Thursday, November 15, 2012

Martyrs of the Dissolution of the Monasteries: Three at Reading Abbey

Late in the process of suppressing the larger monasteries, Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell encountered resistance from three monasteries and their abbots (Reading, Glastonbury, and Colchester). In this first of two posts today, we'll consider the martyrs of Reading Abbey. Reading Abbey was a Benedictine house established during the reign of King Henry I and dedicated to Our Lady and St. John the Evangelist. It was initially part of the Cluniac branch of the Benedictine order.

The website provides an outline of detail about one of the monastic martyrs who suffered on November 15, 1539, Blessed John Rugg:

  • Former fellow of the two Saint Mary Winton colleges. Priest. First holder of the Wykehamical prebend “Bursalis” at the Chichester Cathedral. Obtained a dispensation from residence, and was living as a Benedictine monk at Reading, Berkshire, England in 1532. Believed to have hidden the hand of Saint Anastasius, a relic housed in the cathedral, when the king‘s men seized the relics in the Reading abbey, and which was rediscovered during renovations in 1786 [Renovations at St. Chichester Cathedral]. For this, and for denying the king‘s as head of the Church, he was executed. Martyr.

  • English

  • dragged through the streets, hanged, drawn, and quartered on 15 November 1539 at the main abbey gateway in Reading, Berkshire, England
  • body left to rot in his chains as a warning for others
  • body removed by locals and buried first at Bere Court
  • relics re-interred in the 16th century

  • 13 May 1895 by Pope Leo XIII
What happened to the hand of St. Athanasius, the great defender of orthodox teaching about the person of Jesus Christ, after it was discovered in 1786, I cannot easily determine--the Cathedral of Chichester website certainly does not highlight it.

Also suffering on this day at Reading, was the Abbot, Hugh (Cook) Faringdon, who had been high in the favor of Henry VIII at one time:

English martyr; b. probably at Faringdon, Berkshire, date unknown; d. at Reading, 15 November, 1539. The name of his probable birthplace is also the surname by which he is generally known, but he bore the arms of Cook of Kent. He was elected Abbot of Reading in July, and confirmed, 26 Sept., 1520. Henry VIII was his guest on 30 January, 1521, and he later became one of the royal chaplains. Among Henry's New Year gifts in 1532 was £20 in a white leather purse to the Abbot of Reading. Faringdon sat in Parliament from 1523 to 1539. In 1536 he signed the articles of faith passed by Convocation at the king's desire, which virtually acknowledge the royal supremacy. On Sunday, 4 November, 1537, he sang the requiem and dirge for Queen Jane Seymour, and was present at the burial on 12 Nov. As late as March, 1538, he was in favour, being placed in the commission of the peace for Berkshire; but in 1539, as he declined to surrender the abbey, it became necessary to attaint him of high treason. As a mitred abbot he was entitled to be tried by Parliament, but no scruples troubled the chancellor, Thomas Cromwell. His death sentence was passed before his trial began. With him suffered John Eynon (or Onyon), a priest of St. Giles's, Reading, and John Rugg, a former fellow of the two St. Mary Winton colleges and the first holder of the Wykehamical prebend "Bursalis" at Chichester, who had obtained a dispensation from residence and was living at Reading in 1532.

Finally, one of the monks of Reading Abbey, Father John Eynon, was serving as the parish priest of St. Giles-in-Reading. As the church was under the authority of the abbey, the authorities ordered Father John to surrender it to them. When he refused, he was also sentenced to death. St. Giles-at-Reading celebrates the Reading martyrs on the Sunday closest to November 15, according to their website.


  1. Hello, I have been researching my Rugg family roots and would like to know if you have any information of the pedigree of Blessed John Rugg. I have researched this family back to the doomsday book, Royal families through the Jermy family to Plantagenet to Roman Emperors, ect back to the time of Abraham, Noah, to Adam and Eve to God as my 69 GGF via Interesting to research this line. Thanks for any information that you may have on this. Peace.

    1. No, Anonymous, ancestry research is not one of my interests or skills. thanks for stopping by!

  2. Faith of our fathers living still i spite of dungeon fire and word.They died martyrs for the Catholic Faith ,like our brothers and sisters are dying today in Iraq ,Syria,Pakistan.For Faith and Jesus