Born in 1489, the second son of a Nottinghamshire squire, Cranmer studied at Jesus College, Cambridge, and was ordained priest in about 1520. In 1533 Henry VIII made him Archbishop of Canterbury. He was kept busy on Henry’s behalf, especially in the overthrow of Papal supremacy in England and the dismantling of the king’s marriages. Later, Cranmer began to be influenced by theological ideas coming from Protestant Europe, particularly those to do with the Eucharist.
Following the restoration of the Roman Catholic Church in England on the accession to the throne of Mary Tudor in 1553, Cranmer found himself facing charges of heresy. He was condemned as a heretic and burnt at the stake in Oxford on 21st March (his ‘day’) 1556, despite having signed several recantations of his ‘heretical’ ideas. His lasting monument is the Book of Common Prayer. Although dated 1662, this work in substance embodies the 1559 revision of two earlier versions, the more ‘Catholic’ version of 1549 and the more ‘Protestant’ version of 1552. It has been translated into many languages world-wide.
Above San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge stands a sandstone cross. It commemorates the continuity in America of the Book of Common Prayer since it was first used in California by Sir Francis Drake’s chaplain in 1579.