Forty Martyrs of England and Wales

Feast Day : 4 May (England) 25 October (Wales)

The Forty Martyrs of England and Wales comprise a group of Catholic men and women who were executed for treason and related offences in the Kingdom of England between 1535 and 1679. Many were sentenced to death at show trials; or with no trial at all. This religious repression existed in part because faithful Roman Catholics were required to rebel against the English Crown by papal bulls such as the Regnans in Excelsis. They are considered by the Catholic Church to be Christian martyrs.

The martyrs

  • Saint John Almond
  • Saint Edmund Arrowsmith
  • Saint Ambrose Barlow
  • Saint John Boste
  • Saint Alexander Briant
  • Saint Edmund Campion
  • Saint Margaret Clitherow
  • Saint Philip Evans
  • Saint Thomas Garnet
  • Saint Edmund Gennings
  • Saint Richard Gwyn
  • Saint John Houghton
  • Saint Philip Howard
  • Saint John Jones
  • Saint John Kemble
  • Saint Luke Kirby
  • Saint Robert Lawrence
  • Saint David Lewis
  • Saint Anne Line
  • Saint John Lloyd
  • Saint Cuthbert Mayne
  • Saint Henry Morse
  • Saint Nicholas Owen
  • Saint John Payne
  • Saint Polydore Plasden
  • Saint John Plessington
  • Saint Richard Reynolds
  • Saint John Rigby
  • Saint John Roberts
  • Saint Alban Roe
  • Saint Ralph Sherwin
  • Saint John Southworth
  • Saint Robert Southwell
  • Saint John Stone
  • Saint John Wall
  • Saint Henry Walpole
  • Saint Margaret Ward
  • Saint Augustine Webster
  • Saint Swithun Wells
  • Saint Eustace White

Canonization process

Following beatifications between 1886 and 1929, there were already numerous martyrs from England and Wales recognised with the rank of Blessed. The bishops of the province identified a list of 40 further names; reasons given for the choice of those particular names include a spread of social status, religious rank, geographical spread and the pre-existence of popular devotion. The list of names was submitted to Rome in December 1960, and Catholics began to pray specifically to this group of martyrs to obtain favours from God. Out of 20 candidate cases for recognition as answered prayers, the cure of a young mother from a malignant tumour was selected as the clearest case. Pope Paul VI granted permission for the whole group of 40 names to be recognised as saints on the strength of this one miracle. The canonization ceremony took place in Rome on 25 October 1970.

Liturgical feast day

In England, these martyrs were formerly commemorated within the Catholic Church by a feast day on 25 October, which is also the feast of Saints Crispin and Crispinian, but they are now celebrated together with all the 284 canonized or beatified martyrs of the English Reformation on 4 May.

In Wales, the Catholic Church keeps 25 October as the feast of the 'Six Welsh Martyrs and their companions'. The Welsh Martyrs are the priests Philip Evans and John Lloyd, John Jones, David Lewis, John Roberts, and the teacher Richard Gwyn. The 'companions' are the 34 English Martyrs listed above. Wales continues to keep 4 May as a separate feast for the beatified martyrs of England and Wales.

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