05 November 2020 22:30
The personal crucifix belonging to a Jesuit priest who was hanged, drawn and quartered in the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot is on display at the Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre. The crucifix, dated late 16th – early 17th century, was discovered in the priest's hole where York priest Fr Edward Oldcorne had gone into hiding. He was suspected of involvement in the plot because he was a Catholic priest. There was no evidence to link Fr Oldcorne to the Gunpowder Plot and so he was instead put to death for his Catholic faith on 7th April 1606. The label on the crucifix, which is thought to have been added in the 1950s, reads: 'Missionary case and crucifix found in a priest's hiding place at Henlip Castle [Hindlip Hall], Worcester, where Fr Oldcorne SJ ministered and was arrested.
'Born York. Racked 5 times. Worcester.' Sr Patricia Harriss said: "This is one of the most remarkable items in our possession and on display in the exhibition. "Today, Bonfire Night is a celebration with fireworks but in 1605 it was an event that had a profound effect on Catholics and shocked the whole country. "This crucifix, now more than 400 years old, was hidden in the priest's hole with Blessed Edward Oldcorne and would have offered him comfort in his final days. "It is incredible that is has survived and can now be used to tell the story of these men and of this extraordinary historic event that has such strong links to the city of York." The crucifix is on display in the exhibition at the Bar Convent, the oldest living convent in England, which coincidentally was first established on 5th November 1686. The founder of the order was Mary Ward- niece of Gunpowder Plotters John and Christopher Wright, and Thomas Percy. Following the Gunpowder Plot to blow up Parliament on 5th November and assassinate King James I of England and VI of Scotland, the authorities carried out raids across the country to punish all those involved, directly or by association, for treason. Fr Oldcorne, who was friends with Gunpowder Plotters Guy Fawkes and brothers Christopher and John Wright at St Peter's School, York, was under suspicion as a Catholic Jesuit priest. Fr Oldcorne had been working secretly as a Catholic chaplain at Hindlip Hall, Worcester, for 14 years. In December 1605, Fr Henry Garnet and lay-brother Nicholas Owen, who were also suspects, also sought refuge at Hindlip Hall. Along with Fr Oldcorne's servant, Ralph Ashley, all four men went into hiding into two separate priest's holes and, although the house was raided several times, they were never discovered. However, conditions in the priest's hole became unbearable and, after eight days, they surrendered. Fr Oldcorne was tortured, but despite there being no evidence to suggest he was involved in the Gunpowder Plot, he was still put to death as a Jesuit priest. He was Hanged, Drawn and Quartered on 7th April 1606. Ralph Ashley, was executed alongside him. Both were beatified in 1929. Nicholas Owen worked in the service of Fr Henry Garnet and is said to have masterminded Fr John Gerard's escape from the Tower of London in 1597. He spent 18 years of his life building priest's holes in the homes of Catholic families, despite ill-health and injury and without payment. It is said that his work was so ingenious that many of his hiding-places still remain undiscovered. He died while being tortured during the night of 1st/2nd March 1606. He was declared a saint in 1970. Fr Henry Garnet had been told of the plot some months before, but in confession, so was forbidden by Canon Law to reveal it. However, he did protest the plan and attempted to deter the plotters. Despite this, he was found guilty of treason and was hanged, drawn and quartered on 3rd May 1606. The cross is on display in the exhibition at the Bar Convent, England's oldest living convent, founded in 1686 by sisters of the Congregation of Jesus. Visitors to the convent can discover more about York's religious history, Mary Ward and the Sisters who still live there today. A spokesperson from Bar Convent told The Catholic Universe that the convent needed to close as part of the Covid-19 restrictions. However, they confirmed that Fr Oldcorne's crucifix will remain on display indefinitely so visitors can see it once it reopens. Picture: Fr Edward Oldcorne's crucifix on display. (The Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre).