Saint Oliver Plunkett

detail of a portrait of Oliver Plunket, by Edward Luttrell, early 18th century; National Portrait Gallery, London, EnglandAlso known as

  • Oileabhéar Pluincéad
  • Oliver Plunket



Oliver was born to the Irish nobility, part of a family who supported King Charles I and the fight for Irish national freedom from England. Growing up, he was greatly influenced by his uncle Patrick, a Cistercian monk who later became bishop of the Irish dioceses of Ardagh and Meath. Beginning in 1647, Oliver studied at the newly established Irish College in Rome, Italy, an institute operated by the Jesuits. He was ordained a priest in Rome in 1654. He loved the city of Rome and stayed there to serve as professor of theology at the Propaganda Fide College from 1654 through 1669, and part of the time as procurator or agent in Rome for the bishops of Ireland. In 1669 Father Oliver was chosen archbishop of Armagh, Ireland, making him the primate, or primary Church official, of all Ireland.

Bishop Oliver’s return to Ireland was a rough one; discipline was lax among the priests, and many clergy and laity were so provincial that they objected to a man from County Meath becoming bishop in Armagh. Oliver worked to return the faithful to the faith, and his diocese to their support. He established the Jesuits in Drogheda, where they ran a school for boys, and a college for theology students. He enforced clerical discipline and worked to send students to the colleges in Rome. He extended his ministry to Gaelic speaking Catholics of the highlands and the isles off the coast of Ireland, but due to a increase in the persecution of Catholics, he was forced to conduct much of his ministry covertly.

Saint Oliver was arrested and at Dundalk, Ireland in 1679 on a charge of conspiring against the state as part of the “Titus Oates” plot to overthrow King Charles II. He was initially lodged at Dublin Castle where he gave final absolution to Archbishop Peter Talbot of Dublin. Oliver was accused to taxing the clergy to pay for 70,000 men, 20,000 of whom would be French soldiers that the bishop would bring into the country in an effort to overthrow the government. The English authorities knew that Oliver would never be convicted in Ireland, and had him moved to Newgate prison in London, England. His first trial was an aquittal, but he was not released. Instead, a second trial was arranged, and it was complete kangaroo court; Lord Campbell, writing of the judge, Sir Francis Pemberton, called it a disgrace to himself and his country. Plunkett was found guilty of high treason “for promoting the Catholic faith,” and was condemned to a gruesome death. He was the last Catholic to die for his faith on the gallows at Tyburn in London, and was the first of the Irish Martyrs to be beatified.







Additional Information

MLA Citation

  • “Saint Oliver Plunkett“. CatholicSaints.Info. 15 February 2020. Web. 20 April 2021. <>