Monday, May 11, 2015

Carthusian Martyrs in York, 1537

On May 11, 1537, two of the Carthusians of the Charterhouse of London began their agonizing and slow death by being hung in chains from the York city battlements: Blessed John Rochester and Blessed James Walworth. They were beatified by Pope Leo XIII on the 29th of December in 1886 (December 29 is the feast of St. Thomas a Becket so the Pope chose an appropriate date).

After the first three Carthusian priors were executed on May 4, 1535, the next three leaders in line, Humphrey Middlemore, William Exmew and Sebastian Newdigate, were executed on June 19 that same year and these two monks were taken from London to the Charterhouse of St. Michael in Hull. In the wake of the Pilgrimage of Grace, Rochester and Walworth were tried in York by Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk and found guilty of treason.

The Catholic Encyclopedia offers this detail about Blessed John Rochester:

Priest and martyr, born probably at Terling, Essex, England, about 1498; died at York, 11 May, 1537. He was the third son of John Rochester, of Terling, and Grisold, daughter of Walter Writtle, of Bobbingworth. He joined the Carthusians, was a choir monk of the Charterhouse in London, and strenuously opposed the new doctrine of the royal supremacy. He was arrested and sent a prisoner to the Carthusian convent at Hull. From there he was removed to York, where he was hung in chains. With him there suffered one James Walworth (?Wannert; Walwerke), Carthusian priest and martyr, concerning whom little or nothing is known. He may have been the "Jacobus Walwerke" who signed the Oath of Succession of 1534.

So if he had taken the Oath of Succession in 1534, Blessed James Walworth must have recanted his oath or refused the Oath of Supremacy in 1535.

It must have been an agonizing death--hanging until death by exposure and dehydration--left like their brother Carthusians in Newgate Prison in London as this site notes:

Ten continued to refuse, and on 1st June 1537 were imprisoned in Newgate. There they were left, and all but one died of starvation and ill-usage. They were: Richard Bere, Thomas Johnson and Thomas Green, priests; John Davy, deacon; and Brothers William Greenwood, Thomas Scryven, Robert Salt, Walter Pierson, Thomas Redyng and William Horn. The last-named lingered in Newgate for nearly three years, and was finally executed on 4th August 1540.

The image above does not depict the Carthusians hanging from the battlements; it is from the Wikipedia entry for Blessed John Rochester. It is by Vicente Carducho and is part of a series of paintings in the Charterhouse of El Paular near Madrid. The article on John Rochester includes these details about their trial and execution:

The two London monks were brought from Hull to York and brought before the Lord President of the North, the Duke of Norfolk, on trumped up treason charges. Condemned to death, they provided the desired menacing spectacle for the city when on 11 May 1537 both were hanged in chains from the city battlements[2] until their bodies fell to pieces.[3]

Blessed martyrs of the Carthusians, pray for us!

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