4 May 1535 – The Executions of the Carthusian Martyrs

Posted By on May 4, 2013

Carthusian Martyrs by Sanchez Cotan

Carthusian Martyrs by Sanchez Cotan, photo by Tim Ridgway

On 4th May 1535 three prominent Carthusian monks were put to death at Tyburn, along with a Bridgettine monk and a priest. They were executed for refusing to accept the King as the Supreme Head of the Church and “for writing and giving counsel against the King”. The men were John Houghton, Robert Lawrence and Augustine Webster, respectively priors of the London Charterhouse, Beauvale and Axholme – and a Bridgettine monk, Richard Reynolds of Syon Abbey. Their deaths are recorded in Letters and Papers (in a report from the Vatican Archives):

“First, the “said” four monks and one of the secular priests (because the young man [Robert Feron, Curate of Teddington] was pardoned) were drawn from the Tower of London to the place of execution (about a French league distant) and without respect for their Order hanged with great ropes. While they were still alive the hangman cut out their hearts and bowels and burned them. Then they were beheaded and quartered, and the parts placed in public places on long spears. And it is believed that one saw the other’s execution fully carried out before he died,—a pitiful and strange spectacle, for it is long since persons have been known to die with greater constancy. No change was noticed in their colour or tone of speech, and while the execution was going on they preached and exhorted the bystanders with the greatest boldness to do well and obey the King in everything that was not against the honor of God and the Church.”1

Between 1535 and 1536, eighteen Carthusian monks were executed and you can read more about them in my article 19 June 1535 – 3 Carthusian Monks Hanged, Drawn and Quartered. All 18 have been recognised by the Catholic Church as martyrs.

Coincidentally, I spent the day in the Spanish city of Granada yesterday where I visited “La Cartujua”, the Carthusian monastery. In the refectory of the monastery is a series of paintings by Fray Juan Sanchez Cotan, the Spanish painter and monk who was based at the monastery from 1612. The series of paintings shows the persecution of the Cathusian order and includes the suffering of the Carthusian monks in England during Henry VIII’s reign. Click here to read about my visit and click here to read about my visit to the Capilla Real in Granada to see the tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella, the great “Reyes Catolicos”, and Juana and Philip.

Stephanie Mann has informed me that another man was also executed at Tyburn on this day, Father John Haile, a parish priest. Click here to read Stephanie’s blog post.

Notes and Sources

  1. LP viii. 661
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