The One Hundred and Five Martyrs of Tyburn – 21 February 1595

illustration of Father Robert Southwell, SJ, artist unknown, published in the Illustrated Catholic Family Annual, 1873Venerable Robert Southwell, Jesuit priest

He was born at Saint Faith’s, in Norfolk, and was received into the Society of Jesus when only 16 years old, and early showed signs of great literary gifts. He laboured among his persecuted fellow countrymen for eight years, at the end of which time he was betrayed and apprehended a few miles from London. Being cast into the Tower, he was left for the first month in a most filthy dungeon, and for three years he was kept in prison and was ten times cruelly racked. When he learnt that he was to give the supreme proof of his love, his heart overflowed with joy.

Great care was taken to keep the day of his martyrdom secret, and a famous highwayman was purposely sentenced to be executed at another place at the same hour. These precautions were, however, powerless to prevent an immense crowd assembling at Tyburn to witness the last glorious conflict of the holy Jesuit, poet and Martyr. He made the sign of the cross as well as he was able with his manacled hands, and then began to speak to the people in the words of the Apostle: “Whether we live, we live to the Lord, or whether we die, we die to the Lord; therefore, whether we live or whether we die, we belong to the Lord.” Then he prayed for the Queen and for his poor country, imploring the Divine Bounty to favour it with His light and the knowledge of His truth. He died at the same age as Our Saviour.

– from The One Hundred and Five Martyrs of Tyburn, by The Nuns of the Convent of Tyburn, 1917