Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint William of Norwich, Martyr


This martyr was another victim of the implacable rage of the Jews against our holy religion. He suffered in the twelfth year of his age. Having been not long bound an apprentice to a tanner in Norwich, a little before Easter, in 1137, the Jews of that city having enticed him into their houses, seized and gagged him: then they bound, mocked and crucified him, in derision of Christ: they also pierced his left side. On Easter-day they put the body into a sack, and carried it into Thorp-wood, now a heath, near the gates of the city, there to bury it; but being discovered, left it hanging on a tree. The body was honoured with miracles, and, in 1144, removed into the church-yard of the cathedral of the Holy Trinity, by the monks of that abbey; and in 1150, into the choir. On the place in Thorp-wood, where the body of the martyred child was found, a chapel was built, called Saint William in the wood. Mr. Weever writes that, “the Jews in the principal cities of the kingdom, used sometimes to steal away, circumcise, crown with thorns, whip, torture, and crucify some neighbour’s male-child, in mockery and scorn of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Saint Richard of Pontoise, in France, was martyred by them in that manner. As also Saint Hugh, (according to Matthew Paris and John Capgrave,) a child crucified at Lincoln, in 1255. Nevertheless it is a notorious slander of some authors, who, from these singular and extraordinary instances, infer this to have been at any time the custom or maxim of that people. The English calendars commemorated Saint William on the 24th of March. See the history of his martyrdom and miracles by Thomas of Monmouth, a contemporary monk; also the Saxon Chronicle of the same age, and Bloomfield’s History of Norfolk.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint William of Norwich, Martyr”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. CatholicSaints.Info. 22 March 2013. Web. 18 September 2021. <>