The Tudor Society

Monday Martyr – Durham martyr John Boste

An illustration of John Boste from "The Life and Times of Saint John Boste: Catholic Martyr of Durham 1544 - 1594" by Simon WebbToday is the anniversary of the execution of Durham martyr John Boste in 1594, so I thought I'd share more details on Boste's life and how he came to be martyred in Elizabeth I's reign.

Here are some facts about St John Boste:

Boste was conveyed by cart to the gallows, blessing people on the way. In Bishop Challoner's "Memoirs of Missionary Priests" is an account of Boste's execution by eye-witness Reverend Mr Christopher Robinson. Robinson writes of how Boste tried to make a speech, but was cut off, so said to the crowd, "I hope in God that if you will not suffer me to speak unto you in this world, this my death will speak in your hearts, that which I would have spoken". He was then able to speak more:
"At last said he, seeing you will not suffer me to speak to you, suffer me speak to my soul in the psalms of the prophet David. You may, said the sheriff. Then said the martyr, holding up his hands towards the heavens, fixing his heart upon God, and lifting up his eyes: — Convertere anima mea in requiem tuam, quia Dominus beneficit tibi. Return, O my soul, into thy rest, because God hath done well unto thee. And why hath God done well unto thee? It followeth; quia eripuit animam meam a morte, oculos meos a lacrymis, pedes meos a lapsu. Because he hath delivered my soul from death. From death, what is that? From the sting of heresy, wherewith our country, alas! is infected, plagued and pestered. So, said the sheriff, keep your peace, speak no more. Alas! said he, this is but the psalm of the prophet, and therefore cannot be hurtful. Yea, said the sheriff, but you make a commentary upon it; say it in Latin as oft as you will. Then the martyr seeing it was not allowed to speak English, repeated the words of the prophet in Latin until he came to the end of the psalm."

Boste also affirmed that upon his death, he never intended to hurt the queen.

Boste was then hanged, taken down, his belly cut open, his "members" cut off and thrown into the fire before his bowels were removed "in a most butcherly manner". He was then beheaded and his body quartered.

Bishop Challoner states that Mrs Claxton was condemned to death for harbouring John Boste, but that "she was reprieved by the means of friends, and afterwards pardoned."

Notes and Sources

Image: An illustration of John Boste from "The Life and Times of Saint John Boste: Catholic Martyr of Durham 1544 - 1594" by Simon Webb.

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