Monday, March 25, 2013

A Winchester Martyr on Lady Day

Blessed James Bird or Byrd or Beard was hung, drawn, and quartered for the crime of converting to Catholicism and denying the ecclesial supremacy of Elizabeth I on March 25 in 1593--when he was about 19 years old. He was born and he died in Winchester.

He had traveled to Reims in France after his conversion in his 19th year to attend the seminary but had decided that he didn't have a vocation to the priesthood after all. Returning to England, the authorities suspected what he'd been up to and presented him with the Oath of Supremacy (which by statute requiring certain officials to take the oath, he would normally not have been ask to do). When he refused to take the Oath or even attend an Anglican service--even after his father begged him to--he was condemed to death.

This blog tells a rather charming--or horrible--story of his father seeing his head still on the pole upon the gates of Winchester:

BORN at Winchester of a gentleman's family and brought up a Protestant, he became a Catholic and went to study at Rheims. On his return he was apprehended and charged with being reconciled to the Roman Church, and maintaining the Pope under Christ to be the Head of the Church. Brought to the bar he acknowledged the indictment and received sentence of death as for high treason, though both life and liberty were offered him if he would but once go to the Protestant Church. When his father solicited him to save his life by complying, he modestly answered that, as he had always been obedient to him, so he would obey him now could he do so without offending God-After a long imprisonment he was hanged and quartered at Winchester, March 25, 1593. He suffered with wonderful constancy and cheerfulness, being but nineteen years old. His head was set upon a pole upon one of the gates of the city. His father one day passing by thought that the head bowing down made him a reverence, and cried out: "Oh, Jemmy my son, ever obedient in life, even when dead thou payest reverence to thy father. How far from thy heart was all treason or other wickedness."

He was beatified in 1929 by Pope Pius XI.

1 comment:

  1. Ouch! These stories are always amazing. Thanks for writing them :)
    Kassie aka "Mom"