Archive for Religion

29 September 1637 – Lorenzo Ruiz

Posted in Beheaded, Death penalty, Martyred with tags , , , , , on September 29 by Old Sparky

Lorenzo Ruiz

Lorenzo Ruiz

Eat yer heart out David Blaine with your pseudo-hangin’ upside down, for we’ve found a story to top your stunt.

So let’s head to the Philippines via Japan for the latest instalment of notable dates with death.

Today marks a historic event in the Far Eastern Catholic calendar for it heralds the death of the first Filipino saint. His name was Lorenzo Ruiz and he lost his life in Nagasaki under particularly torturous conditions. But more of that later…

Ruiz grew up around Catholics and is said to have spent his childhood in a Dominican monastery in Binondo, in the Philippines, before putting his education to good use by becoming a calligrapher in later life.

Of course with this Godly start in life, things should have gone swimmingly, but he became embroiled in some dodgy court case. Virtually all sources are a little hazy on the old detail around the legal proceedings, but they all agreed that if found guilty, Ruiz would’ve got the death penalty.

Missionaries position

It was this threat that prompted him to flee the Philippines, and where did the chump and his ecclesiastical mates head for? Only Japan, which not 20 years beforehand had passed an act banning Catholicism. So, it was not the safest of havens for a devout Christian to be absconding to.

Indeed the Japanese Shogun of the day, Tokogawa Yeyasu ruled that there would be zero tolerance of other religions and any examples would be treated with stark animosity.

So when a bunch of missionaries turned up on their hostile shores, there was hardly going to be a welcoming committee. Soon after they were banged up between 1636 and 1637 before being shipped off to Nagasaki for the trial of their lives.

’Orific injuries

But this was like no other trial we understand, in that the suspects were tortured. The infamous water torture comprised getting the missionaries to force-guzzle copious amounts of water, laying them flat, then placing a plank over their stomachs and standing people on either end. This then displaced the water so it spurted out of every available orifice.

If this didn’t break them, then needles were stuck underneath their nails and strummed like a guitar. Only one of the individuals being made to convert buckled, but he had a rethink after the torture and went on to face the ultimate penalty for failing to renounce God; death.

Feet first

Let’s face it, given the torture methods, the execution was hardly going to be a walk in the park so brace yourself. The missionaries and priests were carted off to what’s known now as the Mountain of Martyrs.

Here they were hanged by their feet from a gallows and suspended half in half out of a pit according to ‘stlorenzo.com’. The pit was then closed off and heaped high with stones. The men were then left to be slowly crushed and macerated in their own blood, or suffocate, or die, or all of the above. Alternatively they could’ve renounced God.

None of them did.

This torture could last days, but the authorities got bored of waiting because it was interrupting their social lives, so they ‘commuted’ the sentences to beheadings two days later.

Problem was that 37ish-year-old Ruiz was already dead, along with one other. But three had managed to hang on and they were promptly put out of their miseries. However, it didn’t end there – in a final act of evil, the bodies were then cremated and the ashes cast out to sea, so the dead men could kiss goodbye to Judgement Day.

Not to be outdone, the Catholics went one better. Ruiz was sainted in 1987 and his feast day now falls on 28 September.

As for the Japanese, this was just a small fraction of the deaths that took place during this period. In fact, they were so sick of the religious intervention, they closed their doors to Johnny Foreigners that very same year, with the exception of a few Dutch men, according to a report by the ‘New York Times’. They were to cut themselves off from the rest of the world for a full 200 years.

Also on this day

29 September 1827 – George Heyworth

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4 July 1597 – Henry Abbot

Posted in Death penalty, Quartered with tags , , , on July 4 by Old Sparky

Bait was used to lure Henry Abbott to his death in the 16th century. And with a name like Abbott, it seems fitting that his crime was religion-based.

A Yorkshire man by birth, Abbott was a Catholic convert at a time when England was in the grip of the Reformation – a break away from Roman Catholicism towards the establishment of the Church of England and Protestantism.

Going underground

Like Margaret Clitherow, he was just trying to practice his religion covertly – that was until the perfect scam artist came along to blow the whole operation wide open.

