Saturday 12 December 2015

From City to City, Saint Henry Morse, Newgate prison, 17th century London, St Giles in the Fields

Saint Henry Morse
Father Henry Morse
© 2014 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'Saint Henry Morse: The Priest of the Plague' DVD
Soon after his second recovery from the plague, Father Morse was committed to Newgate for being a priest and seducing his Majesty's subjects from the established religion: a certificate was read in court showing that he had perverted 560 Protestants "in and about the parish of St Giles in the Fields".
/ 51.5153111; -0.1286333St Giles-in-the-Fields, also commonly known as the Poets' Church, is now a church in the London Borough of Camden, in the West End. It is close to the Centre Point office tower and the Tottenham Court Road tube station. The church is now part of the Diocese of London within the Church of England. Several buildings have stood on the site; the present structure (in the Palladian style) was built between 1731 and 1733.
The first recorded church on this site was a chapel of the parish of Holborn attached to a monastery and leper hospital founded by Matilda of Scotland, the wife of Henry I, in 1101. England at that time had been a Roman Catholic country for many centuries. The first church stood well outside the boundaries of the city of London, though on the main road to Tyburn and Oxford. This chapel probably came to function as the church of the small village that grew up to provide services to the hospital.
Saint Henry Morse, who worked around St Giles in the Fields, would be
dragged to Tyburn for execution for upholding the ancient Catholic Faith
© 2014 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'Saint Henry Morse' DVD
The hospital was supported by the Crown and administered by the City for its first two hundred years; in fact, it was named a royal free chapel. Beginning in 1299, on the order of Edward I, it was administered by the Order of Saint Lazarus (in full, the Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus), one of the chivalric orders to survive the era of the Crusades.The fourteenth century was a turbulent one for the hospital, with frequent accusations from the City authorities that the members of the Order of Saint Lazarus, known as Lazar brothers, put the affairs of the monastery ahead of caring for the lepers.During the fourteenth century, the king, on several occasions, interfered by appointing a new head of the hospital.
In 1391, Richard II sold the hospital, chapel, and lands to the Cistercian abbey of St Mary de Graces, just by the Tower of London. In 1402 the property returned to the Lazars. Lepers were cared-for at this location until the mid sixteenth century, when the disease abated, and the monastery, instead, began to care for indigents.
During the reign of Henry V, in 1414, the village was the headquarters of Sir John Oldcastle's abortive Lollard rebellion and the site of Oldcastle's execution in 1417.
The monastery was dissolved in 1539 during the reign of Henry VIII, with the lands (excluding the church) eventually being granted to Lord Lisle in 1548. However, the chapel survived as a local parish church. The first Protestant Rector of St Giles was appointed in 1547, and the phrase, 'in the fields', was added to the church's name. An illustration from this time shows the church with a round tower and dome. A spire replaced this structure in 1617.
Saint Henry Morse visits the Plague Victims around St Giles in the Fields
© 2014 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'Saint Henry Morse' DVD
The early church fell into disrepair and a Gothic brick structure was built between 1623 and 1630, mostly paid for by the Duchess of Dudley, the wife of Sir Robert Dudley. The new building was consecrated by William Laud, the Anglican Bishop of London.An illuminated manuscript listing the subscribers to the rebuilding, is still kept in the church.
The first victims of the 1665 Great Plague were buried in St Giles's churchyard and by the end of the plague year there were 3,216 listed plague deaths in this church's parish, which had fewer than 2,000 households. Other notable burials of the period include twelve Roman Catholic martyrs (killed on the testimony of Titus Oates), who were later beatified, and are buried near the church's north wall: Saint Oliver Plunkett, Archbishop of Armagh, burial (according to the parish Burial Register) on 1 July 1681, canonised in 1975 (he was later exhumed and taken to Lamspringe in Germany, with the head being now at Drogheda and the body at Downside), the five Jesuit fathers with whom Saint Oliver Plunkett asked to be buried, Thomas Whitbread, William Harcourt, John Fenwick, John Gavan and Anthony Turner (martyr). Edward Coleman (or Colman), secretary to the Duchess of York, Richard Langhorne, barrister, Edward Micó, priest (died soon after arrest; the only one of the twelve not to be executed at Tyburn), William Ireland, priest, John Grove, priest and Thomas Pickering, laybrother.
For being a priest, Father Henry Morse was banished in 1641, and again he devoted himself to the English soldiers quartered in Flanders, till in 1643 he returned to the north of England, and there resumed his missionary work.
Saint Henry Morse in 'Saint Anthony's' recusant home
© 2014 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'Saint Henry Morse' DVD
He was soon arrested but, being lodged for the night in a constable's house whose wife was a Catholic, she enabled him to escape. About six weeks after, however, he was recognised, again arrested, and shipped from Newcastle to London. At sea he endured much from the crew's brutality, and was nearly lost with the ship in a storm. The martyr's crown was, however, to be his. Arrived in London, he was committed to Newgate and, notwithstanding that his brother, a Protestant, did all he could to save his life, he was sentenced to death for high treason on his previous conviction of being a priest.
"And when they shall persecute you in one city, flee into another." - Matt. 10, 23.
In 2014, Mary's Dowry Productions filmed scenes from the lives of Saint Henry Morse and Saint John Southworth, including their missions among the plague victims in London. Our film about Saint Henry Morse is available on DVD through:
Saint Henry Morse in prison
© 2014 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'Saint Henry Morse' DVD
Saint Henry Morse DVD:

Like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Father Henry Morse, an English Jesuit missionary priest, worked among the abandoned social outcasts in 17th century London.  His kind character and spiritual guidance touched the lives of many of his time including the Queen of England.  From his earliest years to his final days, saint Henry Morse gave an example of beautiful Catholic hope and purpose.

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 Saint.

Length and Format:
The film runs for 30 minutes and is available worldwide on Region Free DVD.

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