Acts and Monuments by John Foxe, popularly abridged as Foxe's Book Of Martyrs, is a celebrated work of church history and martyrology, first published in English in 1563 by John Day. Published early in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and only five years after the death of the Roman Catholic Queen Mary I, Foxe's Acts and Monuments was an affirmation of the Protestant Reformation in England during a period of religious conflict between Catholics and Protestants. Foxe's account of church history asserted a historical justification that was intended to establish the Church of England as a continuation of the true Christian church rather than as a modern innovation, and it contributed significantly to a nationalistic repudiation of the Roman Catholic Church. The sequence of the work, initially in five books, covered first early Christian martyrs, a brief history of the medieval church, including the Inquisitions, and a history of the Wycliffite or Lollard movement. It then dealt with the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI, during which the dispute with Rome had led to the separation of the English Church from papal authority and the issuance of the Book of Common Prayer. The final book treated the reign of Queen Mary and the Marian Persecutions. (courtesy of wikipedia.com)

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Foxe's Book Of Martyrs

Or A History Of The Lives, Sufferings, And Triumphant Deaths Of The Primitive Protestant Martyrs From The Introduction Of Christianity To The Latest Periods Of Pagan, Popish, And Infidel Persecutions


The History Of The Martyrs

Foxe's Book Of Martyrs


Chapter I. History Of Christian Martyrs To The First General Persecution Under Nero.

Chapter Ii. The Ten Primitive Persecutions.

Chapter Iii. Persecutions Of The Christians In Persia.

Chapter Iv. Papal Persecutions.

Chapter V. An Account Of The Inquisition.

Chapter Vi. An Account Of The Persecution In Italy, Under The Papacy.

Chapter Vii. An Account Of The Persecutions In Bohemia Under The Papacy.

Chapter Viii. General Persecutions In Germany.

Chapter Ix. An Account Of The Persecutions In Lithuania And Poland.

Chapter X. An Account Of The Persecutions In China And Several Other Countries.

Chapter Xi. An Account Of The Persecutions In Great Britain And Ireland Prior To The Reign Of Queen Mary I.

Chapter Xii. An Account Of The Persecution In Scotland During The Reign Of King Henry Viii.

Chapter Xii. Persecutions In England During The Reign Of Queen Mary.

Chapter Xiv. The Spanish Armada.

Chapter Xv. Rise And Progress Of The Protestant Religion In Ireland; With An Account Of The Barbarous Massacre Of 1641.

Chapter Xvi. The Rise, Progress, Persecutions, And Sufferings Of The Quakers.

Chapter Xvii. Persecutions Of The French Protestants In The South Of France, During The Years 1814 And 1820.

Chapter Xviii. Asaad Shidiak.

Chapter Ix. Persecutions Of The Baptist Missionaries In India, During The Year 1824.

Chapter Xx. Persecution Of The Wesleyan Missionaries In The West Indies.

Chapter Xxi. Persecutions In Switzerland From 1813 To 1830.

Chapter Xxii. Sketches Of The Lives Of Some Of The Most Eminent Reformers.

Chapter Xxiii. Sketch Of The French Revolution Of 1789, As Connected With The History Of Persecution.


The Book Of Martyrs, John Foxe


By Maurice M. Hassatt

The Greek word martus signifies a witness who testifies to a fact of which he has knowledge from personal observation. It is in this sense that the term first appears in Christian literature; the Apostles were "witnesses" of all that they had observed in the public life of Christ, as well as of all they had learned from His teaching, "in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts, i, 8). St. Peter, in his address to the Apostles and disciples relative to the election of a successor to Judas, employs the term with this meaning: "Wherefore, of these men who have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus came in and went out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day he was taken up from us, one of these must be made witness with us of his resurrection" (Acts, i, 22). In his first public discourse the chief of the Apostles speaks of himself and his companions as "witnesses" who saw the risen Christ and subsequently, after the miraculous escape of the Apostles from prison, when brought a second time before the tribunal, Peter again alludes to the twelve as witnesses to Christ, as the Prince and Saviour of Israel, Who rose from the dead; and added that in giving their public testimony to the facts, of which they were certain, they must obey God rather than man (Acts, v, 29 sqq.). In his First Epistle St. Peter also refers to himself as a "witness of the sufferings of Christ" (I Pet., v. 1).