A dubious Protestant minister had been sent to jail and needed to make amends for his nefarious deeds, so he pretended to his fellow prisoners that he was a convert to the Catholic faith.

On release from jail, the cunning Protestant put it about that he was after a Catholic priest to help him repent – Abbot got wind of his request and agreed to set up the meeting.

Abbott ails

Instead, no sooner than the minister had enough evidence, he betrayed Abbott to the authorities and the poor bloke was arrested, found guilty of hiding a priest and sentenced to die.

Abbot was strung up, then unceremoniously stripped of his nether equipment and quartered in York on 4 July 1597.

Also on this day

4 July 1923 – Rowland Duck

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1 July 1681 – Saint Oliver Plunkett

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged, drawn & quartered with tags , , , , on July 1 by Old Sparky

Saint Oliver PlunkettArchbishop Plunkett remained poised and calm to the last, even forgiving those responsible for his death…right before he was hanged, drawn and quartered.

Plunkett’s junket

Born in Ireland in the early part of the seventeenth century, Oliver studied to enter the priesthood in Rome. When religious turmoil made it impossible for him to return to his native land he stayed on in the safe confines of Italy teaching and spreading the word of God.

As the persecution intensified Plunkett was forced into hiding and he battled against ill-health and the pressures of being on the run, while desperately trying not to neglect his flock.

Road to martyrdom

When he was eventually arrested on charges of treason, the government of the day failed to get the guilty verdict they were after. So, they bundled Plunkett off to London for another day in court.

While he was not given enough time to call his own witnesses from Ireland, the prosecution was able to find several people who were prepared to fabricate evidence against him.

Naturally, as a result of such a skewed trial, the 51-year-old was condemned to die at Tyburn, the last Catholic martyr to die on English soil. He was sainted as recently as 1992, by Pope John Paul II.

Also on this day

1 July 1997 – Harold McQueen

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22 June 1535 – John Fisher

Posted in Beheaded, Death penalty with tags , , , on June 22 by Old Sparky

John FisherMary I of England was her dad’s daughter all right. It was easy to see where she got her propensity to bump off religious people from. After all Henry VIII was just the same, just he was motivated by a different religion – Protestantism.

You see, Henry had just passed the Act of Supremacy which had given him carte blanche to do whatever the hell he liked. And that meant execute anyone who spoke out against his new-found über-powers, one example of whom was the Catholic John Fisher.

Ok, so maybe Henry wasn’t as over-zealous as his tyrannical daughter, who is said to have doled out the penalty to over 300-odd blighters in three years – more than the total executed in the previous 200 years. But that didn’t stop Henry having a good go at setting a bloodied example.

So, back to John Cardinal Fisher or St John Fisher as he was to become known. He was brazenly outspoken and happily dissed Henry’s new deity-like power.

Keen to stamp out the resistance, Henry was quick to get shot of the Catholic and he sentenced the bishop to death. However, because the priest had been tried as a common man, he was sentenced to be hanged drawn and quartered at Tyburn.

But this caused a public outcry and parallels were being drawn with his namesake John the Baptist, so Henry decided to ‘reduce’ his sentence to one of beheading. This took place at Tower Hill on this day in 1535, when Fisher had hit the ripe age of about 66. But ironically, this method of dispatch just served to compound the similarities, because that was precisely how John the Baptist was executed.

As a result, John Fisher was canonised as a martyr in 1935, by Pope Pius XI.

Also on this day

22 June 2000 – Shaka Sankofa (aka Gary Graham)
22 June 1920 – William Aldred

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5 June 851 – St Sancho – a Martyr of Córdoba

Posted in Death penalty, Impaled, Martyred with tags , , , , , on June 5 by Last Writes

St Sancho (aka Sanctius or Sancius) was just one of a barrage of executions in Spain, who made up the Martyrs of Córdoba spanning the mid-800s.

He was one of 48 people who spoke out against Muslim rule. In doing so, they were all killed for their Christian beliefs. He, in particular, had been a prisoner of war and the soldier died for refusing to take on the Islamic faith.

Deemed fanatics by their own side, what hope did these people have? They were all found guilty of blasphemy and sentenced, in the main, to be beheaded.

