Blessed John Rochester, (c. 1498 – 1537), Catholic priest, Carthusian monk and martyr.

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Church versus State

He resolutely rejected the affirmation of the royal supremacy in matters ecclesiastical. The government was at first anxious to secure the public acquiescence of the monks of the London Charterhouse in this matter, since for the austerity and sincerity of their mode of life they enjoyed great prestige. Having failed in this, the only alternative was to annihilate the resistance since a refusal engaged the prestige of the monks in the opposite sense. On May 4, 1535 the authorities sent to their death at Tyburn Tree three leading English Carthusians, John Houghton, prior of the London house, Robert Lawrence and Augustine Webster, respectively priors of Beauvale and Axholme.


Little more than a month later, it was the turn of three leading monks of the London house: Humphrey Middlemore, William Exmew and Sebastian Newdigate, who were to die at Tyburn Tree on June 19. This process of attrition was to claim as its victims no less than fifteen of the London Carthusians. The next move was to seize four more monks of community, two being taken to the Carthusian house at Beauvale in Nottinghamshire, while Dom John Rochester and Dom James Walworth were taken to the Charterhouse of St Michael at Hull in Yorkshire.

Pilgrimage of Grace

That autumn, the government had just succeeded in putting down a rising in Lincolnshire, when on October 13, 1536, the far more serious Pilgrimage of Grace broke out, mustering an enormous multitude of adherents, perhaps as many as 40,000. This time, having dealt with the problem, the government went into a panic, desperate to stamp out any centres of resistance. Since one of the flashpoints had been the Northern capital of York, it was necessary for the government to mount a lesson in the city.

The two London monks were brought from Hull to York and brought before the Lord President of the North, the Duke of Norfolk, on trumped up treason charges. Condemned to death, they provided the desired menacing spectacle for the city when on May 11, 1537 both were hanged in chains from the city battlements until dead.

In all the horrendous experience, from arrest to death the two monks were inseparable companions in the same fate. They were both beatified by Pope Leo XIII.


This article incorporates text from the entry Bl. John Rochester in Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913, a publication now in the public domain.

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