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 Issues | Church History | Thomas Cranmer

Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556)

Archbishop of Canterbury

"And as for the Pope, I refuse him, as Christ's enemy, and antichrist, with all his false doctrine."


  • Born 1489 Aslacton, Nottinghamshire.
  • Ordained 1523
  • 1529 Advised Henry VIII regarding divorce from Catherine of Aragon.
  • Married Margaret Osiander 1532 (in contravention of Canon Law)
  • 1532 Appointed Archbishop of Canterbury by the Pope.
  • During reign of Henry VIII, Cranmer helped introduce such reforms as he could, including propagation of English Bible.
  • The break from Rome began before Cranmer became Archbishop but was finalised during his office.
  • In reign of Edward VI, Cranmer introduced first reformed liturgies, Articles of Religion (42 Articles) and began revision of Canon Law.
  • Reluctantly supported Lady Jane Grey to succeed Edward.
  • On accession of Mary Tudor, Cranmer resisted the undoing of the reformation, was imprisoned, tried and convicted.
  • Under great pressure Cranmer recanted, but was nevertheless condemned.
  • At the stake he reasserted his reformed faith and declared the Pope to be Antichrist.
  • Martyred 21 March 1556 in Broad Street, Oxford.

On the death of Mary many of Cranmer's works, including his Prayer Book and Articles were re-introduced.  The Prayer Book was only modestly altered, the Articles were reshaped into 39.

Since the Settlement of 1662 the Prayer Book has been part of the doctrinal backbone of the Church of England.

For fuller history see the articles below by Hirst and Beckwith.




Articles about Thomas Cranmer, his work and legacy.

Thomas Cranmer - 450th anniversary of his martyrdom. Cross†Way article on Cranmer's life and legacy.

'From Fear to Faith' - Sermon by David Samuel on the 500th Anniversary of the birth of Thomas Cranmer.

Archbishop Cranmer (Churchman 48/2 1934) by Rev E Hirst

Cranmer Speaks Today - Some extracts from the works of Thomas Cranmer (Cross†Way article).

Thomas Cranmer after Five Hundred Years (Churchman 104/1 1990) by Roger Beckwith

Cranmer, a Man under Authority: An Introduction. Churchman article by Maurice Elliott (1995)

Cranmer's Attitude to the Bible: 'Lucerna pedibus meis verbum tuum.' Churchman article by Maurice Elliott (1995)

Cranmer's Attitude to the Papacy: 'And as for the Pope, I refuse him as Christ's enemy.' Churchman article by Maurice Elliott (1995)

Cranmer's Attitude to the Monarchy: Royal Absolutism and the Godly Prince. Churchman article by Maurice Elliott (1995)

Cranmer's Attitude to the Episcopate: Bishops, Priests and Deacons. Churchman article by Maurice Elliott (1995)

The Giant and the Dwarfs (conclusion to the four previous articles on Cranmer's attitude to authority) Churchman article by Maurice Elliott (1995)

Cranmer's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper in its Gospel Context. Churchman article by Roger du Barry

Thomas Cranmer's 'True and Catholick Doctrine of the Sacrament.' Churchman article (1990) by D A Scales

Conversion to Communion: Thomas Cranmer on a Favourite Puritan Theme  (Churchman 116/3 2002) by Ashley Null

‘For the More Explanation’ and ‘For the More Perfection’: Cranmer’s Second Prayer Book (Churchman 116/3 2002) by Roger Beckwith

The 1552 Reform of English Church Discipline (Churchman 116/3 2002) by Gerald Bray

Other articles on Cranmer from Churchman have not yet been put online.


See also History of the 39 Articles

Thomas Cranmer

Click to enlarge

Cranmer's Final Testimony

“And now I come to the great thing, which so much troubleth my conscience, more than any thing that ever I did or said in my whole life, and that is the setting abroad of a writing contrary to the truth; which now here I renounce and refuse, as things written with my hand, contrary to the truth which I thought in my heart, and written for fear of death, and to save my life if it might be; and that is, all such bills and papers which I have written or signed with my hand since my degradation; wherein I have written many things untrue. And forasmuch as my hand offended, writing contrary to my heart, my hand shall first be punished there-for; for, may I come to the fire, it shall be first burned.

“And as for the pope, I refuse him, as Christ’s enemy, and antichrist, with all his false doctrine.

“And as for the sacrament, I believe as I have taught in my book against the bishop of Winchester, the which my book teacheth so true a doctrine of the sacrament, that it shall stand at the last day before the judgment of God, where the papistical doctrine contrary
thereto shall be ashamed to show her face.”

From Foxe's Acts and Monuments

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