1st Edition

The Construction of Martyrdom in the English Catholic Community, 1535–1603

By Anne Dillon Copyright 2003

    Between 1535 and 1603, more than 200 English Catholics were executed by the State for treason. Drawing on an extraordinary range of contemporary sources, Anne Dillon examines the ways in which these executions were transformed into acts of martyrdom. Utilizing the reports from the gallows, the Catholic community in England and in exile created a wide range of manuscripts and texts in which they employed the concept of martyrdom for propaganda purposes in continental Europe and for shaping Catholic identity and encouraging recusancy at home. Particularly potent was the derivation of images from these texts which provided visual means of conveying the symbol of the martyr. Through an examination of the work of Richard Verstegan and the martyr murals of the English College in Rome, the book explores the influence of these images on the Counter Reformation Church, the Jesuits, and the political intentions of English Catholics in exile and those of their hosts. The Construction of Martyrdom in the English Catholic Community, 1535-1603 shows how Verstegan used the English martyrs in his Theatrum crudelitatum of 1587 to rally support from Catholics on the Continent for a Spanish invasion of England to overthrow Elizabeth I and her government. The English martyr was, Anne Dillon argues, as much a construction of international, political rhetoric as it was of English religious and political debate; an international Catholic banner around which Catholic European powers were urged to rally.

    Contents: Introduction; The pseudomartyr debate; Spectaculum facti sumus Deo: the scaffold as text; Spectaculum facti sumus Deo: the scaffold as image; Martyrs and murals; Theatrum crudelitatum: the theatre of cruelties; A trewe reporte of the li(fe) and marterdome of Mrs Margarete Clitherowe; The treatise of the three conversions; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.


    Anne Dillon

    'Anne Dillon writes about a fascinating topic in a lucid, accessible and straight-forward style....a pleasure to read...marks a major advance on previous scholarship and is the finest book on English Catholic martyrs and martyrologies in or out of print.' Journal of Ecclesiastical History '... the work, a mine of information on so many topics, is provided with excellent bibliographies, including manuscript sources, contemporary printed workds and 'second works' with a significant list of 'unpublished dissertations and theses'. The footnotes likewise are of excellent quality... the book is a worthy companion to the publications of Patrick Collinson, David Loades and others on the Protestant propagandists and publicists working on the same theme.' Recusant History '... a major addition to the field of early modern studies.' Heythrop 'Anne Dillon has contributed to a deeper understanding of the significance of martyrdom in Tudor times.' Church History ’Anne Dillon's important book, the first to look at the subject of the presentation of martyrdom from the English Catholic perspective, is greatly benefited by a considerable number of illustrations of images used in 16th and 17th century writings, and has an impressive bibliography and index.’ Revue d’Histoire Ecclésiastique