Tuesday, 23 April 2019

VENERABLE EDWARD MORGAN

Today, 23rd April, our thoughts turn to some famous people who are embedded in our culture. Today is the Feast of St George, Patron Saint of England.  It is also the birth date of William Shakespeare.  
St George, Patron Saint of England
However, there is another I wish to remember on this Blog today. A fellow countryman of our beloved St David Lewis, Edward Morgan was born in Flintshire, North Wales.   He studied at the English Colleges of Rome, Madrid and Valladolid.  In 1621 Edward Morgan was ordained priest at Salamanca.
Photo J D Smith
Using the alias of John Singleton, Fr Morgan returned to his homeland to work among his struggling Catholic brethren. In April 1629 he was imprisoned in Flintshire for refusing to take the Oath of Allegiance.  Three years later, 1632, the priest was condemned in the Star Chamber to have his ears nailed to the pillory for accusing certain judges of treason.
Photo J D Smith
Immediately after, Fr Morgan was committed to the Fleet Prison in London.  He languished there for almost ten years.  On St George's Day, 23rd April 1642, at the Old Bailey, Fr Morgan was condemned to death for being a priest.  Soon after, on 26th April 1642, Welsh priest, Fr Edward Morgan,  was executed at Tyburn.  In 1886, he was declared Venerable by Pope Leo XIII. So, on this St George's Day, 23rd April 2019, let us remember another stalwart Welsh priest and martyr, Venerable Edward Morgan.
Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903)

Friday, 29 March 2019

SR CELSUS, LOYAL FRIEND OF ST DAVID LEWIS

I wish to dedicate this post to a loyal and devoted friend of St David Lewis, Sr M Celsus Taylor who has been called home to God. The following announcement is taken from the South Wales Argus: 



"SISTER M CELSUS TAYLOR
Sisters of St Joseph Sister M. Celsus Taylor Peacefully on 23rd March 2019 at St Joseph's Convent, Llantarnam Abbey, aged 96 years. Funeral Mass on Thursday, 4th April in Llantarnam Abbey Chapel at 10am followed by interment at the Abbey Cemetery. Family flowers only. Online messages of condolence may be left at www.ptsfunerals.co.uk. Further enquiries to Phillip Tom and Sons, Pontymister. Tel: 615005"

Llantarnam Abbey
Mary Taylor was born in County Kerry, Ireland, on 13th August 1922.  As a young girl she travelled to Wales to join the Sisters of St Joseph at Llantarnam Abbey. She was given the name of Sister Mary Celsus.  Sr Celsus trained as a teacher and taught in various places throughout the UK, including Our Lady of the Angels School in Cwmbran.

After retirement, Sr Celsus again found herself back at Llantarnam Abbey.  During this time Sr Mary of Lourdes was Parish Sister at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Old Cwmbran.  Sr Mary was an excellent and well respected Parish Sister but she was getting on in years and Sr Celsus became her assistant.  Eventually, Sr Celsus took over from Sr Mary and she was welcomed as the Parish Sister.  What a Parish Sister she was!

Sr Celsus immersed herself into Parish life and, working closely with then Parish Priest, Canon F O'Donnell, she worked tirelessly for the people.  Nothing was too much trouble for her and her kindness and compassion quickly endeared her to all at Our Lady's.

Sr Celsus had a strong devotion to local Martyr, St David Lewis.  Fr David Lewis had often stayed at Llantarnam Abbey with his relatives, the Morgans. He had been staying there when the poison of the fabricated Oats Plot swept the country.  In the hope of saving his relatives trouble, Fr Lewis moved into a rented cottage next to the Blacksmith's Shop on the other side of the Road to the Abbey (opposite the Church of St Michael and All Angels).  It was here that Fr Lewis was arrested on Sunday, 17th November 1678.  After almost a year of imprisonment, on 29th  November 1679, the good priest was executed at Usk for being a Catholic priest and saying Mass.
The Plaque which was placed through the initiative of Sr Celsus
Fr David Lewis was canonised in 1970 as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.  Sr Celsus  felt that he should have more recognition in the area and so she decided to do  something about it.

