mardi 7 avril 2015

Bienheureux EDWARD OLDCORNE (OLCORNE), prêtre jésuite et martyr

Bienheureux Edouard Olcorne, jésuite, martyr

Natif d'York, il fut ordonné prêtre à Rome est accepté dans la Compagnie de Jésus en 1587. Il travailla dans les Midlands à partir de 1588 et fut condamné à mort à Worcester pour une participation fictive à la conspiration des Poudres.

Bienheureux Edouard Oldcorne

martyr ( 1606)

Né en 1561 à York, il fit des études de médecine, quitta l'Angleterre pour étudier en France puis alla au séminaire à Rome.

En 1588, il prit le risque de rentrer en Angleterre avec un petit groupe de prêtres. En 1589 Edouard est envoyé à Hindlip Hall près de Worcester. Il y reste 18 ans risquant sa vie pour aider les gens, les convertir ou les ramener à la foi catholique. En 1591 la reine Elizabeth proclame que tous les prêtres étant des espions doivent être expulsés en Espagne.

Des prêtres, y compris le père Edouard Oldcorne, continuèrent à parcourir le pays pour dire la messe dans la clandestinité.

Arrêté en 1606, il fut à tort accusé d'être complice du complot des Poudres contre le Parlement. Amené à Londres, il a été torturé pendant 5 jours... Il a été exécuté le 7 avril 1606 juste à l'extérieur de Worcester.

Béatifié par le Pape Pie IX le 15 décembre 1929.

À Winchester, en Angleterre, l’an 1606, les bienheureux martyrs Edouard Oldcorne, prêtre, et Raoul Ashley, religieux de la Compagnie de Jésus, qui exercèrent leur ministère en cachette pendant de nombreuses années mais, accusés faussement de complot contre le roi Jacques Ier, ils furent mis en prison, torturés et enfin pendus et dépecés, alors qu’ils respiraient encore.

Martyrologe romain

Supplices de Edward Oldcorne et de Nicholas Owen, gravure par Gaspar Bouttats

Ven. Edward Oldcorne

Martyr, b. 1561; d. 1606. His father was a Protestant, and his mother a Catholic. He was educated as a doctor, but later decided to enter the priesthood, went to the English College at Reims, then to Rome, where, after ordination, in 1587, he became a Jesuit. Next year he returned to England in company with Father John Gerard, and worked, chiefly in Worcester, until he was arrested with Father Henry Garnet and taken to the Tower. No evidence connecting him with the Gunpowder Plot could be obtained, and he was executed for his priesthood only. Two letters of his are at Stonyhurst (Ang., III, 1; VII, 60); the second, written from prison, overflows with zeal and charity. His last combat took place on 7 April, at Red Hill, Worcester. With him suffered his faithful servant, the Ven. Ralph Ashby, who is traditionally believed to have been a Jesuit lay-brother. Oldcorne's picture, painted after his death for the Gesú, is extant, and a number of his relics.


FOLEY, Records S. J., IV, 202; MORRIS, John Gerard, x; GILLOW, Bibl. Dict. Eng. Cath., s.v.

Pollen, John Hungerford. "Ven. Edward Oldcorne." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 6 Apr. 2015 <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by WGKofron. With thanks to St. Mary's Church, Akron, Ohio.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

April 7, 1606: Blessed Edward Oldcorne and Ralph Ashley, SJ

 Two Jesuits suffered martyrdom on April 7, 1606 in connection with the Gunpowder Plot early in James I's reign--although they had no involvement with the Plot, the fact that they were companions and associates of Father Henry Garnet--and in fact, were captured with him after hiding for days in different hiding places within Hindlip Hall. Also captured that day was the designer and builder of those hiding places, Jesuit lay brother Nicholas Owen. The two lay brothers were in one hiding place and the two priests in another. The pursuivants could not find them--searching the house for days--but they finally had to leave their sanctuaries becauce of hunger and thirst. The illustration at the right shows Father Oldcorne and Owen enduring torture.
Blessed Edward Oldcorne was a Jesuit priest, ordained in Rome, Italy, and received into the Society in 1587. Worked in the English mission in Worcestershire for 16 years. Father Edward developed throat cancer, but kept preaching through the pain. He made a pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint Winifred of Wales in Flintshire to seek a cure; his cancer healed, and he returned strong and healthy to his vocation.

