Saturday 13 February 2021

Six Franciscan Martyrs


In its entry on Irish Confessors and Martyrs, the 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia mentions a group of six Franciscan martyrs, all of whom died in prison in Dublin in the year 1582 and at least one of whom reputedly died on February 13: 

1582: Roger O'Donnellan, Cahill McGoran, Peter McQuillan, Patrick O'Kenna, James Pillan, priests, and Roger O'Hanlon, lay brother O.S.F. — died, 13 February, Dublin Castle, but the date can scarcely be correct for all.

 Perhaps inevitably there is also some degree of confusion around the names with McQuillan appearing as O'Chillian in some places and the possibility that 'Roger O'Hanlon' should be Rory McHenlea, according to the martyrologist John Copinger.

In 1896 Father Denis Murphy translated an account of the six from another seventeenth-century Irish martyrologist, Franciscan Anthony Bruodin (d.1680), who gives the background to their imprisonment. He attributes their arrest to the fact that they were travelling evangelists in the Counter-Reformation cause:

1582. Roger Donnellan, Charles Goran, Peter O'Chillian, Patrick O'Kenna, James Pillan and Roger O'Hanlon, O.S.F.

(From Bruodin's Propugnaculum, p. 445)

These, the first five of whom were priests and the last a lay brother, belonged to the Order of St. Francis. They were pious and most zealous men, who in spite of every kind of danger used to travel through Connaught and Leinster without ceasing, in order to guide the people on the paths of justice and truth by preaching to them often and earnestly the word of God. Wherefore they were seized by the heretics and thrust into the prison in the Castle of Dublin, where, worn out by the tortures by which their constancy was put to the test, and by the filth and squalor of the place, they died in the year 1582.

Rev. Denis Murphy, S.J. , Our Martyrs,  (Dublin, 1896), pp. 125-126.

Our martyrs also appear among a list of men referred to by John Copinger who confirms that:

'al these were catholique & died in the Castle of Dublin through hard usadg and restrainet. '

 J. Copinger,  The Theatre of Catholique and Protestant Religion (St Omer, 1620), p. 582

The six Franciscan martyrs, are numbers 49, 50, 51, 52, 53 and 54 on the Official List of Irish Martyrs (1918) whose names were submitted to Rome.  There they appear as Charles MacGoran, Rory O'Donnellan, Peter O'Quillan, Patrick O'Kenna, James or John Pillanus [Pillin], Rory O'Hanlon [O'Hanly?, MacEnlea?] No further progress has been made to date with their cause.


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