The group, 'Friends of Saint David Lewis', was begun by Sr Celsus.  The group held its first meeting on Wednesday, 13th February 2008.  Sr Celsus did much to spread devotion to St David Lewis and to make him better known and appreciated. Through her initiative,  the Cwmbran Historical Society placed a commemorative plaque at the site of the Saint's arrest.  Sr Celsus was also responsible for organising days dedicated to St David Lewis.  These events were held at  Llantarnam Abbey with Mass by a visiting priest and guest speakers with knowledge of the Saint's life and times.
Sr Celsus and Fr John Meredith at the Blessing of the Plaque
Sr Celsus Taylor was a beautiful and faithful lady who did so much good for others and she will be sorely missed.  I like to think that St David Lewis was one of those waiting to welcome her home on 23rd March.  May her generous soul rest in the peace of Christ. 


Wednesday, 6 March 2019

HOGAN'S "THE REDEEMER IN DEATH"

Just to help us get into Lenten mode, I am posting this photo which my husband took several years ago.  I think many of you will know that it is John Hogan's masterpiece, "The Redeemer in Death" or  "The Dead Christ".  
JOHN HOGAN'S "REDEEMER IN DEATH" 
(Photo J D Smith)
Renowned Irish sculptor, John Hogan, executed three versions of this beautiful work in pure Carrara Marble.    The first, in 1829, is now located in St Therese's Church, Dublin.  The second was completed in 1833 and can be seen in St Finbarr's (South) Church, Cork.  The third version, and the one pictured here, was completed 1854.  It was purchased by Bishop M A Fleming and shipped across the Atlantic to St John's Newfoundland.  Today, it is one of the many artistic treasures to be seen and appreciated in the Basilica of St John the Baptist, St John's.

Thursday, 28 February 2019

ST DAVID'S DAY GREETINGS


Patron Saint of Wales 
(PHOTO J D SMITH)

St David, the Patron Saint of Wales, was born about 470.  His life was one of prayer and penance.  St David died on 1st March but the year of his death is uncertain.  He was buried in his own church and his shrine soon became one of the chief centres of pilgrimage in Britain.

It is reputed that as David lay dying he blessed his followers and said to them, "Brothers, be joyful and keep your faith and your religion and do the little things that you have seen and heard with me."

On this St David's Day 2019, let us indeed be joyful and keep the faith.  

A VERY HAPPY ST DAVID'S DAY TO ONE AND ALL.

Monday, 25 February 2019

ANOTHER GUNTER

Because of their relationship to and support of St David Lewis, the Gunters of Abergavenny feature prominently on this Blog Site. William Gunter was born in Raglan and I cannot say for certain if he was an ancestor of our Abergavenny Gunters. However, William Gunter is another Gunter who, like Thomas Gunter and his family, was willing to face hardship and even death for his Catholic Faith.
The home of Thomas Gunter, Abergavenny
On 29th September 1568 Cardinal William Allen set up the English Collage at Douai, France.  The college would eventually number 158 martyrs among its students.  The first was Cuthbert Mayne in 1577 and the last was Thomas Thwing in 1680.
Cardinal William Allen
William Gunter chose to travel to the English College to study for the priesthood. He was ordained in March 1587.  Within months of his ordination William was back in England working among the beleaguered Catholics.  

Life for Catholics in Elizabethan England was difficult, to say the least, but the failed invasion of the Spanish Armada in 1588 made the situation far worse.  The authorities were determined to show any foolhardy Catholic the awful fate that would befall them should they attempt a plot or uprising.  To this end, new gallows were hastily erected in different locations around London. Many Catholics were arrested and imprisoned by the authorities.  Fr Gunter was among them.  The priest admitted that he had reconciled others to the Catholic Faith and declared that he would continue to do so if he could.  Thus Fr Gunter sealed his own fate and he was condemned to death without a trial by jury. 
The Tyburn Tree
On 28th August 1588, 21 priests were martyred.  Queen Elizabeth I had shown a modicum of mercy. Fr Gunter would not suffer the sentence of being hanged, drawn and quartered.  He would just be hanged!  It is said that on hearing this, the priest replied that it was fitting because he was not worthy to suffer as much as his brethren.  He was taken to Shoreditch where the sentence was carried out.

