The Seed of the Church: The Tower of London

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The Tower of London, Thomas More and the Martyred Bishops of Rochester

  St Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England, beheaded at Tower Hill, 6 July 1535. The statue outside Chelsea Old Church, close to the site of his home St John Fisher, Cardinal of the Roman Church, Catholic Bishop of Rochester, beheaded at Tower Hill, 22 June 1535 Bishop Nicholas Ridley, Reformer Bishop of Rochester, then Bishop of London, burned at Broad Street, Oxford, 16 October 1555 Blessed Nicholas Owen, builder of priests' hiding places, a Jesuit brother, tortured to death at the Tower, 2 March 1606 Margaret Pole, Plantagenet princess, Countess of Salisbury, Catholic beheaded at Tower Hill, 27 May 1541

On the 19th January 2004, Bishop Richard Chartres, the Anglican Bishop of London, preached at a special service in the Tower of London to commemorate the great reforming Church leader, John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester. One of the greatest minds and brightest hopes for the Church in all Europe in the 1530s, he was martyred in the Tower for his refusal to accept King Henry VIII's supremacy over the Church in England in order to obtain a divorce. Celebrated as a martyr for the Catholic Faith, John Fisher, along with his near-companion Thomas More, is more truly a saint who belongs to the history of all Christians in England. His death in the hope of preserving the integrity and unity of the Church, as well as its reform and renewal, mark him out as a figure who to this day signals the scandal of separation between Christians as well as the reality of their oneness, present and yet to come, in the martyrs' union with Christ in his self-offering on the Cross.

The following year, on teh 4th November 2005, Bishop Chartres returned to the Chapel Royal of St Peter-ad-Vincula in the Tower to remember Bishop Nicholas Ridley, Fisher's successor, who came to be a martyr himself under Queen Mary I. Ridley had gone on to be Bishop of London and so Dr Chartres spoke as his present day successor. Also giving an address was Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, Ridley's successor as Anglican Bishop of Rochester.

In 2003 a conference in Bruges commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the death of Paul Couturier who had refounded the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 70 years earlier. Dr Kevin Eastell reflected on how Thomas More's passion in the 16th century had been to overcome religious strife and to preserve and build the Church's unity.

Follow these links for the addresses:

For a full list of the Martyrs who died at the Tower and right across London, follow the link above to Tyburn.