Friday, 13 November 2009


Fr David Lewis was taken to Usk Gaol on a cold and snowy January day in 1679. He was committed to the Monmouth Assizes in March. Although the Titus Oates Plot had been the catalyst in the Jesuit’s arrest, the official Calendar of Assizes listed the charge against him as “David Lewis pro Sacred Roman”, in other words, “David Lewis for being a Roman priest”. Also, at Fr Lewis’s trial the Judge, Sir Robert Atkins, explicitly stated, “It is enough that you have exercised the functions of a priest in copes and vestments used in your Church, and that you have read Mass and taken Confession. He that uses to read Mass commits treason.” In any case, the accused was found guilty and sentenced to the usual punishment for treason – to be hanged, drawn and quartered. However, he was not to die just yet.

In May, along with his cousin and fellow priest, eighty year old Fr John Kemble, Fr Lewis was taken to London. Here he was examined by Titus Oates and other anti-Catholics including Lord Shaftesbury. Lord Shaftesbury offered the priest his life and rich rewards if he would tell them about the plot or conform to the Protestant religion. The good priest said he was unable to tell anything about the plot because he knew of no plot. Neither would he conform because, he said, it was against his conscience. He was sent back to Usk to await execution.

Three months later, on 27th August 1679, the condemned priest was taken from the Gaol on Bridge Street. He was tied to a hurdle, feet foremost, and drawn along the river path to the place of execution. This was in the grounds of what is now Porth-y-Carne House. (Less than a week earlier, on 22nd August, the aged Fr John Kemble had been martyred at Hereford.) In the 1800s, a Catholic Church, dedicated to St Francis Xavier, was built opposite the site of the martyrdom of St David Lewis. Fr David Lewis was canonised by Pope Paul VI on 25th October 1970. In 1974, the Church of St Francis Xavier was rededicated and, in honour of the martyred priest, it is now known as the Church of St David Lewis and St Francis Xavier.


  1. I wasn't sure if it would be best to respond to you via your blog or mine so I did both! Please feel free to share my poem. I'm so happy when they are of help to anyone.

    I'm enjoying your postings about David Lewis. I'm not familiar with him so I'm grateful for the chance to learn. Ironically one of the sisters I live with (who is from Ireland) was telling me just recently about a bus tour of Wales that she and her mother had taken some years ago. She spoke about visiting St. David's shrine! Right after that I found your blog! How's that for providence!

  2. Sr Ann Marie
    Thank you so much for your generous permission to copy your beautiful poem.

    I am happy you are enjoying the blog on St David Lewis. He was born near where I live, was arrested just down the road, and was executed just a few miles away. He is a great saint but, unfortunately, he is little known outside this area. That is why we started the blog - in the hope of spreading the word about him and of increasing devotion to him. So, you can see why I am so happy that you find it interesting. Thank you for you permission and for your interest. God bless you.


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