The sacrifice of William Gunter was recognised in 1986 when, on 10th November, Pope John Paul II issued a decree of martyrdom declaring Fr Gunter Venerable.  The next step to canonisation came on 22nd November 1987 when Pope John Paul II declared Fr William Gunter Blessed.

There you have it.  Another brave and faithful Gunter and another Welsh Martyr.  Blessed William Gunter, ora pro nobis. 

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

ST DAVID LEWIS AND LLANVIHANGEL COURT

This year marks the 339th anniversary of  the martyrdom of St David Lewis. Abergavenny born David Lewis was a Jesuit priest who risked life and limb ministering to the embattled Catholics of Monmouthshire and surrounding areas during the dreadful days of Penal Laws against Catholics.  It was against the law to be a Catholic and those who chose to stubbornly stay loyal to the "Old Faith" did so at great financial as well as  personal risk.  To be a Catholic Priest was considered High Treason and, if found guilty, the punishment was to be hanged, drawn and quartered.
 St David Lewis, Llantarnam Abbey (Photo J D Smith)
To be fair, in most places, the local authorities were usually hesitant in applying the laws and many turned a blind eye to the religious practises of their neighbours, friends, and even family members who still clung to their Catholic faith. In Wales Catholics were know by that beautiful name of "Plant Mair"  which means "Children of Mary".  How lovely is that? 

Monmouthshire Member of Parliament, John Arnold, was certainly not one of those tolerant men.  Indeed, he was a fanatical anti-Catholic and rabid priest hunter.  He was determined to root out Catholicism from every corner of the country.  

Although Arnold feigned friendship with Fr David Lewis, he played the main part in the downfall of the priest.  Unlike Arnold, Fr Lewis was a kind and gentle man who was greatly loved.  For his kindness to all, he was  know as "Tad y Tlodion", "Father of the poor".

On Sunday morning, 29th  November 1678, as Fr Lewis prepared to celebrate Mass, Arnold's lackeys arrested him. (For more on his arrest, click here) He was first taken to Abergavenny and then to Arnold's home, Llanvihangel Court, Llanvihangel Crucorney,  about 5 miles from Abergavenny.  Here David Lewis spent his first night in captivity before being taken to Monmouth Gaol where he was incarcerated.  
Llanvihangel Court (Photo J D Smith)
In 1679, on a cold and utterly miserable January day, The good priest was moved to Usk Gaol. Eventually, on 27th August 1679, Father David Lewis S J, was executed at Usk. It is a testimony to the high esteem in which he was held that he was given a respectful burial in the churchyard of the Anglican Priory of St Mary, Usk. David Lewis was canonised in October 1970 by Pope Paul VI. It is true that we give glory to God by honouring His saints and, even today, many people visit this saint's grave to pay homage to his courage and steadfast faith and to ask his prayers for their own needs.
The Saint's grave (Photo J D Smith)
If you are in the Abergavenny area, you might like to avail of the opportunity of visiting what was once John Arnold's home.  It is a private home but Llanvihangel Court is open to the public at certain times of the year.  This year, you can visit this historic Tudor house between the hours of 2:30 and 5:30 from 10th to 15th August.  Entrance fee includes a guided tour of the house and access to the beautiful gardens. 

When we visited several years ago there wasn't much said of John Arnold's nefarious deeds.  St David Lewis wasn't spoken of at all. As I said, it is a few years since we visited and it might be different now. We did ask questions about St David Lewis and the night he spent there so perhaps he now gets a mention.  You never know!

