Thursday, August 27, 2015

August Martyrs: The Last Welsh Martyr, St. David Lewis

This blog is dedicated to the life and death of St. David Lewis, and presents a great post about the annual pilgrimage in honour of the martyr and also hosts a facebook page in his honour. A previous post on that blog described his execution thus:

On 27th August 1679, the Abergavenny born Jesuit, Fr David Lewis, was taken from Usk Gaol and conveyed to the site of his execution. The previous November he had been arrested as he prepared to say Mass at Llantarnam. In March 1679, at Monmouth Assizes, Fr Lewis had been condemned to be hanged drawn and quartered. His crime? He was a Catholic priest! In those dark times of suspicion and fear, the harsh Penal Laws against Catholics deemed it High Treason to be a Catholic priest, to celebrate Mass, and to carry out the duties of a priest. Having been found guilty of being a priest and saying Mass, Fr Lewis received the usual sentence handed out to traitors.

On that calamitous August day, Fr Lewis was tied to a hurdle, with his head at ground level, and dragged along the river path to a place known as the Island or the Coniger. The actual site is believed to be within the grounds of what is now Porth-y-Carne House, opposite the Catholic Church of St Francis Xavier and St David Lewis. Such was the love and respect of the people for )Fr Lewis, known affectionately as "Tad y Tlodion", "Father of the Poor", that the executioner ran away and no one could be found to carry out the execution. Eventually, a miscreant was bribed to do the evil deed. 

Usually, the condemned man would be hanged, cut down alive, his body ripped open and his entrails torn out and burnt before his eyes. His body would then be quartered and sent to be displayed in various prominent positions as a warning to others who might have the temerity to cling to the Old Faith. Fr Lewis was spared some of this agony because a Protestant man in the crowd held his hand and refused to allow him to be cut down until he was dead. When the priest was dead, he was cut down, drawn, and his body dismembered but not quartered. . . .

The martyred Fr David Lewis was permitted a decent burial. He was reverently carried in procession to the Priory Church of St Mary, Usk, and interred in the Churchyard. 

The notes about the reluctance of the executioner, the mercy shown by hanging Father (Saint) Lewis until dead, the decent burial--these all attest to the fact that these Welsh priests--like Father (Saint) John Kemble, (who had suffered earlier in August of 1679) had been able to conduct their sacramental and charitable duties among their people until the Popish Plot inspired a traitor to earn a little money by turning them in. St. John Kemble and St. David Lewis were well known in their communities. St. David Lewis, pray for us. St. John Kemble, pray for us.

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