Martyrs of the English Reformation

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For 150 years during the 16th and 17th centuries, England was at war with Catholicism and the pope. Hundreds of men and women, Catholic and Protestant, were killed during this dispute. Today, the Catholic Church remembers about 300 martyrs who were killed for their faith in England and Wales between 1534 and 1681.

A brief history: Mary I, queen of England and Ireland from 1553-1558, restored Catholicism and papal authority to England. She was known as “Bloody Mary” for having some 300 Protestants burned at the stake for heresy against the Catholic faith.

Mary’s sister and successor, Elizabeth I, reversed this Catholic restoration and denied papal authority in England. In 1570, the pope excommunicated Elizabeth and called Catholics in England to rebel. Fearing invasion by a Catholic nation assisted by English Catholics, Elizabeth repressed Catholicism harshly. To be Catholic was to be a traitor, and it was forbidden by law to attend Catholic Mass.

Catholics in England and Wales were arrested and imprisoned, and many were executed by being hanged, drawn, and quartered. Some 300 Catholic men and women are honored today in separate lists for having died for their faith. They include bishops, priests, religious, and lay men and women.

A list of the Protestant martyrs who were killed during the reinstatement of Catholicism can be found here. Some relics from Catholic martyrs of the English Reformation rest in the reliquary chapel in the Basilica, and a complete list of their names can be found here.

Martyrs of the English Reformation, you faced persecution and were killed for your faith—pray for us!