I am not touting for business for Llanvihangel Court but it is an awesome feeling, as well as a great privilege, to find yourself in a house where once a holy man, who gave his life for the Catholic faith and the Mass, was briefly lodged.  
The Becket Window, Christ Church, Oxford (Photo J D Smith)
"For wherever a saint has dwelt, wherever a martyr has given his blood for the blood of Christ, there is holy ground, and the sanctity shall not depart from it though armies trample over it, though sightseers come with guidebooks looking over it."  (T S Eliot, "Murder in the Cathedral")

Thursday, 2 August 2018

FR EDWARD POWELL, ANOTHER WELSH MARTYR


Edward Powell was a Catholic priest who was born in Wales around 1478.  Powell had a brilliant mind and was a Fellow of Oriel College Oxford in 1495. 
King Henry VIII
He became a court preacher and was held in high esteem by King Henry VIII.  It is said that he helped Henry write Assertio Septem Sacramentorum’, a ‘Defence of the Seven Sacraments,’ in reply to Luther’s attack on indulgences.  For this, Pope Leo X rewarded Henry with the title Fidei Defensor’, ‘Defender of the Faith’ in 1521.  (That’s another story!)  Then in 1523 Powell published his own work on this subject for which Oxford University wrote to the King calling Powell “the glory of the University”.

Fr Powell’s slide from favour began when he was one of the four theologians selected to defend the legality of the King’s marriage to Catherine of
Queen Catherine of Aragon
 Aragon.  Denouncing Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn was another nail in his coffin and when he refused to take the oath of succession, he was deprived of his benefices and imprisoned in the Tower of London.  Found guilty of High Treason, Fr Powell received the usual sentence of hanging, drawing and quartering.  The sentence was carried out on 30 July 1540.  I suppose we could say King Henry was impartial, dispensing with all who opposed him, Catholic or Protestant!  Fr Powell, two other Catholics and three Protestants suffered together.  The six victims were dragged on hurdles from the Tower to Smithfield.  A Catholic and a Protestant shared each hurdle and Fr Powell’s companion was Robert Barnes, a Protestant divine.  The six suffered horrific deaths – the Catholics, considered traitors, were hanged drawn and quartered.  The Protestants, considered heretics, were burnt.  Fr Edward Powell was beatified by Pope Leo XIII on 29th December 1886 (cultus confirmation).

The plaque in University Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford (Photo J D Smith)

In the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford, a plaque has been erected to remember both Catholics and Protestants who suffered death in the terrible times of religious strife in this country.  The Welsh scholar and priest, Fr Edward Powell, is the second name on the plaque.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

"PROTESTANTS" AND "ROMAN CATHOLICS"?


"Protestants" and "Roman Catholics", two terms in popular usage today, have been with us since the  sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  What exactly are their origins? 

Martin Luther
In 1529, princes sympathetic to Martin Luther at the Imperial Diet at Speyer, issued a "protest" against the German Emperor, Charles V and his Catholic allies. From this point on, Luther's adherents were called "Protestants". Eventually, the label was applied to all who adhered to the tenets of the Reformation. 

King James I
King James I of England died in 1625. Towards the end of his reign, he sought to arrange a Spanish Catholic marriage for his son Charles.  It was during the negotiations, in 1623, that Catholics in England first became known officially as "Roman Catholics".  This was at the insistence of the Spanish who were sensitive to the fact that the Church of England regarded itself as the "Catholic Church in England".

You might like to delve deeper but, briefly, that is it.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Sr Canisius, Sister of St Joseph of Annecy


The following notice was published in the South Wales Argus on 11th December 2017.

"Sisters of St Joseph Sister M Canisius Walsh Peacefully on 6th December Sister M Canisius Walsh at St Joseph's Convent, Llantarnam Abbey aged 93 years. Funeral Mass 11am Wednesday 13th December in Llantarnam Abbey Chapel. Burial afterwards in Abbey Cemetery. Family flowers only. Further enquiries to Phillip Tom and Sons, Pontymister. Tel: 615005."

For the canonisation of St David Lewis in 1970, Sr Canisius composed a beautiful hymn in his honour.  The hymn is still sung today whenever the faithful gather to remember the Abergavenny born Jesuit, Fr David Lewis. He was arrested at Llantarnam in November 1678 and was executed for his faith at Usk in August 1679.
Painting of St David Lewis which hangs in Llantarnam Abbey.
(photo by J Smith)
In memory of Sr Canisius, we post here the words of  her hymn, which is sung to the tune of 'Hyfrydol'.


