Monday, March 21, 2011
March 22 -- Feast of St. Nicholas Owen
There were two promising names in the saints' list for today: Hugolinus Zefferini and Benevento Scotivoli of Osimo. I was hoping for some equally colorful stories, but the best info available was that Benny Scots had gone to school with a guy named Saint Sylvester Gozzolini, aka Sly Gonzo. Great names, but without equally good stories to back them up, I have to fall back on Merry Old England.
Way back in the sixteenth century, a carpenter in Oxford had four sons. One printed Catholic books, two were priests, and the fourth -- Nicholas -- was a carpenter. You'd think he'd have been the safe one, but his specialty became building hiding holes for Catholic priests during the Tudor - Stuart persecutions. [I am trying to kick the habit, but these British persecutions are so addictive.]
Anyway, Nick did time in the slammer for having defended the notorious papist Edmund Campion at his trial. They worked him over in prison, but he didn't crack, and once he was on the street again, he went back to his old Romish ways. He was apparently very ingenious in designing these holes, and he worked in great secrecy. But when he was busted in London in 1594, the Tower staff went to great lengths to make him uncomfortable. The plan was to crack him so he'd spill about the holes, and then they'd round up every priest on the island. He was hung for hours by the wrists, but he wouldn't sing. Eventually, friends bribed the guards to spring him.
When Guy Fawkes' Gunpowder Plot was revealed in 1605, Nick went to ground in Hindlip Hall. The Heat knew where he was, but they held their fire until all the regular conspirators were rounded up. Then they showed up at Hindlip with a hundred men to search the place. There were two hiding holes, each with two men. The search lasted a week, and as the food was running out, Nick gave himself up in hopes of the others getting away. No such luck -- the guys in the other hole were caught, hanged, drawn, and quartered right there in Worcestershire. Nick and the priest he was hiding with were taken to the Tower.
The interrogators went back to hanging Nick from iron rings, hoping to persuade him to talk about all the hiding holes he had built. Then they noticed an old hernia starting to give way. They put an iron ring around his middle to support the old injury so they could keep up the torture -- didn't work. He died of the internal hemorrhage.
Posted by Tom Major at 8:36 PM