Saturday, November 16, 2013

Froude's Remains and the Oxford Martyrs Memorial

Image Credit: Wikipedia Commons

On October 16, 1555, Protestant bishops Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley were burned at the stake in Oxford, having been tried and convicted of heresy during the reign of Queen Mary I. In 1843, a Gothic style memorial, designed by George Gilbert Scott, was erected at the intersection of St. Gile's, Magdalen and Beaumont streets near Balliol College. Why was the memoral erected 288/287 years after the martyrdom of Latimer, Ridley, and Thomas Cranmer (executed on March 21, 1556)? Why did the memorial include such a pointedly anti-Catholic dedication?

To the Glory of God, and in grateful commemoration of His servants, Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer, Prelates of the Church of England, who near this spot yielded their bodies to be burned, bearing witness to the sacred truths which they had affirmed and maintained against the errors of the Church of Rome, and rejoicing that to them it was given not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for His sake; this monument was erected by public subscription in the year of our Lord God, MDCCCXLI.

The memorial project was launched in response to the Oxford Movement and the publication of Richard Hurrell Froude's Remains, which demonstrated the late Oriel Fellow's interest in some Catholic devotions, in 1838, two years after his death. Newman and Keble, when editing the Remains, included a Preface containing strong denials tht Froude would have considered becoming a Catholic! Nevertheless, the Reverend Charles Pourtales Golightly (who did not "go lightly"), formerly John Henry Newman's curate at St. Mary's-St. Nicholas' in Littlemore, and other evangelical Anglicans were alarmed by the Romanizing tendencies of the Oxford Movement (Sacraments, sacramentals, and saints) and even more angered by some of Froude's comments: particularly his regrets that the Reformation--particularly the English Reformation--had ever happened. Golightly began the subscription campaign to build the memorial as an effort to counter and protest the Oxford Movement.

Golightly and Newman had a Huguenot background in common and they had been acquaintances for a long time, and Golightly was independently wealthy and therefore could take on poor Anglican parishes and do many good works. He was completely opposed to the ritualistic aspects of the Oxford Movement. It seems curious that Sir Gilbert Scott built the memorial in the Gothic style, since many could identify Gothic with the Catholic Middle Ages, but Scott did not equate Gothic with solely ecclesiastical architecture. He also designed the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens across from the Royal Albert Hall. It also displays Scott's interest in the Gothic Revival style.

It's also interesting to note that in 1843 when the Martyrs Monument was dedicated, Newman was in Littlemore at the College and by September of that year had resigned from St. Mary's and was working on the Development of Christian Doctrine, writing himself into the Catholic Church.

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