The Not-So-Incredible Hulks

Today in the 2005 Martyrologium Romanum there is the following entry:

11*. Ad ancoram in salo ante portum Rupifortii in Gallia, beati Antonii Constantis Auriel, presbyteri et martyris, qui, vicarius paroecialis Cadurcensis, temporibus gallicae perturbationis propter sacerdotium in squalida navi inclusus, mox morbo correptus in concaptivis adiuvandis spiritum reddidit.

You readers can work on the a perfect English version.

Rupifortium (ad litus Galliae), from Latin rupes (“rock”, French roche) and fortis (“strong” French fort) is none other than the coastal city of Rochefort, 18 miles south of La Rochelle in France on the right bank of the Charante, 6 miles east of the Bay of Biscay.

In the meantime, have you ever heard about the prison hulks?  The old ships used to incarcerate priests and religious during the French Revolution?

This episode in human history is an example of some of the very worst treatment of man by man.

The Martyrs of Rochefort were beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1995.

These blesseds are called the “les martyrs des pontons de Rochefort… martyrs of the ‘hulks’ of Rochefort” because, condemned to deportation, they were held in old ships used as prisons (pontons): the Washington, La Décade, La Vaillante, La Bayonnaise, Les Deux-Associés, and Bonhomme Richard.

827 priests and religious refused to swear the oath of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy of 12 July 1790, by which the Assembly attempted to reorganize the Church according to the model of the state.  By this instrument the state confiscated Church property and effectively forced clergy to commit a formal act of apostasy.

Of the 827 held in the “hulks” from 11 April 1794 to 7 February 1795, 542 died enduring horrific suffering for their faith, martyrs of the “Revolution”.  Some of the 285 survivors left written testimonies about the heroic examples of their martyred companions.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. chloesmom says:

    IIRC, the “Bonhomme Richard” was John Paul Jones’ ship. What a sad fate for such a vessel.

  2. dmwallace says:

    Does anyone know of any books on the subject of these priest-martyrs?

  3. Dr. Chipotle says:

    Prison hulks were a common way to hold prisoners up into the late 20th century, especially when a large number of prisoners were arrested in a hurry (such as political revolutions/purges and POWs).

    The British kept captured patriots/rebels on prison hulks in New York harbor during the American Revolution. The conditions were appalling and more Americans died on the prison hulks than were killed in combat. See

  4. chloesmom: “Bonhomme Richard” was John Paul Jones’ ship

    I think that was a different Bonhomme Richard. The particular USS Bonhomme Richard you are thinking of sank of the coast of Yorkshire after the famous battle with HMS Serapis.

    I am wondering about the inclusion of a Bonhomme Richard in the list of hulk ships. Something may be amiss.

    A bit of trivia: The ship was named in honor of Benjamin Franklin, whose pen name was “Poor Richard”. “Bonhomme” = “Goodman” = “Poor”.

  5. asperges says:

    I love the expression: “temporibus gallicae perturbationis,” which sounds like just a little local difficulty.

    Talk of the hulks reminds me of Dicken’s Great Expectations: (Mrs Joe, exasperated, to Pip) “Hulks are prison ships right cross the meshes (marshes).. people are put in the hulks because they murder, and because they rob.. and do all sorts of bad; and they always begin by asking questions!”

    In this case, the hulks were moored in the Thames Estuary. Magwitch was to be deported to Australia.

  6. Andrew says:

    Anchored in the sea by the port of Rochefort in France, the blessed Anthony Constant Auriel, priest and martyr, who, as vicar of the parish of Cahors during the french revolution on account of his clerical state was locked up in a grimy boat, soon after became ill and gave up his spirit while helping his fellow prisoners.

  7. albizzi says:

    French sailormen taken as POW by the Brits during naval battles were jailed on such prison hulks in England.
    Some accounts left by survivors are horrific too.
    The famous corsair Surcouf succeded in escaping from a british pontoon and immediately resumed striking again the English trade and warships

  8. BrEdmund says:

    We have seven martirized Brothers of the Christian Schools(De La Salle Chrstian Brothers) from “les pontons de Rochefort”. Brothers Roger, Leon, Uldaric, Pierre-Christophe, Donat-Joseph, Avertin and Jugon. The last three survived and were liberated on February 12, 1795. The first four died in prison but in the group of the beati only Brothers Roger, Leon and Uldaric are included. Information about the fourth, Brother Pierre-Christophe, was unavailable and so he was not included in the group.

    On Sunday, October 1, 1995, His Holiness John Paul II beatified 64 martyrs: the priest John Baptist Souzy’s group (the Vicar General of La Rochelle), who, along with 63 companions, died as victims of suffering for the faith during the French Revolution.

    They are called «martyrs of the hulks of Rochefort» because of the place where they were held as prisoners. The name hulk was given to the old boats ordinarily used as storage ships, hospitals or prison ships.

    There were two boats that served as prisons: “The Two Associates” and the “Washington” and these were based in Rochefort, where the river Charente emptied, in the department (county) of Rochelle.

    There were in all 827 priest and religious prisoners, the majority of whom had refused to swear the oath of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, which would be considered an apostasy of the faith.

    Of the 827 prisoners, 542 of them died during the months of captivity in the pontoons: from April 11, 1794 to February 7, 1795. All had to endure terrible suffering and vexations for the faith and they died as a result of maltreatment. The 285 survivors were freed on February 12, 1795, and they were able to return to their places of origin. Some of them left written testimony about the heroic examples of their martyred companions.

    Blessed Brother Roger (Pierre-Sulpice-Christophe Faverge)
    Born in Orléans, France, July 25, 1745
    Entered the Novitiate in 1767

    Blessed Brother Uldaric (Jean-Baptiste Guillaume)
    Born in Fraisans, France, February 1, 1755
    Entered the Novitiate October 16, 1785

    Blessed Brother Léon (Jean Mopinot)
    Born in Reims, France, September 12,1724
    Entered the Novitiate January 14, 1744

    Martyred in 1794
    Beatified on October 1, 1995

  9. AnAmericanMother says:

    Many Highlanders who were “out” in the ’45 died in the prison hulks on the Thames. The Fleet Prison and Tilbury Fort weren’t much better though.

  10. woodardj says:

    Given the migration of aliens into Gaul–rather like the collapse of 406–one suspects that the First Daughter of the Church has little time left to repent. It is truly amazing that the French continue to celebrate the Revolution and the slaughter of their own youth, with most of the Paris boulevards named for Napoleon’s bully-boys.

  11. carl b says:

    Anchored down in the sea before the port of Rochefort in France, blessed Anthony Constantis Auriel, priest and martyr, who, a parochial vicars of Cahors, in the time of the French Revolution, on account of the priest having been imprisoned in a squalid ship, was seized immediately by sickness, restored the spirit of his fellow prisoners, needful of aid.

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