Carthusian Martyrs


Carthusian Martyrs

The Carthusian Martyrs were a group of monks of the London Charterhouse, the monastery of the Carthusian Order in central London, who were put to death by the English state from June 19, 1535 to September 20, 1537. The method of execution was hanging, disembowelling while still alive and then quartering. 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 is of 18 men, all of whom have been formally recognized by the Catholic Church as true martyrs.

At the outset of the King's Great Matter, the government was anxious to secure the public acquiescence of the monks of the London Charterhouse, since for the austerity and sincerity of their mode of life they enjoyed great prestige. When this attempt failed in this, the only alternative was to annihilate the resistance, since a refusal engaged the prestige of the monks in the opposite sense. This took the form of a long process of attrition.

The First Group

On May 4, 1535 the authorities sent to their death at Tyburn, London three leading English Carthusians, John Houghton, prior of the London house, Robert Lawrence and Augustine Webster, respectively priors of Beauvale and Axholme.

The Second Group

Little more than a month later, it was the turn of three leading monks of the London house: Humphrey Middlemore, William Exmew and Sebastian Newdigate, who were to die at Tyburn, London on June 19. Newdigate was a personal friend of Henry VIII, who twice visited him in the prison to persuade him to give in, in vain.

The Third Group

The next move was to seize four more monks of community, two being taken to the Carthusian house at Beauvale in Nottinghamshire, while Dom John Rochester and Dom James Walworth were taken to the Charterhouse of St Michael at Hull in Yorkshire. They were made an example of on May 11, 1537, when condemned on trumped up charges of treason, they were hanged in chains from the York city battlements until dead.

The Fourth Group

The government continued to play a game of intimidation until May 18, 1537, when the twenty choir monks and eighteen laybrothers remaining in the London Charterhouse were required to take the Oath of Supremacy. Of these, the choir monks Thomas Johnson, Richard Bere, Thomas Green (priests), and John Davy (a deacon) refused. Richard Bere was a former Benedictine and longtime Abbot of Glastonbury (1493-1525), who had become a Carthusian in February 1523. "Thomas Green" may be the Thomas Greenwood who obtained the B.A. degree at Oxford, and later the M.A. at Cambridge in 1511, who became Fellow of St John's College, Cambridge in 1515 and the Doctorate in Divinity in 1532. This may associate him with John Fisher.

Likewise, of the brothers, Robert Salt, William Greenwood, Thomas Redyng, Thommas Scryven, Walter Pierson, and William Horne also refused.

As to the rest, the monastery was "surrendered" and they were expelled.

Those refusing the oath were all sent on May 29 to Newgate Prison, and treated as had been their fellow Carthusians in June 1535. They were chained standing and with their hands tied behind them to posts in the prison. This time, however, no further proceeding was foreseen and they were simply left to die of starvation.

Margaret Clement (née Giggs), who had been brought up in the household of St Thomas More, bribed the gaoler to let her have access to the prisoners, and disguised as a milkmaid carried in a milk-can full of meat which she fed to them. She also relieved them as best she could of the filth. However, the King Henry became suspicious and began to ask whether they were already dead. When this filtered back to the gaoler, he became too afraid to let Margaret enter again. For a brief time she was allowed to go on the roof and uncover the tiles, and let down meat in a basket as near as she could to their mouths. This method meant the monks could get little or nothing from the basket, and in any case the gaoler became too afraid and stopped any contact.

The laybrother William Greenwood died first, on June 6, and two days later the deacon John Davy, on June 8. Brother Robert Salt died on June 9, Brother Walter Pierson and the priest Thomas Green on June 10, and Brothers Thomas Scryven and Thomas Redyng on June 15 and June 16. These last named had survived a remarkably long time. It seems likely that at this point the King and his Council decided upon a change of plan which entailed bringing the survivors to execution and that Cromwell gave orders that those still living were to be given food so as to keep them alive. At any rate, the priest Dom Richard Bere did not die till August 9, and the priest Thomas Johnson not until September 20.

A Lone Survivor

For some reason Brother William Horne was kept alive. Refusing to abandon his religious habit, he was not attainted till 1540, when he was hanged, disembowelled, and quartered at Tyburn on August 4 1540 along with five other Catholics: the two laymen Robert Bird and Giles Heron, Lawrence Cook, Carmelite Prior of Doncaster, the Benedictine Thomas Epson, and (probably) the secular priest William Bird, Rector of Fittleton and Vicar of Bradford, Wiltshire.

A Summary List of the Carthusian Martyrs

*Saint John Houghton, prior of the London Charterhouse, executed at Tyburn, London, on May 4, 1535.

*Saint Robert Lawrence, prior of Beauvale Charterhouse, executed at Tyburn, London, on May 4, 1535.

*Saint Augustine Webster, prior of Axholme Charterhouse, executed at Tyburn, London, on May 4, 1535.

*Blessed Humphrey Middlemore, vicar of the London Charterhouse, executed at Tyburn, London, on June 19 1535.

*Blessed William Exmew, procurator of the London Charterhouse, executed at Tyburn, London, on June 19 1535.

*Blessed Sebastian Newdigate, choir monk of the London Charterhouse, executed at Tyburn, London, on June 19 1535.

*Blessed John Rochester, choir monk of the London Charterhouse, exiled by the government to the Charterhouse of St Michael at Hull in Yorkshire, executed at York on May 11, 1537, by being hanged in chains from the city battlements until dead.

*Blessed James Walworth, choir monk of the London Charterhouse, exiled by the government to the Charterhouse of St Michael at Hull in Yorkshire, executed at York on May 11, 1537, by being hanged in chains from the city battlements until dead.

*Blessed William Greenwood, laybrother of the London Charterhouse, died of starvation in Newgate Prison, London on June 6, 1537

*Blessed John Davy, deacon, choir monk of the London Charterhouse, and two days later the deacon on June 8. 1537

*Blessed Robert Salt, laybrother of the London Charterhouse, died of starvation in Newgate Prison, London on June 9, 1537

*Blessed Walter Pierson, laybrother of the London Charterhouse, died of starvation in Newgate Prison, London on June 10, 1537

*Blessed Thomas Green (perhaps "alias" Thomas Greenwood), choir monk of the London Charterhouse, died of starvation in Newgate Prison, London on June 10,1537

*Blessed Thomas Scryven, laybrother of the London Charterhouse, died of starvation in Newgate Prison, London on June 15, 1537

*Blessed Thomas Redyng, laybrother of the London Charterhouse, died of starvation in Newgate Prison, London on June 16, 1537

*Blessed Richard Bere, choir monk of the London Charterhouse and former Abbot of Glastonbury, died of starvation in Newgate Prison, London on August 9, 1537

*Blessed Thomas Johnson, choir monk of the London Charterhouse, died of starvation in Newgate Prison, London on September 20, 1537

*Blessed William Horne, laybrother of the London Charterhouse, hanged, disembowelled, and quartered at Tyburn, London on August 4, 1540.

References

* Gasquet, A., "Henry VIII and the English Monasteries"
* Foxe, John, "Book of Martyrs"
* Webpage: Barry Bossa,The Carthusian Martyrs of London, http://soli.inav.net/~jfischer/jun99/barrybossa.html
* Webpage: Immaculate Heart of Mary's Hermitage: [http://doc0mr.tripod.com/id29.html Carthusian Saints, Blesseds and Martyrs]

ee also

*International Fellowship of St. Bruno
*Community of Hermits of St. Bruno
*Hermit
*Desert Fathers
*Poustinia


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