Monday 7 November 2022

Companion in Martyrdom: Deacon Matthew Hoare, O.F.M.


On November 12, 1631, the body of Irish Franciscan Matthew Hoare was laid to rest in the friary church of the Bohemian Franciscan province at Votice. He had been martyred on November 7 along with his confrère and compatriot Father Patrick Fleming as they travelled with a small party of friars from the recently established Irish College at Prague. They were seeking to escape the besieging forces of the Elector of Saxony, but close to the village of Benešov encountered a group of hostile locals who attacked them, leaving Friars Fleming and Hoare dead. Father Fleming was one of the driving forces behind the project at the Franciscan Irish College at Louvain to research and publish the Lives of the Irish Saints. Much less well-known, however, is his companion in martyrdom, Matthew Hoare. Both men bear the surnames of prominent Old English families; Fleming was related to the Barons of Slane, County Meath and the Hoare family was an important one in County Wexford. Scholar of Irish surnames, Edward Mac Lysaght, records that the name is spelt both as Hoare and as Hoar, the latter spelling being found in particular in County Cork. Both spellings are used by different authors for our martyr and unfortunately I have not yet been able to establish when and where he was born. I presume that like Patrick Fleming, Matthew Hoare was sent away from Ireland in order to receive a Catholic education and then entered the Franciscan Order. He appears to have been a young man of some promise and was selected to be one of the small group who went under Fleming's leadership to establish an Irish Franciscan College at Prague.  Fortunately one of the survivors of the attack, Father Francis Magennis, left an account of both the early days of the new institution and of the sad fate that befell its founder and his companion.  He tells us that Matthew Hoare was a Deacon and was chosen as the preacher at the College's opening, which given the distinguished nature of the audience seems to confirm the abilities discerned by his superiors: 

It was on the 2nd of July, 1631, that the Franciscans were publicly inducted to their new establishment in Prague by Cardinal Harrach, Archbishop of Prague and Primate of Bohemia. His Eminence and all the other civil and ecclesiastical authorities of Prague being present, a discourse composed by Father Fleming was delivered with great earnestness and effect by a young Religious, in deacon's orders, named Matthew Hoar,*  who was destined in a few months to be the companion of Father Fleming in martyrdom.

*The writer adds, that Fr. Hoare was chosen on this occasion " ob eminentis ingenii judiciique acumen, felicis memoriae foecunditatem, dicendique gratiam, cum omnimoda morum honestate conjunctam, coram tot ac tantis Magnatibus fiducialiter declamandam eaque ab ipso adeo proeclare, venuste ac plane Angelice, omnium cum stupore, perorata, ut solemnitatem et auditorum devotionem mirum in modum adauxerit. "

 'Irish Historical Studies in the Seventeenth Century, III., Patrick Fleming, O.S.F.', Irish Ecclesiastical Record, Vol. VII, February, 1871, p. 209.

In his 1896 catalogue Our Martyrs, the then Postulator of the Cause, Father Denis Murphy S.J., also used the account of Father Magennis to testify to the martyrdom of Father Fleming and Deacon Hoare:

...The community consisted of six. As their house was very poor, they thought their poverty would be their best protection. But they were warned that their lives were not safe, as many of those among the enemy were infected with heresy. It was arranged that the Guardian and Matthew Hore, a deacon, F. Patrick Taaffe, and Francis Magennis, who was not yet in holy orders, should accompany the Count De Thun to some safer place. ...Early the next morning they set out. They were overtaken by two Servites, who asked them to accompany them in their carriage. F. Fleming refused, preferring to go on foot. Br. Hore, who was quite exhausted, joined them. ...

...As they were approaching the village of Benesave, in which F. Taaffe and Br. Magennis had passed the night, all of a sudden seven peasants rushed out of their house. Three of them fell on the Guardian to rob him. One of them with a blow laid him low; the others rushed to the chariot and attacked Br. Hore....

The Servites fled to the house of the Count De Thun, and told what had befallen their fellow-travellers. The Burgraf von Steinberg arrived soon after, bringing in his chariot the Guardian's dead body which he had met on the road. There were five wounds on his head, from which blood was issuing. The body was taken to the Franciscan Convent of Voticum, seven miles from Prague, and buried there with great honour...

...Soon after, a body of soldiers, commanded by Balthasar Barrady, came thither bringing the body of a Franciscan. He was soon recognized by the other monks. He had received a wound in the side; his heart had been pierced through by three bullets; his ears, too, were cut off. Our Fathers, Gerald Fitzgerald and Francis Welferston, took care to have the body buried, lest it might fall into the hands of the heretics. After some weeks, Count Suorby had Br Matthew's body transferred to Voticum, and buried in the Convent of the Franciscans, which he had founded, in the same tomb with F. Fleming, and took care to have the spot surrounded by an iron railing.

Rev. Denis Murphy, S.J., Our Martyrs, (Dublin, 1896), 263-264.

Two modern Czech scholars have noted the subsequent history of the martyrs' tomb:

The iron grill which Sezima, Count of Vrtba, had made for their tomb was in the course of time removed and replaced by a board with a Czech inscription, which was attached to the pulpit. After the improvement of the interior in 1758, an inscription with similar wording was painted on the wall. When the church was being painted white in 1776, it was damaged and was again renovated by order of the provincial.

Jan Pařez and Hedvika Kuchařová, The Irish Franciscans in Prague 1629-1786 (Prague, 2015), f.n. 59, p. 47.

I have tried unsuccessfully to ascertain if the tomb is still extant. 

Although, as we have seen, the case of Deacon Matthew Hoare was one of those featured by Father Murphy in Our Martyrs, his name was not among those submitted to Rome for official consideration and does not appear on the Official List of Irish Martyrs. It is customary for the cause of a martyr to come under the jurisdiction of the Bishop in whose diocese the death occurred, but I do not know if the cause of Friar Matthew was ever formally adopted or where it now stands. As with Father Fleming, I can only regret the tragic loss of his companion in martyrdom, another young man of drive and ability who was so cruelly denied the chance to serve his order and his college, thanks to the brutal death he met far from Ireland's shores.

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