Edmund Arrowsmith

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Edmund Arrowsmith

Edmund Arrowsmith (b. 1585 at Haydock; † 28 August 1628), also known as Brian Arrowsmith, was a Jesuit priest and one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales


Edmund Arrowsmith was born to Robert Arrowsmith, a farmer, and his wife Margery Arrowsmith. He was baptized Brian, but throughout his life preferred the name Edmund, which he received at confirmation. His parents, rebelling against government oppression, fought for their faith and hosted Catholic priests in their home. For this they were jailed in the interim and had to leave their children in the care of neighbors. His grandfather Nicholas Gerard rejected the Anglican Church and his other grandfather died in prison as a Confessor. While still a boy, Edmund is said to have been placed in the care of an old priest who wanted to relieve his now widowed mother.

In 1605 he left England to complete his theological education in Douai. For health reasons, however, he was forced to interrupt this shortly afterwards and return to England. He continued his education there as early as 1607, was ordained priest in 1612, and a year later began work as a pastor in his home county, Lancashire. Because of the proclamation against Jesuits of 1591 and the fear of Catholic spies, Edmund was first imprisoned about 1622 and brought before the Bishop of Chester who now questioned him. He regained his freedom surprisingly, by a decree of King James I. In 1623/24 he joined the Jesuit order and resumed his duties as a chaplain.

Condemnation and death

In the summer of 1628 he was betrayed, after a short escape on horseback he was arrested again and accused of high treason as a Jesuit priest for violation of the Acts of Supremacy. On 28 August 1628 the death sentence was carried out. Before that, his fellow prisoner, St. John Southworth (another of the 40 martyrs), had been able to absolve him. The last words of St. Edmund Arrowsmith are said to have been Bone Jesu.

The Holy Hand

A believer managed to sever his right hand immediately after the execution. It is now preserved and venerated as a relic in St. Oswald’s Church, Ashton-in-Makerfield, Lancashire, England.


They were beatified in 1929 and in 1970 the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales were canonized by Pope Paul VI. Their day of commemoration is 25 October.


  • Joseph Spillmann: History of the Persecution of Catholics in England from 1535 to 1681, Vol. 4, pp. 212-223, Herder Verlag, Freiburg, 1905

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