Edward fell victim to the revenge following the Gunpowder Plot, a foolish conspiracy hatched by a small group of frustrated Catholic Englishmen to blow up the king and parliament. All it did was provide an excuse for renewed persecution of Catholics, especially Jesuits. Edward was arrested, falsely accused, and tortured on the rack for five days for information about the Plot. He was hung, drawn and quartered on April 7, 1607 with Blessed Ralph Ashley, SJ.

Blessed Ralph Ashley worked as a cook at Douai College. Entered the English College at Valladolid on 28 April 1590 where he became a Jesuit lay brother. Ill health forced him to leave college and return to England. Along the way he was captured by Dutch heretics; he stood up to them and explained their errors. Finally landed in England on 9 March 1598.

Servant and assistant to Blessed Edward Oldcorne. Arrested on 23 January 1606 at Hindlip House, near Worcester, England in connection with the Gunpowder Plot, and for the crime of helping a priest. Transferred to the Tower of London on 3 February 1606 along with Father Henry Garnet and Saint Nicholas Owen. Tortured for information on other Catholics and for the hiding places of priests. When they could get no information from him, he was transferred to Worcester, and condemned for his faith.

Of the four Jesuits captured at Hindlip Hall, three were recognized as martyrs by the Catholic Church and beatified or canonized. The torture and questioning of the two lay Jesuit brothers, St. Nicholas Owen and Blessed Ralph Ashley, was focused on discovering more hiding places like the ones the four Jesuits had been hiding in at Hindlip Hall. Owen died as a result of the torture meted out to him. Blessed Edward Oldcorne, because he was found with Garnet, was questioned about the plot. Father Henry Garnet has not been proclaimed a martyr by the Church, I presume because of questions about his involvement in the Gunpowder Plot. According to the old Catholic Encyclopedia (1909): 

It is a matter of regret that we have as yet nothing like an authoritative pronouncement from Rome on the subject of Garnet's martyrdom. His name was indeed proposed with that of the other English Martyrs and Confessors in 1874, and his cause was then based upon the testimonies of Bellarmine and the older Catholic writers, which was the correct plea for the proof of Fama Martyrii, then to be demonstrated. But these ancient authorities are not acquainted with Garnet's actual confessions which were not known or published in their time. The consequence was that, as the discussion proceeded, their evidence was found to be inconclusive, and an open verdict was returned; thus his martyrdom was held to be neither proved nor disproved. This of course led to his cause being "put off" (dilatus) for further inquiry, which involves in Rome a delay of many years. 

"A delay of many years" indeed.

Blessed Edward Oldcorne & Ralph Ashley, SJ MM (AC)

Died 1606; beatified in 1929. Edward Oldcorne was born in York, ordained for the priesthood in Rome, and received into the Society of Jesus in 1587. He worked in the Midlands from 1588 until his arrest. He was condemned to death at Worcester for alleged complicity in the Gunpowder Plot. Ralph Ashley was a Jesuit lay- brother who was martyred with Fr. Oldcorne, whom he was attending (Benedictines).

