08 Aug

St Edmund Campion, martyr; memorial: 1st December

“More than four centuries after his martyrdom Edmund Campion became one of the most venerated of Reformation saints, his heroics and sacrifice on a par with those of More, Fisher and Mayne.

Champion was born in 1540. His father was a bookseller in Paternoster Row by St Paul’s Cathedral. He was educated at Christ’s Hospital, now in Sussex but then in London. When Queen Mary visited the school, he was chosen to make the welcoming speech at the age of 13.

He was chosen to make the welcoming speech for the Queen at the age of 13

He received his BA from St John’s College, Oxford, in 1560, by which time Elizabeth was on the throne and he was forced to take the oath of supremacy.

In 1566, when the Queen visited the university, it was Camion’s job to welcome her and she is said to have admired him.

The following year he was honoured with the task of giving the oration at the funeral of Sir Thomas White, the founder of the college.

He took a remorse of conscience and detestation of mind

Champion was persuaded to become a deacon, but ‘he took a remorse of conscience and detestation of mind’, when rumours began to spread of his supposed Catholic sympathies, he left for Ireland for study, and in 1571 moved to Douai, where he was formally received back into the Catholic Church, receiving the Eucharist for the first time in 12 years. He entered the new English College in Douai and travelled to Rome on foot in 1573.

Ten reasons

There he was the first novice accepted by the Jesuits and was ordained a priest. He spent six years in Prague at the Jesuit college as professor of rhetoric and philosophy.

In 1580 his fateful mission to his homeland began, even though it was a capital offence for a priest to enter the country, which had become increasingly extreme in its attitudes to Catholicism.

Disguised as a jewel merchant on June 24 1580, he began to preach, but soon the authorities were on to him. He went on the run around the country, preaching to recusant families.

At this time he wrote Decem Rationes (‘Ten Reasons’) which was a great sensation, but he was soon captured and taken to London wearing a hat with a paper stuck to it bearing the inscription ‘Champion, the Seditious Jesuit’.

He was imprisoned and tortured on the rack three times

He was imprisoned in the Tower of London for four moths and tortured on the rack three times, but he would not retract.

He was indicted on November 14 1581 on charges of trying to dethrone Elizabeth, and along with Fr Ralph Sherwin and Fr Alexander Briant, was hanged at Tyburn on December 1.”

– This article was published The Catholic Herald newspaper, issue November 28 2014. For subscriptions please visit (external link)


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