St. Peter Wright, priest and martyr

Today is the Feast of St. Peter Wright, slain in 1651 at Tyburn for being a Catholic and a priest.

Here is his entry in the Roman Martyrology:

11*. Londinii in Anglia, beati Petri Wright, presbyteri et martyris, qui, fidem Ecclesiae catholicae professus, in Societatem Iesu admissus et ad ordines sacros promotus, tempore Reipublicae, propter sacerdotium ad Tyburni patibulum ductus est.

He was hanged till dead and then disemboweled, etc.  Many of the English martyrs were only lightly hanged, then while alive had various bit cut off and then their intestines pulled out which were burned as they watched.  Then the were beheaded and quartered.

The establishments really didn’t want Catholics around.

I have been thinking much of the English Martyrs these days, and learning more about them as well.

They have been on my mind for two reasons. 

First, I am watching a series (one of these drama things, so it is spiced up) called The Tudors.  Also, I am reading Joseph Pearce’s great book  The Quest for Shakespeare.  It seems the Bard, a recusant, had a good deal to do with Jesuit priests, including a couple martyrs.  I recall there was pretty accurate scene of hanging, drawing and quatering in the two-part movie produced by HBO about Queen Elizabeth I.

So, over at Good Jesuit, Bad Jesuit, I found this edifying entry:

Bl. Peter Wright (†1651)

Blessed Fr Peter Wright, S.J., of Slipton, Northamptonshire, England suffered for his priesthood, his vows of religion and his Catholic Faith at Tyburn on 19 May, 1651. His execution on Whit Monday took place before over 20 000 spectators, as Bishop Challoner relates: Having celebrated Mass with great devotion, the time drew near when he was to go down in order for execution. Hearing the knocking at the iron grate, he took it as a summons from Heaven, and cried out:

I come, sweet Jesus, I come.

When Fr Wright was called out to the hurdle, he went with so much alacrity and speed that the officers could scarce keep pace with him; then being placed on the hurdle he made a short act of contrition; and in the midst of mutual embraces was absolved by Fr Cheney, and then drawn away to Tyburn through the streets crowded with an innumerable multitude of people. He was drawn on the hurdle more like one sitting than lying down; his head was covered, his countenance smiling, a certain air of majesty, and a courage and cheerfulness in his comportment, which was both surprising and edifying, not only to the Catholics who crowded to ask his benediction, but to the Protestants themselves, as many publicly declared. Thirteen malefactors were appointed to die with him, to whom the father endeavoured to give seasonable advice for the welfare of their souls, but was continually interrupted by the minister, and therefore desisted, betaking himself to silent prayer, in which he employed about an hour, standing with his eyes shut, his hands joined before his breast, his countenance sweet and amiable, and his whole body without motion as one in deep contemplation. When the minister took occasion to tell him it was not yet too late, and that he might save his life if he would renounce the errors of Popery:

If I had a thousand lives I would most willingly give them all up in defence of the Catholic religion. The hangman having fitted the rope to his neck, the confessor made a short speech to the spectators: Gentlemen, this is a short passage to eternity; my time is now short, and I have not much to speak. I was brought hither charged with no other crime but being a priest. I willingly confess I am a priest; I confess I am a Catholic; I confess I am a religious man of the Society of Jesus, or as you call it, a Jesuit.

This is the cause for which I die; for this alone was I condemned, and for propagating the Catholic faith, which is spread through the whole world, taught
through all ages from Christ’s time, and will be taught for all ages to come.

For this cause I most willingly sacrifice my life, and would die a thousand times for the same if it were necessary; and I look upon it my greatest happiness, that my most good God has chosen me most unworthy to this blessed lot, the lot of the saints. This is a grace which so unworthy a sinner could scarce have wished, much less hoped for. And now I beg of the goodness of my God with all the fervour I am able, and most humbly entreat Him that He would drive from you that are Protestants the darkness of error, and enlighten your minds with the rays of truth. And as for you Catholics, my fellow soldiers and comrades, as many of you as are here I earnesdy beseech you to join in prayer for me and with me till my last moment; and when I shall come to Heaven I will do as much for you. God bless you all; I forgive all men. From my heart I bid you all farewell till we meet in a happy eternity.

