Relic Exhibition

Welcome to the Online Relic Exhibition

We are delighted to announce the launch of the Online Relic Exhibition with the Jesuits in Britain Archives. This exhibition was prompted by the 50th anniversary of the canonisation of the Forty Martyrs.

The virtual showcase, “How bleedeth burning love”: British Jesuit Province’s Relics of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, presents treasured relics belonging to priests and laypeople martyred for their Roman Catholic faith in England and Wales in the 16th and 17th centuries - and canonised by Pope Paul VI on 25 October 1970.

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These relics shine a light on an extraordinary and little-explored period of English history, when men and women were persecuted and executed for their religious beliefs. Some of the relics in the exhibition demonstrate vividly the barbaric nature of the penalties inflicted on those who held fast to faith and conscience, while others tell very personal stories of individual spiritual journeys of historic figures such as Thomas More and Mary, Queen of Scots. These relics have been treasured for centuries, valued for the powerful stories they tell, which have been passed from generation to generation.

"The exhibition relates stories of some of the many men and women whose bravery and resourcefulness helped to keep the Catholic faith alive in those days and will also explore the extraordinary, and often perilous, journeys of these relics before they came into the sanctuary of the possession of the British Jesuit Province."

Dr Jan Graffius, curator of the Stonyhurst Collections

Featured Relics

The relics all form part of the British Jesuit Province’s collection. Much of the collection resides in the Jesuits in Britain Archives in London, and a significant part is on loan to, and cared for, by Stonyhurst College Collections in Lancashire.

Among the relics in the exhibition are those of the famous Jesuits, St Edmund Campion, St Robert Southwell and Blessed Edward Oldcorne, who were all sent to be clandestine missionaries in Elizabethan England at a time when Catholics faced persecution.

"The current situation meant we could not put on a physical exhibition as originally planned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Forty Martyrs, but by presenting the exhibition virtually, we are now able to reach a much
wider audience. We are always keen to make these artefacts more easily available to others, and we are looking forward to presenting a series of online exhibitions.

In order to make the exhibition as accessible as possible, we are presenting the collection as a visual and audio experience, with images of the relics accompanied both by text as well as a recorded narrative" 

Rebecca Somerset, Jesuits in Britain Archivist

PR & Press Features

Publisher Date URL
Thinking Faith 04/03/2021 Click here to visit
Crux 04/03/2021 Click here to visit
ICN 02/03/2021

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The Catholic Universe 14/03/2021 Click here to visit
Church Times 12/03/2021

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The Tablet 20/03/2021 Click here to visit

The exhibition is both a lovely invitation to those curious about the English and Welsh martyrs, who might want to know more of their stories and the world of Catholic relics; and also a rich way to engage with these relics and artefacts for those who have religious or historical devotion to them. Those who put together this exhibition clearly realised that their task was to allow these relics to speak, and they have succeeded well.

Thomas Flowers SJ, Thinking Faith

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