The Prince who became a monk

Throughout the extensive history of the Church, there have been numerous events of lasting significance.

Each week brings anniversaries of impressive milestones, unforgettable tragedies, amazing triumphs, memorable births, notable deaths and everything in between.

Some of the events drawn from over 2,000 years of history might be familiar, while other happenings might be previously unknown by most people.

The following pages highlight anniversaries of memorable events that occurred this week — March 20 through Mach 26 — in Christian history. 

This week marks the anniversary of when Thomas Cranmer, a leader of the English Reformation credited with helping craft the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer, was executed.

Cranmer served as the Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of King Henry VIII and helped oversee the Church of England’s break with the Roman Catholic Church.

Cranmer was tried for treason under Catholic monarch Queen Mary I, partly because of his beliefs and partially because he supported Lady Jane Grey’s claim to the throne.

“After a long trial and imprisonment, he was forced to proclaim to the public his error in the support of Protestantism, an act designed to discourage followers of the religion,” noted BBC.

“Despite this, Cranmer was sentenced to be burnt to death in Oxford on 21 March 1556. He dramatically stuck his right hand, with which he had signed his recantation, into the fire first.”

This week marks the anniversary of when 80-year-old Prince Stefan Nemanja of Serbia abdicated his throne and became an Orthodox Christian monk.

A ruler known for fighting multiple wars and for building Orthodox monasteries, Prince Stefan transferred his royal authority to one of his sons at a council held in Ras.

“After his abdication, Nemanja took the name Symeon. He joined another son, Sava, at the famous monastic community at Mount Athos, Greece,” states the Christian History Institute.

“There Symeon and Sava acquired a decayed monastery, Hilander (also transliterated ‘Chilander’), which they refurbished and expanded to house a Serbian religious community. Within a decade, its numbers had swelled to two hundred monks. Because of the monks’ learning, it became a cultural magnet for Serbia.”

The Christian History Institute reports that while sources differ on the exact date of the prince’s abdication, “all agree the event took place on the 23rd or 25th of March in either 1195 (O.S.) or 1196 (if the new calendar is retroactively followed).”

This week marks the anniversary of Francis Asbury, a Methodist bishop and circuit rider known for spreading Methodism in the United States, preaching his final sermon.

During his ministry career, Asbury had reportedly traveled around 300,000 miles, preached over 16,000 sermons and ordained around 4,000 clergy during his ministry.

Asbury gave his final sermon at a church in Richmond, Virginia, apparently so weak from illness that he had to be carried from his bed to the pulpit, where he sat on a table.

“Asbury often had to stop and catch his breath during his hour-long sermon,” recounted the Association of Religion Data Archives.

“A week later, his death became imminent at the Spotsylvania home of his old friend George Arnold. With loved ones surrounding him, Asbury lifted both hands to the sky and breathed his last breath.”

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