Sunday 18 April 2010

St. Swithun Wells - Martyr for priests

There are few resources available for this inspiring Catholic layman, who was hanged with young St. Fr. Edmund Gennings in 1591. In 2010 Mary's Dowry Productions filmed for a DVD St. Swithun Wells who was executed for his part in hiding many hunted priests in Elizabethan England. The DVD is available through

Saint Swithun Wells with his wife Alice
Screenshot from 'The Secret Mass Room'
© 2010 Mary's Dowry Productions
Saint Swithun Wells travelled the continent, often linked with the patron of playwright William Shakespeare, before returning to England and marrying his devout Catholic wife Alice. His own love of prayer and the Catholic faith was evident to those who knew him.

Saint Swithun Wells returns home to find the secret Mass room
in his house abandoned and in disarray after a raid by priest hunter
Richard Topcliffe who apprehend his wife, servants and the priests
he was sheltering.
Screenshot from 'The Secret Mass Room'
© 2010 Mary's Dowry Productions
 Keen to assist priests during the troubled times of Elizabethan England, Saint Swithun built a secret Mass room in his London home where priests could celebrate Mass for his friends and neighbours. Saint Swithun's kind, jovial nature was evident in his dealings with all, even those who were hostile towards the outlawed Catholic Faith.

Saint Swithun is taken from his wife Alice to go to trial.
Alice later died in prison for the Catholic Faith
Screenshot from 'The Secret Mass Room'
© Mary's Dowry Productions
When he returned one morning to find the Secret Mass room in disarray, his daughter told him that the infamous priest hunter Richard Topcliffe had arrested Alice, their servants and the priests who were celebrating Mass. Saint Swithun arrived at the prison and was promptly arrested too.
Even in the face of trials, Saint Swithun was known to keep a peaceful and positive attitude. He has left us an inspiring example that especially shines out in his love for priests.

Saint Swithun Wells prays for Saint Edmund Gennings as he
awaits his own execution
Screenshot from 'The Secret Mass Room'
© Mary's Dowry Productions 2010
Our DVD was filmed over the course of two days specifically in the barn and courtyard attached to our parish church, where parishioners and friends prayerfully and silently portrayed certain moments from Saint Swithun Wells' story. We also filmed external scenes and beautiful scenery at Parham Park and Gardens as well as on the Sussex South Downs. The film comes together with original music that aids contemplation and a narrative told in Saint Swithun Wells' own words.
We seek to offer a prayerful way in which to quietly encounter this inspiring English Saint.
Saint Swithun Wells and his wife Alice in the Tower of London
© Mary's Dowry Productions 2010
 "Hurry up please, Mr. Topcliffe. Are you not ashamed to make a poor old man stand in his shirt in the cold? God pardon you and make you of a Saul a Paul, of a bloody persecutor one of the Catholic Church's children. By your malice I am thus to be executed, but you have done me the greatest benefit that ever I could have had. I heartily forgive you." - Last words of St. Swithun Wells at the gallows - 1591.

Our DVD is available worldwide in all region formats:

In 2007 Mary’s Dowry productions created a new form of film media to present the lives of the saints. Mary’s Dowry Productions recreates stunning silent visuals, informative, devotional narration, and original contemplative music that touches your spirit to draw you into a spiritual encounter with the saint. Watch with your spiritual eye, listen with your spiritual ear. Our films seek to offer a window into the lives of our saints. Using your spiritual senses we invite you to shut out the world, sit prayerfully and peacefully and go on a journey of faith, history and prayer with this inspiring Elizabethan Saint.

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