Alexander Briant

(c. 1556—1581) Roman Catholic priest and martyr

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(c.1556–81), priest and martyr. Born in Somerset, Briant was educated at Hart Hall, Oxford; while an undergraduate he returned to the R.C. Church in 1574 and entered the English College, Douai, in 1577. He was ordained priest in 1578 and returned to Somerset in 1579, where he reconciled many to the Church including the father of the famous Robert Persons, S.J. In the outcry for the arrest of the latter in 1581 (see Campion, Edmund) Alexander Briant was taken by pursuivants in London from the very next house to that in which Persons was hiding. Briant was imprisoned in the Tower and savagely tortured by starvation, the rack, the thumbscrew, needles under his nails, and the ‘scavenger's daughter’. All these failed to elicit from him the wanted information, especially the whereabouts of Persons. One of his torturers described him as a miracle of pertinacity. News of his treatment shocked contemporaries and elicited a reply from the government in 1583. From prison he applied for admission to the Society of Jesus but, although his formal entry could not be arranged, he is often claimed as a Jesuit. On 21 November he was tried at Westminster Hall and found guilty of a fictitious plot. He suffered with Edmund Campion and Ralph Sherwin the usual execution on 1 December. He was canonized by Paul VI in 1970 as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. Feast: 25 October.

From The Oxford Dictionary of Saints in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Christianity.

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