Edward Oldcorne SJ

Edward Oldcorne was born in York in 1561.  Among his school friends were John and Christopher Wright and Guy Fawkes. He attended the English College at Reims. After ordination in Rome in 1587, he became a Jesuit in 1588.  He returned to England with John Gerard, and carried out clandestine ministry in the West Midlands for 17 years. He often stayed at Hindlip Hall which was adapted by Nicholas Owen to include a number of priest holes.  In 1601 Oldcorne made a pilgrimage to St Winefride's Well in north Wales to cure his throat cancer. The cancer cleared up and in 1605 he returned to give thanks for his recovery. Amongst his companions were Jesuits Ralph Ashley, Henry Garnet, Nicholas Owen and John Gerard.  Also the Gunpowder plotter Everard Digby. The government investigation into the Plot used this trip as evidence to implicate innocent participants. When the Gunpowder Plot was discovered, Oldcorne, Owen, Garnet and Ashley were at Hindlip Hall. Their hiding places were not discovered but they were starved out.  Oldcorne was tortured at the Tower of London but no evidence was found to connect him to the Plot. Nevertheless he was executed in April 1606 at Worceste, alongside John Wintour, Humphrey Littleton (who were plotters) and Ralph Ashley.  He was beatified in 1929.  The relic of his eye is preserved at Stonyhurst College.

Edward Oldcorne was born in York, England of a non-Catholic father and a Catholic mother. He gave up medical studies and enrolled at the English College in Rheims, France in 1581 before going on to Rome to complete his studies and was ordained. Soon after, he joined the Society of Jesus and was allowed to complete his novitiate in a very short time because of the difficult conditions he would face upon his return to England.

Fr Oldcorne stayed with Fr Garnet, the superior of the English Jesuits upon arrival but after a few months he was assigned to Hinlip Hall outside Worcester where he was to spend sixteen years. The master of Hinlip Hall was an ardent Catholic who was in prison and had left the property in the care of his sister, Dorothy, a Protestant who had been at the court of Elizabeth. While priests still found hospitality in Hinlip Hall, she merely tolerated their presence. Many priests had tried to reconcile her to the Church without success. It was left to Fr Oldcorne to find the way. She listened to his instructions and sermons, unconvinced; but when she learned that he had been fasting for days to bring about her conversion, she finally yielded to God’s grace and her conversion led many others in Worcester to return to the faith of their ancestors. The Hall became the Jesuit’s base of operations where many came to seek the sacraments and hear Fr Oldcorne’s preaching. His health was poor ever since he returned to England and he had throat cancer that left him with a hoarse and painful voice, but did not keep him from preaching. His cancer was healed following a pilgrimage to St Winifred’s shrine in 1591.

Catholics in England were looking forward to the end of persecution when Queen Elizabeth died and James I ascended the throne in 1603 as he had promised to be more tolerant, but in fact, the persecution increased. This angered some Catholics who plotted to blow up the Houses of Parliament during the king’s visit on Nov 5, 1605. The plot was discovered and with that the hatred for Catholics intensified. The government was determined to implicate the Jesuits in the so-called “Gunpowder Plot” despite the capture of the men behind it. The Jesuit superior Fr Garnet decided to leave London and seek shelter at the Hall, which had more hiding places than any other mansion in England. Bro Nicholas Owen, the person who constructed all the priest-hiding places was with him and they joined Frs Oldcorne and Ashley.

The sheriff of Worcestershire and 100 of his men arrived at the Hall and spent several days searching for priests together with a certain Humphrey Littleton who betrayed Fr Oldcorne. The sheriff stationed a man in each room of the house and ordered others to tap on the walls in the hope of locating concealed priest-holes. By the end of the third day they found eleven such hiding places, but no priests, On the fourth day, starvation and thirst forced Br Ashley and Br Owen to emerge from their hole. They had hoped the sheriff would think that he had finally caught his prey and end the search, leaving the two priests in safety. But the sheriff was determined and his men continued their close examination of the house. Finally on the eighth day, Jan 27, 1606 Frs Oldcorne and Garnet were discovered when they emerged white, ill and weak. All four were taken to the Tower of London.

When the prison officials failed in their efforts to eavesdrop and record any conversation which could link the two priests to the Gunpowder plot, Fr Oldcorne was tortured on the rack five hours a day for five consecutive days. Yet he refused to say anything. When they were put on trial, Fr Oldcorne denied the charge of being involved so well that the charge against him was changed to simply being a Jesuit priest. On this new charge, Fr Oldcorne was found guilty and ordered to be executed. Just before he was hanged, his betrayer asked for pardon, which Fr Oldcorne readily granted, and he also prayed for the king, his accusers and the judge and jury who condemned him. He was pushed from the ladder and was cut down before he was dead and then beheaded and quartered.

