As much recent work on recusancy in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England has shown us, the Protestant Reformation did not instantaneously wipe out the remnants of Catholic belief. This essay takes up sixteenth- and seventeenth-century recusant prose and verse accounts of the executions of four priests: Edmund Campion and Alexander Brian in 1581, Edmund Geninges in 1591, and Robert Southwell in 1595. In the narratives of these deaths, we can see how English Reformations not only occasioned new relic-making by English Catholics, but also, paradoxically, resulted in relic cults that were more accessible and intimate than those of the medieval Catholic past. In contrast to the relic cults of late medieval England, martyrs were exemplary models to follow, confessors, friends, and confidantes; and supplicants could be like the saint in that they too might be persecuted, might suffer bodily torments for the faith, and might work miracles by virtue of their suffering.

You do not currently have access to this content.