Sancho skewered

What sets our man apart from the droves is that he was impaled. We’re not sure why he earned a different sentence to the others – maybe it was because he was the only soldier among them. The other were priests, nuns, deacons and laypeople – but as an early example and one who bucked the trend, we’ve chosen St Sancho to represent the other martyrs.

However, one thing they did all have in common is that they publically chose Christianity above the Muslim faith – some spoke out against Muhammad, while others, born of mixed marriages, chose Christianity over their equally inherent Islamic faith.

Also on this day

5 June 1805 – William Field and John Gregory

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2 June 1581 – James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton

Posted in Beheaded, Death penalty with tags , , , , on June 2 by Old Sparky

James Douglas 4th Earl of MortonWho could have seen it? That James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton would be executed by the very contraption he purchased.

Douglas was once a powerful Scot, if not the most powerful, as he was Regent to a very young James VI. The king was way too young for the Scottish throne having been made monarch in infancy, so Douglas literally babysat the throne as the fourth regent for roughly eight years, while James grew up.

Plots sicken

Why not James’s parents you may be thinking? Well his dad, Lord Darnley, was murdered (more of him later) and James’s mum, Mary Queen of Scots had previously been ousted thanks largely to her unpopular marriage choice to the slimy Earl of Bothwell. She was currently languishing in Fotheringhay Castle at Elizabeth’s pleasure – after all, the English queen couldn’t have risked having her cousin at large, as this would have surely encouraged yet another plot to overthrow her.

Thankfully, Douglas was pretty good at his job – not least because he had the backing of Elizabeth I. Yet, as was the order of the day, he made enemies along the way, mainly due to the fact that he was greedy. He managed to annoy the Church, having commandeered lands. And then there was other religious unrest. The Presbyterians were on his back too, but ultimately it was one of James I’s dad’s relatives who really stuck a spanner in proceedings.

Rod to get Stewart’s own back

Esmé Stewart, nephew to the now murdered Lord Darnley, came over from France wanting to get his own back on his uncle’s murderer. He vengefully dredged up Darley’s death and accused Douglas of killing him. That was all the ammunition his enemies needed. They latched on to this unsavoury and salacious supposition that Douglas had killed Lord Darnley and really ran with it.

Douglas admitted that Bothwell had let him in on the plan but he denied any involvement. Needless to say, that was the rod for Douglas’s back – it taken as an admission of guilt and he was sentenced to death.

Chop and change

The penalty was originally to be hanging, drawing and quartering, but a benevolent 14-year-old James VI actually stepped in to ‘reduce’ the sentence to beheading – the sentence reserved for royalty. And so James Douglas found himself beneath the very same, crude contraption he’d actually commissioned from the makers in Halifax and he was able to test-drive his purchase first-hand, when he was detached from his head on this day in 1581.

Also on this day

2 June 1903 – Gustav Rau and Willem Schmidt

Stuff you may have missed over the weekend

Karl Adolf Eichmann
Mary Dyer
Ronald Clark O’Bryan
Waltheof II, Earl of Northumbria
Herbert Rowse Armstrong

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1 June 1660 – Mary Dyer

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged with tags , , , , on June 1 by Old Sparky

Mary DyerBeing a Quaker in 17th-century America was a bit of a no-no, so Mary Dyer found on this day in 1660.

A bit of a militant, she did her best to circumvent crushing laws that condemned Quakerism as illegal. She fiestily found ways to sow the oats of Quakerism in New Haven and Massachusetts, before she wound up in Boston decrying the harsh laws against her faith. Of course she was apprehended.

Dyer dying

She was found guilty of heresy and taken to the execution elm tree amid great pomp and ceremony. She was given the chance to absolve herself of her crimes by repenting but she refused, vowing ‘Nay, man, I am not now to repent’. Her decision thus was considered to have taken the situation out of the law-makers hands and Captain Webb, who was presiding over the execution, stated ‘it is you, and you alone, who are guilty of spilling your own blood’.

With that she was strung up from the elm tree and hanged in what became known as one of the first acts of civil disobedience. However her legacy is rich – after her death, Charles II banned the Americans from executing merely for the crime of being a Quaker.

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