"HYMN IN HONOUR OF SAINT DAVID LEWIS

Holy Martyr, David Lewis,
Monmouth County's glorious Saint.
Father of the Poor they named you,
When you lived and toiled in Gwent.
Priestly work was undertaken,
Danger-fraught from dawn till dusk.
Gladly still you served your people,
Till you died for them at Usk.

From your capture at Llantarnam,
Through your time in Monmouth Gaol,
Threats and tortures could not shake you,
For your faith would never fail.
Bravely then you faced the gallows,
Crudely fashioned for your death,
Further torment someone spared you,
Till you drew your latest breath.

Great and glorious David Lewis,
Staunch and steadfast in the strife,
Bless your people here in Monmouth,
Those for whom you gave your life.
Help us to be strong, courageous,
Loyal to our loving God,
To Him then will glory flourish,
In the places you have trod."

Rest in peace Sr Canisius.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

"WHEREVER A SAINT HAS DWELT"

“For wherever a saint has dwelt, wherever a martyr has given his blood for the blood of Christ, there is holy ground, and the sanctity shall not depart from it though armies trample over it, though sightseers come with guide-books looking over it.”

So wrote T S Eliot in "Murder in the Cathedral", his play about the murder of St Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170.
The Gunter Mansion, Cross St, Abergavenny
St Philip Evans
St David Lewis
If Eliot is right, then the Gunter Mansion on Cross St, Abergavenny, is indeed "holy ground" for here, not one but two, martyrs dwelt! Thomas Gunter, who had built a secret chapel in the attic of his Cross St mansion, kept two Jesuits at his home at a time when being a Catholic could mean death. His uncle, Fr David Lewis, and Fr Philip Evans, both stayed at Gunter's where they said Mass and tended to the spiritual needs of the Catholics of Abergavenny and surrounding area. Falsely accused in the fictitious Popish Plot, the two priests were martyred in 1679.  In 1970, Fr David Lewis and Fr Philip Evans were canonised by Pope Paul VI.

The Friends of Gunter Mansion are attempting to restore this important historic property.  To this end, they have opened a Pop-Up Exhibition in part of the old mansion.  It is open from 10:30 - 4:00, every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday.  Entry is free (although donations wouldn't be refused).  Come in and meet the volunteers and, keeping Eliot's words in mind, learn about the courageous Gunters and the Saints who have dwelt in this venerable old building.
The Pop-Up Exhibition in part of the historic Gunter Mansion

Sunday, 5 November 2017

"REMEMBER, REMEMBER THE FIFTH OF NOVEMBER"

Fireworks over London
“Remember, remember, the fifth of November” Ah yes, Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot!  Indeed we do remember. Tonight, bonfires will burn and fireworks will thrill children and adults alike as we celebrate the failure of the infamous Guy Fawkes and his friends.  More than 400 years after the event, we still remember so let’s have a brief look at what we are remembering.

In Tudor and Stuart times, conditions were very hard for Catholics in this country.  The imposition of Protestantism, the Pope’s imprudent excommunication of the Queen in 1570, Catholic plots, and various rumours of plots, were all making life intolerable for those who wished to adhere to their Catholic Faith. 

