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Church tributes to a 19th century scholar

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 04, 2012

  • The memorial in Truro Cathedral for Henry Martyn who campaigned for inter-faith tolerance in the 19th century

  • The monument features a series of colourful stained glass window panels charting the major events of his life

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The bicentenary of a Cornish scholar who translated the Bible into several languages and campaigned for inter-faith tolerance is to be marked by a series of talks this month.

The name of Henry Martyn is not known by many people today, yet his missionary zeal was considered to be so great during the early 19th century that an entire monument was built to his memory inside Truro Cathedral.

This month, Christians and historians are planning a programme of events to celebrate his life and work.

Canon Philip Lambert, of Truro Cathedral, said: "Henry Martyn is remembered for his courage, selflessness and his religious devotion. One of the burning questions for us today is the relationship of Christianity with other religions – and Henry Martyn, who was an early pioneer in engaging with members of other religions, speaks to us on this issue from across the sea of time. We will remember the bicentenary of his death through lectures and worship."

Born in Truro in 1781, Henry Martyn's father was a mine captain at Gwennap. He was an able scholar and attended Truro Grammar School before entering St John's College, Cambridge, where he gained the highest mark in a first class honours degree in Mathematics. In 1805 he left for India and immediately set to work preaching and studying local languages. During the seven years he was abroad, he translated the whole of the New Testament into Urdu, Persian and Judaeo-Persic and also translated the Psalms into Persian and the Book of Common Prayer into Urdu.

It was during a journey back to Cornwall in 1812 that he was struck down by fever in Turkey and died on October 16. Some 60 years later, an elaborate monument to Henry Martyn was erected in Truro Cathedral. Situated in the south aisle, it features a mosaic floor, red marble font and colourful stained glass window panels.

Michael Swift will explain the missionary's influence on the design of the building that dominates the city's skyline, when he delivers a free lecture entitled Henry Martyn: His Role In The Vision Of Truro Cathedral in the Pearson Room of the Cathedral Office on Monday October 8 at 7.30pm. His talk will be repeated on Wednesday October 10 at 2.30pm in the cathedral nave.

On the following Saturday at 7.30pm, the Right Reverend Dr Graham Kings, Bishop of Sherborne and founder of the Henry Martyn Centre in Cambridge, will deliver the 2012 Benson Lecture, entitled Henry Martyn: Son Of Cornwall And Missionary Scholar. The final event in the commemorative programme will be a 10am Solemn Eucharist and a 4pm Evensong on Sunday October 21.

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