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Michael Ramsey, 100th Archbishop of Canterbury

 "He did not think that there was enough quiet in the world. To realise God you need silence. He loved spaces for silence, and places of silence. He encouraged the practice of retreats. He was an inspiring conductor of retreats. He thought of the religious communities as little havens of quiet scattered across society ..." Owen Chadwick - memorial address

The 100th Archbishop of Canterbury was born in 1904, the son of Arthur Stanley Ramsey. Educated at Repton School and Magdalene College, Cambridge, he trained at Cuddesdon College Oxford and was ordained deacon in 1928 and priest a year later in 1929. He served in parish and academic appointments until 1952 when he was appointed Bishop of Durham.   He then served as Archbishop of York from 1956 until 1961 when he became Archbishop of Canterbury in succession to Geoffrey Fisher, his former headmaster at Repton. 

During his time as Archbishop, the Church of England system of Syndocial Government came into being; a keen ecumenist, Ramsey was bitterly disappointed when the Synod wouldn't endorse a scheme for Anglican-Methodist unity.

Ramsey visited Pope Paul VIth in Rome in 1966 and was received in the Sistine chapel, the first Archbishop of Canterbury in modern times formally to visit the Vatican. The evening before leaving for London, the Pope took off his own epsicopal ring, presented to him by the people of Milan, and gave it to Ramsey, who wore it until the day he died. The ring is now kept at Lambeth Palace and is worn when Archbishops visit the Vatican.

Ramsey had a deep affection for the Orthodox tradition and made a particular study of the Early Fathers and worked to strengthen relationships betwene Anglicans and the Eastern churches. 

Ramsey was not afraid of controversy, speaking out on the issues of the day - apartheid, immigration, the death penalty and the legalisation of homosexuality were some of the subjects on which he spoke. 

He wrote many books, some listed below. His best known is probably The Christian Priest Today, written in 1972, which is still in print 

On retirement, the Ramseys spent time in the USA and in Durham before making their home in Oxford. Michael Rasmey died in 1988 and his ashes are buried in Canterbury Cathedral. His memorial tablet reads: 

"The Glory of God is the living man and the life of man is the vision of God." 

Research: Jenny Child and Steve Empson

Detailed biography

(Arthur) Michael Ramsey (b1904  d1988)

[Michael Ramsey] Baron Ramsey of Canterbury (created life peer 1974)
Son of Arthur Stanley Ramsey, lecturer in mathematics at Cambridge University; fellow & sometime president of Magdalene College.

b. 14.11.1904. Repton. Magdalene College Cambridge BA1927 MA1930 BD1950. Cuddesdon 1927.

m.1942 Joan (Hamilton) (d. 13.2.95 aged 84). no children.

d. 23.4.1988 in Oxford. His ashes are buried in Canterbury Cathedral.


Ordained deacon 23.9.1928 to the title of Liverpool parish church. Ordained priest 1929 by the Bishop of Liverpool.
Curate of Liverpool St Nicholas 1928-1930; Sub-Warden of Lincoln Theological Coll 1930-1936; Examining Chaplain to the Bishop of Chester 1932-1938; Select Preacher, Cambridge University 1934, 1940, 1948, 1959 & 1964 (& 1970 or Hulsean Pr 1969-1970); Lecturer of Boston Parish Church 1936-1938; Vicar of Cambridge St Benedict 1938-1940; Professor of Divinity at Durham Univ, Canon of Durham Cathedral & Examining Chaplain to the Bishop of Durham 1940-1950; Select Preacher Oxford University 1945- 1947; Regius Professor of Divinity & Fellow of Magdalene College Cambridge 1950-1952; Prebendary & Canon of Lincoln Cathedral & Examining Chaplain to the Bishop of Lincoln 1951-1952; Consecrated Bishop in York Minster by Garbett, Archbishop of York; Bishop of Durham 1952-1956; Archbishop of York 1956-1961; Archbishop of Canterbury 1961-1974 - inducted, installed & enthroned 2.30pm Tue 27.6.1961 in Canterbury Cathedral.

resignation announced 11.3.1974, effective 15.11.1974 having served more than 13 years in post.

His time as Archbishop coincided with: Elizabeth II 1952- » Prime Ministers » H MacMillan Con 1957-63 » A Douglas-Home Con 1963-64 » H Wilson Lab 1964-70 » E Heath Con 1970-74 » H Wilson Lab 1974-76 » Popes » John XXIII 1958-63 » Paul VI 1963-78 » Abps York » D Coggan 1961-74 »

President (1 of) World Council of Churches 1961-1968; Leader C of E Delegates Anglican Congress Toronto 1963; Trustee British Museum 1963-1969; President Lambeth Conference 1968; Chairman National Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants; In Retirement 1974-1988.

Awarded the Royal Victorian Chain 1974; Privy Councillor 1956; Hon Master of the Bench Inner Temple 1962; Hon Fellow British Academy 1983.


The Gospel and the Catholic Church 1936;

The Resurrection of Christ 1945;

The Glory of God and the Transfiguration of Christ 1949;

F D Maurice and the Conflicts of Modern Theology 1951;

Durham Essays and Addresses 1956;

From Gore to Temple 1960; Introducing the Christian Faith 1961;

Image Old and New (SPCK 1963);

Canterbury Essays and Addresses 1964;

Sacred and Secular 1965; God,

Christ and the World 1969;

The Christian Priest Today 1972;

Canterbury Pilgrim 1974;

Holy Spirit 1977;

Jesus and the Living Past 1980;

Be Still and Know 1982;

with Cardinal Suenens: The Future of the Christian Church 1971.

Memorials bearing his name:

1 Michael Ramsey Chair of Anglican & Ecumenical Theology Univ of Kent at Canterbury

2 Archbishop Michael Ramsey School (C of E comprehensive) Camberwell. biography: ODCC Ramsey, Arthur Michael.


1st Abp of Canterbury whose enthronement was televised; 1st Abp of Canterbury to visit Moscow (Patriarch Alexei 7.1962); 1st Abp of Canterbury to be invited to speak at a Roman Catholic  University (Catholic Univ of Louvain Belgium 5.1963). *Synodical Government was inaugurated in the Church of England 1970.