King James I/VI
When Queen Elizabeth I died, Catholics had a glimmer of hope because the new King, James I, had seemed more sympathetic to their plight.  Unfortunately, the King’s actions soon proved this to be a forlorn hope.  The majority of Catholics made the best of things and quietly got on with living in dangerous and harsh circumstances.  However, there were some who, fed up with living so long under such brutal laws, decided to act.  One result was the disastrous Gunpowder Plot, which is the name given to the conspiracy to blow up the Houses of Parliament on 5th November 1605.  In truth, the origins of the plot are unclear.  For generations historians accepted that it was an attempt to re-establish Catholicism in England.  In recent times, some historians suspect that the affair was the work of agents-provocateurs who wished to bolster the State religion and discredit Catholics in general and the Jesuits in particular.  If this is the case, then they certainly found an enthusiastic patsy in Robert Catesby.  Although Guy Fawkes is the name we all remember, he wasn’t the leader of the band.  Robert Catesby was the main instigator and he was joined by others, including Thomas Winter, Thomas Percy and John Wright.  Fawkes was recruited because of his expertise with explosives.
Catesby and Fawkes with their co-conspirators
In short, the plan was to blow up the Houses of Parliament on the day of the state Opening when the King, Lords and Commons would all be present.  To this end, 36 barrels of gunpowder were placed in a cellar beneath the Houses of Parliament.  Fawkes was to light the fuses resulting in the buildings, King and members all being blown to Kingdom Come.  Fortunately for King and Parliament, an anonymous letter had been sent to Lord Monteagle, a Catholic, warning him to stay away from Parliament on 5th November.  He showed the letter to the King and, on 4th November, an initial search was made of Parliament.  At midnight, the cellar was thoroughly searched and Fawkes was found with the gunpowder.  He was immediately arrested and the plot foiled.  Upon the realisation that the plot had failed, the conspirators tried to flee. 
Guy Fawkes being interrogated
Some died in the attempt and the others were captured and, most probably, tortured in the Tower.  On 27th January 1606, they were tried in Westminster Hall for high treason.  All were convicted and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered, the usual punishment for treason.  Within a few days the sentences were carried out. They were also beheaded and dismembered.  Then, to deter any others who might be planning plots of their own, their heads and quarters were displayed at various points around London.

In 1605, after the failure of the Gunpowder Plot, the King passed the ‘Thanksgiving Act’.  This Act specified that every year on 5th November special church services were to be held in thanksgiving to God for the thwarting of the murderous plot.  This annual commemoration continued for two centuries.

A "Horrible Histories"
influenced take on
Guy Fawkes
In order to make history more interesting to young people, it is sometimes presented in a lighter, more humorous way.  Perhaps that is acceptable if it manages to convey the facts and awaken interest but really, there is nothing humorous about the Gunpowder Plot.  Its success would have brought immeasurable death and destruction.  Its failure brought increased persecution and death for Catholics as well as centuries of mistrust, suspicion and discrimination.  It was in the light of such plots that Titus Oates found fertile ground for the spreading of his vile fabrication,the Popish/Oates Plot, more than sixty years later. 
St David Lewis S J

Due to the Oates Plot many innocent Catholics were imprisoned, executed or died from harsh treatment in prison.  Abergavenny born Jesuit, Fr David Lewis, was one of the victims.  He was executed at Usk on 27th August 1679.  His grave, in the churchyard of Usk’s Priory Church, is still a site of popular pilgrimage.

So there you have it, briefly.  Yes do “Remember, remember, the fifth of November”.  Enjoy your fireworks and your bonfire but be careful and stay safe!      

Thursday, 26 October 2017

SAVING THE GUNTER MANSION


The Gunter Premises on Cross Street, Abergavenny have for too long been neglected but at last something positive is happening. The Welsh Georgian Trust has purchased the building and a group of interested people, the Friends of Gunter Mansion, is dedicated to restoring the property and saving it for posterity.

The Gunter Mansion, Cross St, Abergavenny (Photo J D Smith)
To learn more about this very worthwhile project, just follow these links:
https://www.facebook.com/pg/GunterMansionAbergavenny/about/?ref=page_internal

The A Board outside the Pop-Up Space (Photo J D Smith)

The Gunter Project Pop-Up Space (Photo J D Smith)
Just who were the Gunters and why is their former home so important?

James Gunter, born circa 1519, was the son of Watkin Gunter and Gwenllian Llwyd. James was descended from the Gunters of Tregunter, Breconshire, and it was his grandfather who had first settled at Abergavenny.  In 1536 he was admitted to Gray’s Inn where he trained as a lawyer.  About 1544, James married Ann Westcott.  In 1554 he was elected to Parliament as the Member for Monmouthshire. 

In partnership with his cousin, Richard Gunter of Oxford, James Gunter speculated in monastic lands, both as an agent for others and also on his own behalf. At the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, Abergavenny’s Benedictine Priory Church became the Parish Church and Gunter purchased the Priory and its demesne. 

