We’ve all heard of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher, two great English saint-martyrs killed under the rule of Henry VIII for refusing to recognize him as the spiritual head and authority in England. But, have you heard of the Martyrs of London?
While the April 5 feast day includes three different groups of martyrs killed in London in the 16th century, one of the religious groups that suffered the most during the Reformation: the Carthusian Martyrs of London.
Want to learn more about them? Here are 5 facts on these red martyrs.
They have their own feast day
While their martyrdom is collectively commemorated on April 4th, along with all the other English saints and blesseds killed in London during the Reformation, they also have their own feast day: May 4th. Why this day? It was the day, in 1535, when the first of the Carthusian monks were hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn.
God before king
Just like the famous cases of Sts Thomas More and John Fisher, these monks were killed for refusing to take the oath attached to the Act of Succession imposed by Henry VIII when he broke away from the Roman Catholic Church. The priors of three of the Charterhouses—London, Beauvale, and Axelhome—were arrested before being murdered. These three are also the only canonized saints of the group.
Three of these monks are part of the Forty Martyrs of England of Wales
Sts John Houghton, Robert Lawrence, and Augustine Webster, the priors of the aforementioned Carthusian Charterhouses, are part of the Forty English and Welsh martyrs that include St. Thomas More, St. John Fisher, St. Edmund Campion, and St. Margaret Ward. Side fact, they were also three of the first four first martyrs of the Reformation.
Three monks are part of a large group known as the “Tyburn martyrs.”
Out of the 350 English martyrs during the Reformation, over 100 are known as the Tyburn martyrs due to the location of their executions; the Tyburn gallows (a.k.a “Tyburn tree” or “The Triple Tree”). Three of these Carthusian monks are a part of this group that includes St. Oliver Plunkett, who was the last of the Tyburn martyrs, killed on July 1st, 1681.
You can still visit the sites where they were killed
There is a monument near the site of the “Tyburn Tree,” which was demolished in 1759. It reads: “The circular stone on the traffic Island 300 paces east of this point marks the site of the ancient gallows known as Tyburn Tree. It was demolished in 1759.”
While Newgate Prison—where all but one of the other Carthusian monks were starved to death—was demolished, in 1902 the “Execution Bell” is kept at the Church of St. Sepulchre. The original site is now known as “Old Bailey” as is the Central Criminal Court.
While these eighteen Carthusian monks are only a small fraction of the more-than 350 red martyrs, they are no less important. They are a great reminder that during times of persecution and unrest, one must remember that we must place God and Truth before king (or politics).
London Martyrs, pray for us!