Having spoken to this effect, he again recollected himself a while in prayer, and then the cart was drawn away, and he was suffered to hang till he quietly expired. His dead body was cut down, beheaded, bowelled, and quartered. His friends were permitted to carry off his head and quarters which were translated to Liege, and there honourably deposited in the college of the English Jesuits. He suffered aged 48, and after 22 years of religious life. He was beatified in 1929.

Blessed be God in His Angels and in His Saints, † 

Link (here)


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  1. Jayna says:

    There really are some great stories (not to mention tremendous displays of faith) from the English Martyrs. When I was living in England last year I attended St. Joseph and the English Martyrs, so the place was absolutely littered with their history. I was glad to have the chance to educate myself as it wasn’t a subject I had been much exposed to before going to England.

  2. I have also been watching The Tudors on Netflix. I’m almost through the first season, and I hear it’s been renewed for a third. I’m particularly liking the portrayals of St. Thomas Moore and St. John Fisher.

    BTW, I’ll be at Marytown this evening for the big mass the Cantians are doing as part of their week-long TLM workshop.

  3. Prof. Basto says:

    St. Peter, pray for me.

  4. Jim C says:

    How does one watch The Tudors and not commit sins against purity? I watched one episode of The Tudors and one of Rome and give up both for the incredible number of naked people having sex. In an earlier day neither could have been made and 40 years ago they would have been rated X.

  5. Jim C: My recommendation is that you not watch the show.

  6. Duke of Norfolk says:

    The entire Anglican religion worships at the non sacrificial altar of an adulterer. The religion is based on the lust and power of a playboy that rent Christendom assunder and killed many Catholic Christians.
    Elizabeth was a whore and a heretic.
    These English royals dealt with Islamofacism of the time and sold out continental Europe.

    The real King of England is the Duke of Bavaria.

  7. Bede says:

    The entire Anglican religion worships at the non sacrificial altar of an adulterer. The religion is based on the lust and power of a playboy that rent Christendom assunder and killed many Catholic Christians.
    Elizabeth was a whore and a heretic.
    These English royals dealt with Islamofacism of the time and sold out continental Europe.

    The real King of England is the Duke of Bavaria.
    Restore the Duke of Norfolk to supremacy.

    Long Live St. Thomas More and Bishop Fisher

  8. PeterHWright says:

    Many thanks to Fr. Z for this post.
    It was a most edifying read.
    We should never forget our martyrs.

  9. elizabeth mckernan says:

    I wondered when PeterHWright would be commenting!

  10. Lacrimarum Valle says:

    If you want to know more about how the Jesuits (and others) lived and died in Elizabethan England, I strongly recommend a recent book called “God’s Secret Agents” by Alice Hogge. They were incredibly brave men – as were the Catholics in this part of the world who sheltered them, housed them, hid them (read the book to find out just how ingeniously this was done) and died for them – all for the sake of a Mass.

    Available from Amazon so stick it on your wish-list!

    St Peter Wright, St Edmund Campion, Holy Martyrs of England pray for us!
    Our Lady of Walsingham, save us and make England thy Dowry as in days of old!

  11. Does anyone per chance have a link to a graphic of St Peter W that is a little less gruesome? The English Martyrs don’t have a lot of images online!

    I would post more of them on our saint-of-the-day feature at The Black Cordelias, but I cannot find many images…

  12. Matthew says:

    Father Z,

    Most of the Google hits for Father Wright have him listed as a blessed. Can you confirm he has been canonized?

