The spot is marked by some stones in the shape of a cross set in the road.
 
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In the 1840s the ‘Oxford Movement’ was formed.  The Movement sought to prove that the key doctrines of the Church of England were Roman Catholic.
 
This greatly alarmed the Anglican Church and proponents of the Low Church decided it was time to remind the inhabitants of Oxford (and the nation at large) that the Church of England's founding fathers had been martyred by the Roman Catholic Church.
 
Funds were raised, the competition held and the splendid memorial erected.
 
Google Map - Martyrs' Memorial Oxford