King Charles I
James Gunter died in London in 1558. The Gunter family continued to live at the Priory for five generations and, in July 1645, his descendant, also named James Gunter, entertained no less a personage than King Charles I after the King’s escape from the Battle of Naseby.

Sometime around 1600, James Gunter’s grandson, Thomas Gunter, purchased part of the Priory lands and constructed a house (the Gunter Mansion on Cross Street). Little did Thomas know the vital part his mansion would play in the history of Abergavenny and of Catholicism!

Plaque on Gunter House
(Photo J D Smith)
Thomas Gunter’s son, Thomas, was a prominent Abergavenny lawyer and justice of the peace.  He was also a staunch Catholic.  This Thomas Gunter furnished a secret chapel in the attic of their home on Cross Street.  Here the Catholics of the area came to hear Mass and to receive the comforts of their forbidden religion. 

Thomas kept two Jesuits, his uncle, Fr
Fr David Lewis
(Photo J D Smith)
David Lewis, and Fr Philip Evans.  Fr Lewis was Abergavenny born and had links with many of Abergavenny’s leading citizens. The secret chapel was obviously not so secret because rabid priest hunter, John Arnold, reported its existence to Parliament. Mr Greenhaugh, the Vicar of Abergavenny did likewise. They described the
“mark of the Jesuits” on the outside of the house and reported the comings and goings of the Catholics who attended services in the Gunter chapel

Fr Philip Evans
(Photo J D Smith)
At the height of the Titus Oates Plot in 1678, both priests were arrested.  David Lewis was captured at Llantarnam and Philip Evans at Sker House.  In the summer of 1679 they were martyred for the treasonable offence of being Catholic priests and saying Mass. 

In October 1970, Frs David Lewis and Philip Evans, along with 38 others, were canonised by Pope Paul VI.  The group is known collectively as the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.

So, why save this wonderful old building? Certainly its association with the prominent Gunter family and with two saints of the Catholic Church affords it great significance.  It is a little known but very significant part of not only Abergavenny’s history but also of the nation’s history.  As well, its attic chapel, where two brave and holy priests provided for the religious needs of their fellow Catholics, should surely be of major import to Catholics everywhere.
Inside the Pop-Up Space (Photo J D Smith)
To keep up to date with this exciting project, remember to visit the links below.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

ST RICHARD GWYN


On this day in 1584 Richard Gwyn became the protomartyr of Wales. 
ST RICHARD GWYN

Richard Gwyn (White in English) was born in Llanidloes in Montgomeryshire, Wales, about 1537.  Richard studied at both Oxford and Cambridge and eventually returned to Wales and became a schoolmaster in Wrexham and then in Flintshire.

Richard and his wife Catherine had six children.   Richard was a church papist i.e., outwardly conforming to the Protestant religion while secretly holding to the Catholic Faith.  His minimal attendance at Protestant services was noted by the Bishop of Chester who urged him to conform more wholeheartedly.  The  pressure grew and Richard eventually gave in.

One day as Richard emerged from a Protestant service he was attacked by a murder of crows.  He was so shaken by this event that he returned to the Catholic faith and ceased all attendance at the Established Church.

Of course it was soon noticed that Richard was no longer attending the services which were demanded by law.  In 1580, he was arrested and committed to Ruthin Gaol by Justice Pilson.  For three months he was held there in chains.  At the next assizes he was brought to the bar and offered the chance to have his crime forgiven if he would attend just one Protestant service.  Richard refused and he was returned to prison.

After being tried and remanded several times, Richard was brought to trial in Wrexham on 9th October 1584.   Witnesses testified falsely against him and Judge Bromley ordered the jury to find him guilty.  He was found guilty and condemned to death. 

Two days before his execution, Richard was offered his freedom if he would conform to the State Religion.  He refused!  Thus, on 15th October 1584, Richard Gwyn was hanged, cut down while still alive, disemboweled, beheaded and quartered. His head and one of his quarters were displayed atop of Denbigh Castle.  The other quarters were displayed in Wrexham, Howlet and Ruthin.

THE MARTYRS' BANNER

Pope Paul VI, on 25th October 1970, canonised Richard Gwyn and thirty-nine other martyrs.  They are known collectively as the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.
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