Exhibition recalls English Church’s priest-martyrs
An exhibition at the English College in Rome is commemorating the era of the English Church’s priest-martyrs.
Entitled, ‘Non Angli sed Angeli’: A Pilgrimage, A Mission’, the title refers to a quip legend says was made by Pope Gregory the Great, “They are not Anglos, but angels,” when he first saw fair-haired English slaves in the marketplace of Rome and began sending missionaries to the British Isles in the 6th century.
The exhibit tells the history of England’s religious relationship with Rome and the role played by the English College, which, opened as a pilgrims’ hostel around 1300.
The College is the oldest British institution outside of Britain.
Currently the English College is home to 22 seminarians and eight student priests from England and Wales.
It became a seminary in 1579 to train priests for the English Catholic mission as part of an attempt to return Catholicism to England after the faith was banned.
The College earned the title ‘Venerable’ out of respect for the martyrdom of 44 former students, who between 1581 and 1679 went home to England and faced torture and death by decree of the Tudor monarchs during the English Reformation.
“This exhibition focuses mainly on the Tudor era and the difficulties that the Roman Catholic Church experienced during the Reformation,” according to Fr Andrew Headon, the vice-rector of the college and organiser of the exhibit.