Ralph Sherwin

(1550—1581) Roman Catholic priest and martyr

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(1550–81), seminary priest and martyr. Born at Roddesly (Derbyshire), he was educated at Exeter College, Oxford, where he obtained a Fellowship and, being considered ‘an acute philosopher and an excellent Grecian and Hebrician’, enjoyed the patronage of the Earl of Leicester. He was received into the R.C. Church in 1574 and joined the English College, Douai, where he was ordained priest in 1577. He next went to the English College, Rome, then deeply divided, and with a few others asked Pope Gregory XIII to place the College under Jesuit direction, which was eventually done.

In 1580 he gladly went to England with Edmund Campion and Robert Persons. His apostolate lasted only a few months. He was arrested at Nicholas Roscarrock's London house, imprisoned in chains at the Marshalsea, racked twice in the Tower and starved for several days to make him divulge the names of those he had reconciled to the Church. He is also said to have been offered a bishopric in the Church of England if he would conform. He was tried at Westminster Hall with Edmund Campion and suffered the same fate at Tyburn on 1 December. At his trial he had said: ‘The plain reason for our standing here is religion, not treason.’ A posthumous portrait survives at the English College, Rome, of which he was the protomartyr. 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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