Wednesday, 27 June 2007

The Feast of St John

The Feast of Saint John Southworth is kept as a solemnity in the Cathedral, for we are privileged to house his body, rescued after his execution at Tyburn.

Born in Lancashire in 1592, he was ordained priest in Douai, France, in 1618. At that time, it was illegal to celebrate Mass, and priests were liable to execution as traitors.

Returning to England, Southworth ministered in Westminster, in the area close to where the Cathedral now stands. During the plague of 1636, he tended the sick with outstanding devotion and courage.

Eventually he was arrested and condemned in 1654. He was hung, drawn and quartered at Tyburn gallows (Marble Arch) on 28 June 1654 - the last secular priest so to suffer. His remains were taken to Douai, and in 1930 returned to England.

Here now he lies, at rest in the parish where once he laboured for the Lord.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful that St John was honoured in this way.

Curious how you got these latest photos. Was the feretory opened?

Mark Langham said...

No - simply close up through the glass!

Ttony said...

Thank you for these photos. Every time I'm in London I go to the Cathedral and spend a few moments with St John S - how annoying that I couldn't be there this week!

Anonymous said...


I'm puzzled, I thought St. John was hanged, drawn, and quartered. If his body's intact, obviously he was spared the latter two.

Can you tell us why?


Lancaster, PA, USA

Mark Langham said...

Dear Jon

St John Southworth did indeed suffer the full capital penalty, of hanging, drawing and quartering. His body was bought by the Spanish (I think) ambassador, sewn together and parboiled, to preserve it. It was then taken abroad to Douai, where it stayed until being brought to the Cathedral in 1930.

I have seen photographs of the body under the mask and robes - the sewing is clearly visible on the eviscerated body, and it is a very gruesome sight.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating, heartbreaking, and inspiring.

Thanks, Monsignor.