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Sunday, 3 February 2013

The Charterhouse Martyrs, Two

It is ironic that after falling into the hands of the prominent Protestant North family, the Charterhouse grounds was purchased by the Duke of Norfolk, who was executed in the attempt to get Mary, Queen of Scots crowned Queen of England. When he died, the land and buildings passed to his grandson, St. Philip Howard, who never lived there.

So many saints surround the history of these buildings. It always amazes me at the audacity of Protestants who built houses out of the ruins of monasteries. This happened all over England, including at the Charterhouse.

Passing from hand to hand and from Catholic back to Protestant, the houses became a charity in 1611 and a school. John Wesley was a student there from 1714-1720. Part of the area was damaged in World War II, which, of course, only added to the odd history of the Carthusian foundation, stemming from a burial ground used during the Black Death and holding, perhaps, up to 60,000 dead.

That saints and sinners walked the old, restored, and newer halls seems like a strange procession of persons either going against the tide of pressures threatening their religious freedom, or those who benefited from these harsh and cruel changes.

The present Master is charming and gave me a tour last summer. His sensitivity to the Catholic history is admirable. The charity houses up to 40 "brothers", who are poor old men. They live in the shadows of some of the greatest men to have walked this earth, the Carthusian martyrs, Thomas More, and Philip Howard.

That we all need formation in these hard times is why I highlighted the Charterhouse today.