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St. Edmund Campion

Saint Edmund Campion
Priest and Martyr
Born January 24, 1540(1540-01-24), London
Died December 1, 1581 (aged 41), Tyburn
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Beatified December 9, 1886, Rome by Pope Leo XIII
Canonized October 25, 1970, Rome by Pope Paul VI
Feast December 1

Saint Edmund Campion, S.J. (January 24, 1540 – December 1, 1581) was an English Jesuit priest and martyr.

Early years and education (1540–1569)

Born in London on January 25, 1540, Campion received his early education at Christ's Hospital, and, as the best of the London scholars, was chosen in their name to make the complimentary speech when Queen Mary visited the city. He then attended St John's College, Oxford, becoming a fellow in 1557 and taking the Oath of Supremacy on the occasion of his degree in 1564. When Sir Thomas White, the founder of the college, was buried in 1567, the Latin oration fell to the lot of Campion.

Two years later he welcomed Queen Elizabeth to the university, and won her lasting regard. He was selected to lead a public debate in front of the queen. By the time the Queen had left Oxford, Campion had earned the patronage of the powerful William Cecil and also the Earl of Leicester, tipped by some to be future husband of the young Queen. People were now talking of Campion in terms of being a future Archbishop of Canterbury, in the newly established Anglican Church.

Rejecting Anglicanism

Religious difficulties now arose; but at the persuasion of Richard Cheyney, Bishop of Gloucester, although holding Catholic doctrines, he received deacon's orders in the Anglican Church. Inwardly "he took a remorse of conscience and detestation of mind." Rumours of his opinions began to spread and he left Oxford in 1569 and went to Ireland to take part in a proposed establishment of the University of Dublin.

Ireland (1569–1571)

Campion was appointed tutor to Richard Stanihurst, son of the Speaker of the Irish parliament, and attended the first session of the House of Commons, which included the prorogation. Campion was transferred by Stanihurst's arrangement to the house of Patrick Barnewall at Turvey in the Pale, which he acknowledged saved him from arrest and torture by the Protestant party in Dublin. For some three months he eluded his pursuers, going by the name "Mr Patrick" and occupying himself by writing a history of Ireland.

Douai (1571–1573)

In 1571, Campion left Ireland in secret and escaped to Douai in the Low Countries (now France) where he was reconciled to the Catholic Church and received the Eucharist that he had denied himself for the last twelve years. He entered the English College founded by William Allen. The College's intake grew, and a little after Campion's arrival a papal subsidy was granted. Campion found himself reunited with Oxford friends. He was to teach rhetoric while there and finish studying for the degree of Bachelor of Divinity, granted him by the University of Douai on January 21, 1573. Having obtained his degree, Campion left for Rome, travelling on foot and alone in the guise of a pilgrim. In that same year he entered a novitiate with the Jesuits, and spent some years in Vienna and Prague.

Mission to England (1580–1581)

In 1580, the Jesuit mission to England began. Campion accompanied Robert Persons who, as superior, was intended to counterbalance his own fervour and impetuousness. He had been reluctant to follow the father general's order to take part in the mission, the members of which were instructed to avoid the company of boys and women, and to avoid giving the impression of being legacy hunters. Before embarking, the members of the mission were embarrassed to receive news of a landing by papal sponsored forces in the Irish province of Munster in support of the Irish rebel James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald. They also learned that a letter detailing their party and mission had been intercepted and that they were expected in England.

Campion finally entered England in the guise of a jewel merchant. He arrived in London on June 24, 1580, and at once began to preach. His presence became known to the authorities, and the diffusion of the challenge he threw down in the form of a declaration, known as the "Challenge to the Privy Council" to his allies and as "Campion's Brag" to his enemies, made his position more difficult. He led a hunted life, preaching and ministering to Catholics in Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire, and Lancashire.

During this time he was writing his "Decem Rationes" ("Ten Reasons"), a rhetorical display of reasons against the Anglican Church. The book was printed in a clandestine press at Stonor Park, Henley, and 400 copies were found on the benches of St Mary's, Oxford, at the Commencement, on June 27, 1581. It caused great sensation, and the hunt for Campion was stepped up. On his way to Norfolk, he stopped at Lyford, then in Berkshire, where he preached on July 14 and the following day, by popular request. Here, he was captured by a spy and taken to London with his arms pinioned and bearing on his hat a paper with the inscription, "Campion, the Seditious Jesuit."

Trial and execution

Committed to the Tower of London, he was questioned in the presence of Queen Elizabeth, who asked him if he acknowledged her to be the true Queen of England. He replied in the affirmative, and she offered him wealth and dignities, but on condition of rejecting his Catholic faith, which he refused to accept. He was kept a long time in prison and reputedly racked twice. Despite the effect of a false rumour of retraction and a forged confession, his adversaries summoned him to four public conferences (September 1, 18, 23 and 27, 1581). Although still suffering from his ill treatment, and allowed neither time nor books for preparation, he reportedly conducted himself so easily and readily that he won the admiration of most of the audience. Tortured again on October 31, he was indicted at Westminster on a charge of having conspired, along with others, in Rome and Reims to raise a sedition in the realm and dethrone the Queen.

Campion was sentenced to death as a traitor. He answered: "In condemning us, you condemn all your own ancestors, all our ancient bishops and kings, all that was once the glory of England -- the island of saints, and the most devoted child of the See of Peter." He received the death sentence with the Te Deum laudamus. After spending his last days in prayer he was led with two companions to Tyburn and hanged, drawn and quartered on December 3, 1581, aged 41.

Veneration and Feast Day

Edmund Campion was beatified by Pope Leo XIII on December 9, 1886.[1] Blessed Edmund Campion was canonized nearly eighty-four years later in 1970 by Pope Paul VI as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales with a common feast day of October 25. His feast day is celebrated on December 1, the day of his martyrdom.

The actual ropes used in his execution are now kept in glass display tubes at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire; each year they are placed on the altar of St Peter's Church for Mass to celebrate Campion's feast day - which is always a holiday for the school.[2]

See also


  1. Patron Saints Index: "Saint Edmund Campion"
  2. T.E. Muir, "Stonyhurst College"


External links

fi:Edmund Campion sv:Edmund Campion

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