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Mark Barkworth

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Mark Barkworth (alias Mark Lambert) was a Catholic priest and martyr (c. 1572 – 1601).

He was born about 1572 at Searby in Lincolnshire. He studied for a time at Oxford, though no record remains of his stay there. He was received into the Catholic Church at Douai in 1593, by Father George, a Flemish Jesuit and entered the College there with a view to the priesthood. He matriculated at Douai University on 5 October 1594.

On account of an outbreak of the plague, in 1596 Barkworth was sent to Rome and thence to Valladolid in Spain, where he entered the College on 28 December 1596. On his way to Spain he is said to have had a vision of St Benedict, who told him he would die a martyr, in the Benedictine habit. While at Valladolid he make firmer contact with to the Benedictine Order and various publications insist on the suffering to which this led at the hands of the College superiors, those these accounts presumably stem from anti-Jesuit bias. Barkworth was ordained priest at the English College sometime prior to July 1599, when he set out for the English Mission together with Thomas Garnet. On his way he stayed at the Benedictine Abbey of Hyrache in Navarre, where his wish to join the order was granted by his being made an Oblate with the privilege of making profession at the hour of death.

After having escaped from the hands of the Huguenots of La Rochelle, he was arrested on reaching England and thrown into Newgate, where he was imprisoned for six months, and was then transferred to Bridewell. There he wrote an appeal to Robert Cecil, signed "George Barkworth". At his examinations he was reported to behave with fearlessness and frank gaiety. Having been condemned with a formal jury verdict, he was thrown into "Limbo", the horrible underground dungeon at Newgate, where he is said to have remained "very cheerful" till his death.

Barkworth was executed at Tyburn with Blessed Roger Filcock, S.J., and St Anne Line, on 27 February 1601. He sang, on the way to Tyburn, the Paschal Anthem: "Hæc dies quam, fecit Dominus exultemus et lætemur in ea". On his arrival he kissed the robe of Anne Lyne, who was already dead, saying: "Ah, sister, thou hast got the start of us, but we will follow thee as quickly as we may"; and told the people: "I am come here to die, being a Catholic, a priest, and a religious man, belonging to the Order of St Benedict; it was by this same order that England was converted".

He was said to be "a man of stature tall and well proportioned showing strength, the hair of his head brown, his beard yellow, somewhat heavy eyed". He was of a cheerful disposition. He suffered in the Benedictine habit, under which he wore a hair-shirt. It was noticed that his knees were, like St. James', hardened by constant kneeling, and an apprentice in the crowd picking up his legs, after the quartering, called out: "Which of you Gospellers can show such a knee?" Contrary to usual practice, the quarters of the priests were not exposed but buried near the scaffold. They were later retrieved by Catholics.

Mark Barkworth was beatified by Pope Pius XI on 15 December 1929.

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