The torturing  of a Jesuit priest in the Tower of London  (Father John Gerard, 1597)

Detail of a Hunted PriestAnother in the occasional series on contemporary accounts of events in the history of London, this one written by the Jesuit priest Father John Gerard in 1597

“[T]he warder came to my room … .  Looking sorry for himself, he said the Lords Commissioners had arrived with the Queen’s Attorney-General and that I had to go down to them at once.

‘I am ready’, I said, ‘but just let me say an Our Father and Hail Mary downstairs.’

He let me go, and then we went off together to the Lieutenant’s lodgings … .  Five men were there waiting for me, none of whom, except Wade, had examined me before.  He was there to direct the charges against me … .

Father Garnet (the Great Equivocator)

Father Garnet (the Great Equivocator), sought by the torturers

‘You say’, said the Attorney-General, ‘you have no wish to obstruct the Government.  Tell us then, where Father Garnet is.  He is an enemy of the state, and you are bound to report on all such men.’

‘He isn’t an enemy of the state’, I said, ‘but I don’t know where he lives, and if I did, I would not tell you.’

‘Then we’ll see to it that you tell us before we leave this place.’

‘Please God you won’t’, I answered.

They  then  produced a warrant for putting me to torture … .

We went to the torture-room in a kind of solemn procession, the attendants walking ahead with lighted candles.

The chamber was underground and dark … .   [E]very device and instrument of human torture was there.  They pointed out some of them to me and said I would try them all.  Then they asked me again whether I would confess.

‘I cannot’, I said”.

Autobiography of a Hunted Priest

Autobiography of a Hunted Priest

And so they tortured him, until he thought he was going to die.  And with that thought,  that grace of resignation, the conflict in his soul ceased, and the pain in his body eased, or at least appeared to.  His faith had held firm, and he did not “confess”.   A little later they let him loose.

1 thought on “The torturing  of a Jesuit priest in the Tower of London  (Father John Gerard, 1597)

  1. Ben St.Hilaire

    The UK should celebrate Gerard as a Jesuit James Bond. A modern spy could learn about discretion, loyalty, conscience, safe houses, cover stories, and prison escapes from him.

    Get over your anti-Catholicism, UK. He’s one of your stars


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