  13. Scuffy the Tugboat says:

    Also recommended, although it may be difficult to find these days, is “John Gerard – The Autobiography of an Elizabethan.” He was an English Jesuit working about the time of the Gunpowder Plot, who was tortured in, and escaped from, the Tower of London.

  14. malta says:

    “Edmund Campion” by Evelyn Waugh is a great book, and brings you into the sights, smells and feelings of what it was like to be a Catholic martyr in Elizabethan England…

  15. John P says:

    Do not by any means overlook Bishop Challoner’s *Memoirs of the Missionary Priests*. It’s his answer to Fox’s Book of Martyrs. I don’t think it is now in print, but second-hand copies can be found.

  16. Animadversor says:

    Having celebrated Mass with great devotion….

    I am astonished that he was permitted to celebrate Mass.

  17. Stephen says:

    The autobiography of Fr John Gerrard is brilliant. I have an old copy (I would imagine you can get it at tells some remarkable stories of supernatural happenings, for instance one of his companions (i think it was blessed Edward Oldcorne’s double chains kept falling off of their own accord in the court room).I have always loved them-truly an inspiration growing up in this pagan country.
    By the way, after today’s terrible news in England we will need their intercession more than ever if we are to avoid what Our Lady of Fatima described as whole nations being annihilated. we deserve it.

  18. wayne ratzinger says:

    Professor Michael Woods, BBC series is available on DVD, more or less proves that Shakespeare was a catholic and so was his daughter, his cousin allegedly was the Jesuit St Robert Southwell. Shakespeare’s mothers family the Ardens were martyred for the faith. In the 1700’s workmen found a “Catholic Testament” signed by Shakespeare’s father, John, hidden in the roof space of the family home at Stratford. the DVD is called “In search of Shakespeare”, there is a book of the same name also by Michael Wood, great stuff. We visited Stratford last week, we also visited the remains of Wroxall Abbey where Shakespeare’s aunt was Prioress

  19. Larry says:

    I am always astounded by the English and their rather barbaric ways. Of course some of their blood courses through my veins and perhaps I should do penance for that as well. It is really quite astounding how many of the current problems in the world have come from post Henry VIII England, and yet they view themselves as quite civilized. Astonishing.

  20. Thomas says:

    I love reading about the heroes of our Faith in 16th and 17th Century England. I count several of them as my patrons. And that’s saying something for an Irishman.

    I would strongly recommend the following to interested readers/movie-lovers:




    – Michael Davies’ ST. JOHN FISHER

    – Cardinal Allen’s (a contemporary) THE MARTYRDOM OF FATHER CAMPION AND HIS COMPANIONS

    – Evelyn Waugh’s EDMUND CAMPION

    – Chesterton’s essay on St. Thomas More in THE WELL AND THE SHALLOWS

    – Msgr. Knox’s sermons on Thomas More and the English Martyrs.

    – And, yes, I’ll echo Father and say THE TUDORS. A hyper-sexualized show, but surprisingly positive in its portrayal of those who remained faithful to the Church and relatively harsh in its portrayal of Henry, the Boelyns, Cromwell, etc. Compared to the other recent Tudor error, er, Era movies, this is highly commendable. I never thought anyone could even hold a candle to Paul Scofield’s Thomas More, but Jeremy Northam was excellent, excellent, EXCELLENT. Bosco Hogan plays a terrific John Fisher. And Maria Doyle Kennedy hits a homerun as Queen Katharine. Peter O’Toole is pretty good (and likeable) as Pope Paul III (a praiseworthy pope in difficult times).

    On the topic of Queen Katharine, whom I have a personal devotion to and pray for her canonization in my lifetime, has anyone ever read Jean Plaidy’s novels on her? Having never read her novels, but seen the line-up in the bookstore, I have a sneaking suspicion that they’re more chickified romance history than solid historical novels, but if someone can say otherwise I’d be glad to make the purchase. Not enough has been written about that saintly Queen.

