Carthusian Martyrs

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"Martirio de los cartujos de Mauerbach" (Martyrdom of the Mauerbach Carthusians) Vicente Carducho. 1642 Vicente Carducho. El Paular 09.jpg
"Martirio de los cartujos de Mauerbach" (Martyrdom of the Mauerbach Carthusians) Vicente Carducho. 1642

The Carthusian martyrs are those members of the Carthusian monastic order who have been persecuted and killed because of their Christian faith and their adherence to the Catholic religion. As an enclosed order the Carthusians do not, on principle, put forward causes for their members, though causes have been promoted by others on their behalf.


The order

The Carthusian order was founded in 1084 by St. Bruno of Cologne, and is an eremitic order, holding to the principle of withdrawal from the world to a life of silent contemplation and prayer. They are often viewed as hermits that live in common, having no active apostolate outside their Charterhouse. Carthusian life is dramatically different as compared to Benedictine Monasticism, the most prevalent form in the west. Today the Carthusians are a small order comprising 25 houses worldwide with just 350 male and 75 female members.

The Martyrs

During the Hussite Revolution in Bohemia in the 15th century Carthusian houses, as with other Catholic institutions, came under attack. In 1419 the charterhouse in Prague was burned down. [1]

The Mauerbach Charterhouse on the outskirts of Vienna, Austria, was plundered and set on fire by Ottoman troops during the 1529 Siege of Vienna, and was again targeted by the Ottomans during the 1683 Battle of Vienna, though there seems no precise record of the names of monks killed in either assault.

In 1537 during the English Reformation the London Charterhouse was dissolved and its members imprisoned and later executed. Eighteen of these, the Carthusian Martyrs of London, were beatified in 1886 by Pope Leo XIII; [2] three of these (Augustine Webster, John Houghton and Robert Lawrence) were canonized in 1970 by Pope Paul VI with other English martyrs as the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.

In 1572 during the Dutch Revolt the Charterhouses of Delft and Roermond were attacked, resulting in the deaths of Dom Justus van Schoonhoven and others. [3]

During the French Revolution numerous Carthusians were persecuted with other Catholic religious and lay persons. Claude Beguignot and Lazarus Tiersot were ordained Carthusians. As priests, they were required to take the anti-Papal oath of the "Civil Constitution of the Clergy". At their refusal they were imprisoned along with eight other Carthusians in former slave ships anchored in the Charente River at Rochefort. Like most of 800 priests and clergy confined there, they died in 1794 due to the inhumane conditions. [4] They were beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1995. [5]

In 1936, during the Spanish Civil War, Carthusians were affected by the widespread anti-clericalism; two of these, from the Charterhouse of Montalegre, have so far been recognized.

In September 1944, monks from the charterhouse at Certosa di Farneta opened their doors to troops from the 16th SS Panzergrenadier Division, who said they came bearing gifts for the abbey. They broke into the monastery to arrest 32 partisans and Jews being sheltered in the monastery. Some of the refugees were able to escape. Of the more than sixty killed, twelve were Carthusians. [6] Among the twelve Carthusians killed were two Germans, one Swiss, one Venezuelan, and one Spaniard. The remaining monks were also from diverse countries. Those killed were:

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Grande Chartreuse

Grande Chartreuse is the head monastery of the Carthusian religious order. It is located in the Chartreuse Mountains, north of the city of Grenoble, in the commune of Saint-Pierre-de-Chartreuse (Isère), France.

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London Charterhouse

The London Charterhouse is a historic complex of buildings in Smithfield, London, dating back to the 14th century. It occupies land to the north of Charterhouse Square, and lies within the London Borough of Islington. Originally constructed as a Carthusian priory, on the site of a burial ground, at the Dissolution of the Monasteries it became one of the greatest palaces of Tudor London. In 1611, the property was bought by Thomas Sutton, a businessman and "the wealthiest commoner in England", who established a school for the young and an almshouse for the old. The almshouse remains today, although the school was re-established as Charterhouse School in Godalming, Surrey, in 1872.

Forty Martyrs of England and Wales

The Forty Martyrs of England and Wales are a group of Catholic, lay and religious, men and women, executed between 1535 and 1679 for treason and related offences under various laws enacted by Parliament during the English Reformation. The individuals listed range from Carthusian monks who in 1535 declined to accept Henry VIII's Act of Supremacy, to seminary priests who were caught up in the alleged Popish Plot against Charles II in 1679. Many were sentenced to death at show trials, or with no trial at all.