Edward Oldcorne
Born :
1561 - Yorkshire

Died :
7 April 1606 - Red Hill, Worcester

Edward Oldcorne was a school friend of John and Christopher Wright and Guy Fawkes. Although his father was a Protestant, he was educated in his mothers Catholic faith. A relative, Alice Oldcorne, perhaps his mother, suffered imprisonment in York for her adherance to the Catholic faith. Edward was educated as a doctor, but entered the priesthood at the English College at Rheims, being ordained in Rome in 1587. The following year he became a Jesuit, and returned to England along with John Gerard.

Working chiefly in Worcester, he developed throat cancer, but a pilgrimage to St. Winifred's Well in 1591 cured him. Oldcorne was eventually arrested along with Henry Garnet, Nicholas Owen and Ralph Ashley at Hindlip House, from where he was transported to the Tower. After interrogation, he was returned to Worcester, where he was executed along with Humphrey Littleton, John Wintour and Ralph Ashley.


Beato Edoardo Oldcorne Martire

York, Inghilterra, 1561 - Worcester, Inghilterra, 7 aprile 1606

Emblema: Palma

Martirologio Romano: A Worcester sempre in Inghilterra, beati martiri Edoardo Oldcorne, sacerdote, e Rodolfo Ashley, religioso della Compagnia di Gesù, che esercitarono clandestinamente per molti anni il loro ministero, finché, sotto la falsa accusa di cospirazione contro il re Giacomo I, furono gettati in carcere, torturati e infine tagliati a pezzi ancora vivi.

Il beato Edoardo Oldcorne fa parte di quella schiera di martiri, ecclesiastici e laici, che furono vittime delle persecuzioni anticattoliche in Inghilterra, sotto i regni di Elisabetta I e del suo successore Giacomo I (1566-1625). 

Egli nacque a York nel 1560/61, fu educato alla religione cattolica in una famiglia di cui il padre era un convertito dall’anglicanesimo; il 12 agosto 1581 fu ammesso al Collegio Inglese di Reims e inviato poi l’anno successivo con altri sette compagni a proseguire gli studi nel Collegio Inglese di Roma. 

Fu ordinato sacerdote il 23 agosto 1587 nella Basilica di S. Giovanni in Laterano, chiese ed ottenne dal generale dei gesuiti Claudio Acquaviva di entrare nella Compagnia di Gesù, promettendo di andare ad operare nelle missioni inglesi. 

Insieme ad un confratello nel 1588, tornò in Inghilterra e dopo aver soggiornato brevemente a Londra, si stabilì nel 1589 nella Contea di Worcester nel castello di Hindlip, ospite del nobile Thomas Abington. 

Dimorò lì per diciassette anni sotto il falso nome di Hall, operando alacremente per il bene delle anime, convertendo numerosi protestanti alla fede cattolica, fra i quali la sorella del suo ospite Dorotea Abington, la quale era una anglicana accanita, essendo vissuta a lungo alla corte della scismatica regina Elisabetta e che nutriva odio verso i sacerdoti cattolici; si meritò il titolo di “Apostolo della contea”. 

Nel 1606 venne tradito da un rinnegato che fra l’altro aveva ricevuto del bene proprio da lui e arrestato fu condotto prigioniero a Worcester e da lì a Londra nelle prigioni famigerate della Torre dove fu anche torturato; subì un processo con l’accusa infondata di aver partecipato alla ‘congiura delle polveri’ che organizzata da cattolici inglesi contro il re Giacomo I, intendeva far saltare il Parlamento nella seduta inaugurale del 5-11-1605, ma scoperta fallì e gli organizzatori giustiziati. 

Anche Edoardo Oldcorne nel clima persecutorio che imperversava contro i cattolici, fu condannato a morte, venendo impiccato a Worchester il 7 aprile 1606. 

Fu beatificato da Pio XI il 15 dicembre 1929.

Antonio Borrelli