  21. G says:

    St Peter Wright, pray for us… especially that Canadian girl who saw fit to renounce the Faith for which you died, so that she could marry into the royal family.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

  22. Matt Q says:

    You see how vicious people become when the Devil inspires one thoughts, especially when directed at the Faith? This is no different than the Nazis, Communists, Fascists, and even the various Islamic ilk.

  23. Serafino says:

    Does anyone know if there is a “Catholic Tour of England” which would include visiting many of the sites related to events of this period?

  24. Gladiatrix says:

    Dear All

    I am a legal Protestant, i.e. I am a Protestant because my mother is and so on under English law since Edward I. I understand that terrible things were done during the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, and neither denomination comes out of it with any credit. Equally, I understand that Catholics still genuinely feel they were badly treated. However, I would be grateful if people posting on this site and on the Holy Smoke site in England would refrain from bigoted abuse. It is not funny or clever. Moreover, it demonstrates a failure to understand that much of the real hatred of the Catholic Church in Britain was a direct result of the Catholic Church’s own actions. The absolute knee-jerk reaction to the possibility of a Catholic restoration in the UK, e.g. the Gordon Riots, was because there were still people living who could remember the savagery of Mary I and Cardinal Pole; and the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, and the Auto Da Fé in Spain.

    I could go on.

    It is also worth pointing out that a Pope, I repeat A POPE, issued a bull authorising British subjects who were Catholic to commit murder; specifically regicide. Where is this permitted in Christianity? The Vatican has never apologised for this. Just as it has never apologised to the people of Ireland for selling them out, literally, twice. Once to Henry II and once to the money markets during the Famine.

    Henry VIII was very far from being a playboy and really thought he was being punished for marrying his brother’s widow.

    Elizabeth I was not a whore. On a strictly technical point there is no evidence that she was EVER sexually intimate with anyone, and may indeed have been left with a real phobia about sex due to the fate of her mother, Anne Boleyn, and her cousin, Catherine Howard. Equally, given that Protestantism is a reinterpretation of Christian doctrine, neither was she a heretic.

    Queen Elizabeth II IS the rightful queen, the Catholic claim to the throne was formally and legally signed over to the Protestant claimants by Cardinal Prince Henry Stuart.

    If you are going to post comments about my country, its people and its history do you think you could have the good manners to get your facts right?

    NB: the series ‘The Tudors’ is a load of tosh, as are Jean Plaidy’s novels and the two films starring Cate Blanchett. Anyone who wants to read the real history of the Tudor dynasty should read Dr David Starkey and Christopher Hibbert’s books, the acknowledged experts on the period. If you want a properly researched set of novels based on the religious changes in England under the Tudors I can thoroughly recommend C J Sansom’s Shardlake novels: ‘Dissolution’, ‘Dark Fire’, ‘Sovereign’ and the latest book ‘Revelation’. These really illustrate why people at the time were so angry with the Catholic Church, but equally make absolutely plain that there was inexusable conduct on all sides.

  25. Certainly neither a martyr nor a good Catholic Guy Fawkes managed to cheat the crown. Condemned to the quite horrible practice of being drawn and quartered he leaped off the scaffold so as to break his own neck during the hanging portion of the punishment, resulting in his own death. This did not prevent the executioners from disemboweling and quartering his corpse.

  26. M. M. Regan says:

    1) Which Pope, in which Bull, authorised “British subjects who were Catholic to commit murder; specifically regicide”? If you are thinking of St. Pius V in “Regnans in Excelsis”, he did not authorise anyone to commit ‘murder’, nor even regicide (the two terms are not synonymous). You can read the document for yourself at any number of websites.
    2) If Henry VIII thought what you say about him, then why did he attempt to obtain for his ‘marriage’ to Anne Boleyn a dispensation from the same impediment (affinity) that supposedly rendered his marriage to Queen Katharine null?
    3) “given that Protestantism is a reinterpretation of Christian doctrine, neither was she [Elizabeth I] a heretic”. I’m not even sure where to begin . . .

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