Forty Martyrs of England and Wales

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Forty Martyrs of England and Wales
Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.jpg
Died1535–1679, England and Wales
Venerated in Catholic Church
(England and Wales)
Canonized 25 October 1970, Vatican City, by Pope Paul VI
Feast 4 May (England) 25 October (Wales)
Notable martyrs Edmund Campion, S.J.

The Forty Martyrs of England and Wales [1] 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.



The first wave of executions came with the reign of King Henry VIII and involved persons who did not support the 1534 Act of Supremacy and dissolution of the monasteries. [2] Carthusian John Houghton and Bridgettine Richard Reynolds died at this time.

In 1570 Pope Pius V, in support of various rebellions in England and Ireland, excommunicated Queen Elizabeth, absolving her Catholic subjects of their allegiance to her. The crown responded with more rigorous enforcement of various penal laws already enacted and passed new ones. 13 Eliz. c.1 made it high treason to affirm that the queen ought not to enjoy the Crown, or to declare her to be a heretic. "An act against Jesuits, seminary priests, and such other like disobedient persons", (27 Eliz.1, c. 2), the statute under which most of the English martyrs suffered, made it high treason for any Jesuit or any seminary priest to be in England at all, and a felony for any one to harbor or aid them. [3] All but six of the forty had been hanged, drawn and quartered, many of them at Tyburn. [4]

The martyrs

Canonization process

Following beatifications between 1886 and 1929, there were already numerous martyrs from England and Wales recognised with the rank of Blessed. The bishops of the province identified a list of 40 further names; reasons given for the choice of those particular names include a spread of social status, religious rank, geographical spread and the pre-existence of popular devotion. The list of names was submitted to Rome in December 1960. In the case of a martyr, a miracle is not required. For a martyr, the Pope has only to make a declaration of martyrdom, which is a certification that the Venerable died voluntarily as a witness of the Faith or in an act of heroic charity for others.

The Archbishop of Westminster, then Cardinal William Godfrey, sent a description of 24 seemingly miraculous cases to the Sacred Congregation. Out of 20 candidate cases for recognition as answered prayers, the alleged cure of a young mother from a malignant tumor was selected as the clearest case. In light of the fact that Thomas More and John Fisher, belonging to the same group of Martyrs, had been canonized with a dispensation from miracles, Pope Paul VI, after discussions with the Sacred Congregation for the Causes of Saints, considered that it was possible to proceed with the Canonization on the basis of one miracle. [5]

Pope Paul VI granted permission for the whole group of 40 names to be recognised as saints on the strength of this one miracle. The canonization ceremony took place in Rome on 25 October 1970. [6] [7]

Liturgical feast day

In England, these martyrs were formerly commemorated within the Catholic Church by a feast day on 25 October, which is also the feast of Saints Crispin and Crispinian, but they are now celebrated together with all the 284 canonized or beatified martyrs of the English Reformation on 4 May. [8]

In Wales, the Catholic Church keeps 25 October as the feast of the Six Welsh Martyrs and their companions. The Welsh Martyrs are the priests Philip Evans and John Lloyd, John Jones, David Lewis, John Roberts, and the teacher Richard Gwyn. [9] The companions are the 34 English Martyrs listed above. Wales continues to keep 4 May as a separate feast for the beatified martyrs of England and Wales. [10]

See also

Related Research Articles

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John Houghton (martyr) English Carthusian hermit and Catholic martyr

Saint John Houghton, O.Cart., 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.

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John Jones, also known as John Buckley, John Griffith, Godfrey Maurice, or Griffith Jones was a Franciscan friar, Roman Catholic priest, and martyr. He was born at Clynnog Fawr, Caernarfonshire (Gwynedd), Wales, and was executed 12 July 1598 at Southwark, England. He is one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.

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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.

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Robert Lawrence (martyr) English Carthusian martyr

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David Lewis was a Jesuit Catholic priest and martyr who was also known as Charles Baker. Lewis was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970 as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales and is venerated as a saint in the Catholic Church.

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During the English reformation a number of men were executed at Lancaster in England as a consequence of their Catholic faith. They are commonly referred to as the Lancaster Martyrs and are commemorated locally by the Lancaster Martyrs Memorial Stone which may be found close to the centre of Lancaster city.

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  1. Connor, Charles Patrick (2003). Defenders of the Faith in Word and Deed. Ignatius Press. ISBN   978-0-89870-968-1.
  2. Duffy, Patrick. "The Forty Martyrs of England and Wales", Catholic Ireland, 25 October 2012
  3. Burton, Edwin, Edward D'Alton, and Jarvis Kelley. "Penal Laws." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 3 February 2019PD-icon.svgThis article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  4. Atherstone, A. (2011). The Canonisation of the Forty English Martyrs: An Ecumenical Dilemma. Recusant History, 30(4), 573-587. doi:10.1017/S0034193200013194
  5. Molinari S.J.,, Paolo. "Canonization of Forty English and Welsh Martyrs", L'Osservatore Romano, 29 October 1970
  6. Malcolm Pullan (2008). The Lives and Times of Forty Martyrs of England and Wales 1535–1680. Athena Press. pp. xvii–xxii. ISBN   978-1-84748-258-7 . Retrieved 10 November 2012.
  7. Canonizzazione di quaranta martiri dell'Inghilterra e del Galles, article in Italian
  8. National Calendar for England, Liturgy Office for England and Wales, accessed 31 July 2011
  9. National Calendar for Wales, Liturgy Office for England and Wales, accessed 31 July 2011
  10. Ordo for Wales Archived 30 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine , Diocese of Menevia, accessed 11 August 2011

PD-icon.svg  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Penal Laws". Catholic Encyclopedia . New York: Robert Appleton Company.