The place where a 17th century Welsh Catholic priest was arrested, before being hanged, drawn and quartered for his faith, has been commemorated with a special plaque. The unveiling ceremony in Llantarnam, at a former blacksmith's, now known as The Old Post Office, took place on Saturday. Father David Lewis was sentenced to death in 1679 for carrying out his priestly duties at a time when it was illegal to be a Catholic. Sister Celsus, from Llantarnam Abbey, has researched the history of Saint David Lewis, who was the last Catholic martyr of mainland Britain. She said: "He was a Catholic priest and a Jesuit, at the time of the persecution of the Catholic Church when it was treason to be a priest and to say Mass." Fr Lewis had been arrested near Llantarnam Abbey near Cwmbran a year earlier and had already been threatened with a death sentence. He is believed to have travelled around south Wales for 30 years celebrated Mass and the Sacraments. On the day of his arrest, he was going to say Mass at Llantarnam Abbey, which was privately owned. Sr Celsus said: "Every Sunday morning he would come here, It was totally forbidden by the Crown but he would go all over Monmouthshire saying Mass whenever he could because people still wanted it. He was a very brave man," she added. On 17 November 1678, as he prepared to leave for Mass from a local blacksmith, officials from the government arrested him. He was then sent to London to be examined by Titus Oates and others. Titus Oates and Israel Tonge were two disreputable informers who fabricated a Jesuit plot later known as the Popish Plot of 1678-79. Oates falsely claimed that there was a Catholic conspiracy to kill King Charles II, place James, his Catholic brother on the throne, massacre Protestants, and reinstitute Catholicism with the help of a French army. David Lewis was finally brought back to Usk in Monmouthshire for his execution. He was hanged, drawn and quartered there on 27 August 1679. Councillor John Cunningham said: "It's something that has been long overdue that we do something for St David Lewis. After all he is a Cwmbran saint and I'm really thrilled about it." St David Lewis was born at Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, in 1616 and raised as a Protestant. During a visit to Paris, when he was 16, he became Catholic. Later he went to study for the priesthood in Rome. In 1642, he was ordained. Three years later he became a Jesuit. In 1647, he returned home and, for over thirty years, worked in South Wales, with his base at the Cwm. In this remote region, the Jesuits maintained two farmhouses, which also functioned as a shelter for hunted priests. During the Titus Oates persecution of 1679-80, all the Welsh-speaking Catholic clergy were either executed or exiled. In 1970 St David was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970 as on of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. Source: BBC Wales
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