Augustine Webster

Augustine Webster was an English Catholic martyr. He was the prior of Our Lady of Melwood, a Carthusian house at Epworth, on the Isle of Axholme, in north Lincolnshire, in 1531. His feast day is 4 May.

John Houghton (martyr) English Carthusian hermit and Catholic martyr

John Houghton was a Carthusian hermit and Catholic priest and the first English Catholic martyr to die as a result of the Act of Supremacy by King Henry VIII of England. He was also the first member of his order to die as a martyr. He is among the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.

Thomas Johnson, O.Cart., was a Carthusian hermit who was executed by starvation in Tudor England. He is venerated as a martyr and has been beatified by the Catholic Church.

John Rochester (martyr)

John Rochester was an English Catholic priest, Carthusian monk and martyr. He was hanged at York for refusing to concede King Henry VIII's supremacy over the church.

William Exmew

William Exmew was an English Catholic priest and Carthusian hermit. He was hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn and is honored as a martyr by the Catholic Church. Exmew and his brother Carthusian martyrs were beatified by Pope Leo XIII on 9 December 1886.

Humphrey Middlemore

Humphrey Middlemore, was an English Catholic priest and Carthusian hermit, who was executed for treason during the Tudor period. He is considered a martyr by the Catholic Church, and, along with other members of his religious order to meet that fate, was beatified by Pope Leo XIII on 9 December 1886.

Sebastian Newdigate

Sebastian Newdigate, was the seventh child of John Newdigate, Sergeant-at-law. He spent his early life at court, and later became a Carthusian monk. He was executed for treason on 19 June 1535 for his refusal to accept Henry VIII's assumption of supremacy over the Church in England. His death was considered a martyrdom, and he was beatified by the Catholic Church.

Carthusian Martyrs of London

The Carthusian Martyrs of London were the monks of the London Charterhouse, the monastery of the Carthusian Order in central London, who were put to death by the English state in a period lasting from the 4 May 1535 till the 20 September 1537. The method of execution was hanging, disembowelling while still alive and then quartering. Others were imprisoned and left to starve to death. The group also includes two monks who were brought to that house from the Charterhouses of Beauvale and Axholme and similarly dealt with. The total was 18 men, all of whom have been formally recognized by the Catholic Church as martyrs.

Robert Lawrence (martyr)

Robert Lawrence was one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. He was hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn for declining to sign the Oath of Supremacy. His feast day is 4 May.

The Order of Saint Basil the Great also known as the Basilian Order of Saint Josaphat is a Ukrainian/ Belarusian monastic religious order of the Greek Catholic Churches that is present in many countries and has its Mother House in Rome Santi Sergio e Bacco degli Ucraini. The order received approbation on August 20, 1631, and was based at the Holy Trinity monastery in Vilnius. Its monks, brothers, and priests work primarily with Ukrainian Catholics and are also present in other Greek-Catholic churches in central and eastern Europe.

The martyrs of the Spanish Civil War are the Catholic Church's term for the people killed by Republicans during the Spanish Civil War for their faith. More than 6,800 clergy and religious were killed in the Red Terror. As of May 2021, 1,919 Spanish martyrs have been beatified; 11 of them being canonized. For some 2,000 additional martyrs, the beatification process is underway.

Bede Camm

Dom Bede Camm, O.S.B., was an English Benedictine monk and martyrologist. He is best known for his many works on the English Catholic martyrs, which helped to keep their memories alive in the newly reemerging Catholic Church of Victorian England.

Certosa di Farneta

The Certosa di Farneta is a cloistered Carthusian monastery (charterhouse) just north of Lucca, region of Tuscany, Italy.

John Haile was an elderly secular priest who was vicar of Isleworth Middlesex in the early 16th century; his significance in history, like that of many of the English martyrs, begins only with the events which led to his death.


  1. "Smíchov", The Institute of History, Czech Academy of Sciences, 2015
  2. "Lives of the English martyrs : declared blessed by Pope Leo XIII, in 1886 and 1895". Retrieved 2016-11-05.
  3. "Carthusians Commemorated", Immaculate Heart of Mary's Hermitage
  4. "Carthusian Saints", Charterhouse of the Transfiguration, 2006
  5. "Martyrs during the French Revolution", Hagiography Circle
  6. Sciascia, Giuseppina, "The Silent Summer of 1944", in L'Osservatore Romano. English Weekly Edition, 2005, February 2nd. Republished as "Carthusian Booklets Series", no. 10. Arlington, VT: Charterhouse of the Transfiguration, 2006.