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Saint Ralph Sherwin
Priest and Martyr
Born 19 October 1550(1550-10-19)[1], Rodsley, Derbyshire, England
Died 1 December 1581 (aged 31), Tyburn, London, England
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Beatified 15 December 1929, Rome by Pope Pius XI
Canonized 1970, Rome by Pope Paul VI
Feast 1 December
Attributes Priest

Saint Ralph Sherwin (19 October 1550 – 1 December 1581) was an English Roman Catholic martyr and saint. He was born at Rodsley, Derbyshire, and was educated at Eton College. In 1568, he was nominated by Sir William Petre to one of the eight fellowships which he had founded at Exeter College, Oxford, probably influenced by Sherwin's uncle, John Woodward, who from 1556 to 1566 had been rector of Ingatestone, Essex, where Petre lived. A talented classical scholar, Sherwin graduated Master of Arts on 2 July 1574, and the following year converted to Roman Catholicism and fled abroad to the English College at Douai, where he was ordained a priest by the Bishop of Cambrai on 23 March 1577. On 2 August 1577, he left for Rome, where he stayed at the English College, Rome for nearly three years.

On 18 April 1580, Sherwin and thirteen companions left Rome for England. On 9 November 1580, he was arrested while preaching in the house of Nicholas Roscarrock in London and imprisoned in the Marshalsea, where he converted many fellow prisoners, and on 4 December was transferred to the Tower of London, where he was tortured on the rack and then laid out in the snow. He is said to have been personally offered a bishopric by Elizabeth I if he apostatized, but refused. After spending a year in prison he was finally brought to trial with Edmund Campion on a trumped up charge of treasonable conspiracy. He was convicted in Westminster Hall on 20 November 1581. Eleven days later he was taken to Tyburn on a hurdle along with Saint Alexander Briant, where he was hanged, drawn and quartered. His last words were "Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, esto mihi Jesus!"[2]

Ralph Sherwin was the first member of the English College in Rome to be martyred. He was declared venerable on 8 December 1921 by Pope Pius XI and beatified one week later on 15 December.[3] Blessed Ralph Sherwin was canonized nearly forty-nine years later in the year 1970 by Pope Paul VI as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales with a common feast day of 25 October. His feast day is celebrated on 1 December, the day of his martyrdom.


  1. ^ "Book of Martyrs," New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1948
  2. ^ "Blessed Ralph Sherwin". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. , accessed 9/16/07
  3. ^ Patron Saints Index: "Saint Ralph Sherwin"

External links


Notable prisoners
Sir Francis Barrington
Edmund Bonner · Henry Chettle
Richard Cox · Robert Culliford
Robert Daborne · John Dickens
Thomas Drury · John Eliot
John Gerard · Hannah Glasse
John Baptist Grano · Nicholas Grimald
Charlotte Hayes · William Herle
Denzil Holles · Ben Jonson
Philip Massinger · George Morland
Nicholas Owen · Sally Salisbury
John Selden · Richard Shelley
Ralph Sherwin · Nicholas Udall
Robert Wingfield · George Wither

Related articles
Marshalsea Court

Related prisons
Borough Compter · Clink
Fleet · King's Bench
Tower of London

Prison reformers
James Neild · John Howard
James Oglethorpe

Related categories

This article incorporates text from the entry Bl. Ralph Sherwin in the public-domain Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913.



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