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Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Tower of London to exhibit Catholic relic
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¬†A poignant reminder of the torture and execution of Catholic prisoners of conscience during the reign of Elizabeth I is going on show at an exhibition in the Tower of London later this month. 'Prisoners of the Tower', which charts the history of the Tower as a state prison, features a 400-year-old corporal (the linen cloth used on the altar during the Consecration at Mass) which was used by five Jesuit martyrs during their last Mass before they were executed. The corporal, which has been lent by Stonyhurst College in Lancashire. is on display in the White Tower from April 28 to September 5, 2004 . The names of the recusant priests, Thomas Cottam, Luke Kirby, Alexander Briant, John Shirt and Robert Johnson are embroidered in red silk on the corporal, a white linen cloth, along with a Latin inscription 'Corporate usurpatum a quinq martiribus' which means 'the corporal used by five martyrs'. They were imprisoned and endured many tortures before being hung, drawn and quartered for the crime of being a priest. At that time, priests who celebrated Mass faced the death penalty because Catholics would not accept the monarch as head of the church and, therefore, were not considered to be loyal subjects of Elizabeth. Fr Briant died with St Edmund Campion on December 1, 1581, and the other four were martyred in May of the following year. Arthur Pitts, a priest who was also held in the Tower until he was banished, embroidered the five martyrs' names. He sent the corporal as a gift to his alma mater, The English College in Rome, and it was transferred to the English Academy in St Omer, France, in the early 17th century by Fr Parsons when he moved there from Rome. The academy was the forerunner of Stonyhurst College. The corporal, which is encased in glass inside a gold-plated case, is included in displays which chart 1,000 years of Tower history. It is a poignant reminder of the one consolation that Thomas and his fellow prisoners of conscience had during those dark days ≠ they were able to say Mass while waiting for the hangman's noose, even on the very day of their martyrdom. Source: Stoneyhurst College
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