Monday, September 10, 2012

St. Ambrose Barlow, OSB

From the English College of Valladolid in Spain:

ST. Ambrose BARLOW OSB was born in Barlow Hall near Manchester, in the year 1595. Son of Sir Alexander Barlow and Mary Brereton, he was baptised in November of the same year in Didsbury.

He received his first academic training in the College of St. Gregory at Douai, and on the 20th of September 1610 was admitted as a pupil of the Royal College of St. Alban in VALLADOLID. On completing the second year of philosophical studies, he returned to Douai, where in 1616, in the College of St. Gregory, he made his religious profession. The following year he was ordained a priest.

On going to England, he exercised his missionary ministry mainly in the south of the county of Lancashire. His way of living was said be very simple and apostolic, and his enthusiasm for his sacred trade such that he was nonchalant about the dangers of the religious persecution.

Several times he was stopped and incarcerated. On Easter Sunday, the 25th of April 1631, at the moment of ending a mass the Protestant vicar of EccIes and his followers, armed with sticks and shields, arrested him. He was dragged before a judge, and incarcerated.

On the 7th of September, after four months of detention, he was processed in Lancaster, before Sir Robert Heath who had received orders from the government to inflict on him the maximum punishment, as a deterrent to the Catholics who were very numerous in that county.

Upon the reading of the indictment, Father Ambrose, without more ado, admitted to being a priest and having exercised his apostolate in England for more than twenty years. The following day he was formally sentenced, and on Friday 10th of September 1641 he was stripped hung and quartered.

Pope Paul VI, on the 25th of October 1970, solemnly canonised him.
Some of the background on his family is particularly interesting:
Ambrose was born at Barlow Hall, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, near Manchester in 1585. He was the fourth son of the nobleman Sir Alexander Barlow and his wife Mary, daughter of Sir Uryan Brereton. The Barlow family had been reluctant converts to the Church of England following the suppression of the Church of Rome in England and Wales. Ambrose's grandfather died in 1584 whilst imprisoned for his beliefs and Sir Alexander Barlow had two thirds of his estate confiscated as a result of his refusing to conform with the rules of the new established religion. On 30 November 1585, Ambrose was baptised at Didsbury chapel and went on to adhere to the Anglican faith until 1607, when he converted to Roman Catholicism.
In 1597, Ambrose was taken into the stewardship of Sir Uryan Legh, a relative who would care for him whilst he served out his apprenticeship as a page. However, upon completing this service, Barlow realised that his true vocation was for the priesthood, so he travelled to Douai in France to study at the English College there before attending the Royal College of Saint Alban in Valladolid, Spain.


  1. During his execution, his hand was cut off after he blessed his executioner. The incorrupt hand is preserved at Mt. Angel Abbey in St. Benedict, OR. One of St. Ambrose's relatives was a monk who worked with the Russian Old Believers until his recent death.