But even in these first examples of the use of the word martus in Christian terminology a new shade of meaning is already noticeable, in addition to the accepted signification of the term. The disciples of Christ were no ordinary witnesses such as those who gave testimony in a court of justice. These latter ran no risk in bearing testimony to facts that came under their observation, whereas the witnesses of Christ were brought face to face daily, from the beginning of their apostolate, with the possibility of incurring severe punishment and even death itself. Thus, St. Stephen was a witness who early in the history of Christianity sealed his testimony with his blood. The careers of the Apostles were at all times beset with dangers of the gravest character, until eventually they all suffered the last penalty for their convictions. Thus, within the lifetime of the Apostles, the term martus came to be used in the sense of a witness who at any time might be called upon to deny what he testified to, under penalty of death. From this stage the transition was easy to the ordinary meaning of the term, as used ever since in Christian literature: a martyr, or witness of Christ, is a person who, though he has never seen nor heard the Divine Founder of the Church, is yet so firmly convinced of the truths of the Christian religion, that he gladly suffers death rather than deny it. St. John, at the end of the first century, employs the word with this meaning; Antipas, a convert from paganism, is spoken of as a "faithful witness (martus) who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth" (Apoc., ii, 13). Further on the same Apostle speaks of the "souls of them that were slain for the Word of God and for the testimony (martyrian) which they held" (Apoc., vi, 9).

Yet, it was only by degrees, in the course of the first age of the Church, that the term martyr came to be exclusively applied to those who had died for the faith. The grandsons of St. Jude, for example, on their escape from the peril they underwent when cited before Domitian were afterwards regarded as martyrs (Euseb., "list. eccl", III, xx, xxxii). The famous confessors of Lyons, who endured so bravely awful tortures for their belief, were looked upon by their fellow-Christians as martyrs, but they themselves declined this title as of right belonging only to those who had actually died: "They are already martyrs whom Christ has deemed worthy to be taken up in their confession, having sealed their testimony by their departure; but we are confessors mean and lowly" (Euseb., op. cit., V, ii). This distinction between martyrs and confessors is thus traceable to the latter part of the second century: those only were martyrs who had suffered the extreme penalty, whereas the title of confessors was given to Christians who had shown their willingness to die for their belief, by bravely enduring imprisonment or torture, but were not put to death. Yet the term martyr was still sometimes applied during the third century to persons still living, as, for instance, by St. Cyprian, who gave the title of martyrs to a number of bishops, priests, and laymen condemned to penal servitude in the mines (Ep. 76). Tertullian speaks of those arrested as Christians and not yet condemned as martyres designati. In the fourth century, St. Gregory of Nazianzus alludes to St. Basil as "a martyr", but evidently employs the term in the broad sense in which the word is still sometimes applied to a person who has borne many and grave hardships in the cause of Christianity. The description of a martyr given by the pagan historian Ammianus Marcellinus (XXII, xvii), shows that by the middle of the fourth century the title was everywhere reserved to those who had actually suffered death for their faith. Heretics and schismatics put to death as Christians were denied the title of martyrs (St. Cyprian, "De Unit.", xiv; St. Augustine, Ep. 173; Euseb., "Hist. Eccl.", V, xvi, xxi). St. Cyprian lays down clearly the general principle that "he cannot be a martyr who is not in the Church; he cannot attain unto the kingdom who forsakes that which shall reign there." St. Clement of Alexandria strongly disapproves (Strom., IV, iv) of some heretics who gave themselves up to the law; they "banish themselves without being martyrs".

The orthodox were not permitted to seek martyrdom. Tertullian, however, approves the conduct of the Christians of a province of Asia who gave themselves up to the governor, Arrius Antoninus (Ad. Scap., v). Eusebius also relates with approval the incident of three Christians of Cæsarea in Palestine who, in the persecution of Valerian, presented themselves to the judge and were condemned to death (Hist. Eccl., VII, xii). But while circumstances might sometimes excuse such a course, it was generally held to be imprudent. St. Gregory of Nazianzus sums up in a sentence the rule to be followed in such cases: it is mere rashness to seek death, but it is cowardly to refuse it (Orat. xlii, 5, 6). The example of a Christian of Smyrna named Quintus, who, in the time of St. Polycarp, persuaded several of his fellow believers to declare themselves Christians, was a warning of what might happen to the over-zealous: Quintus at the last moment apostatized, though his companions persevered. Breaking idols was condemned by the Council of Elvira (306), which, in its sixtieth canon, decreed that a Christian put to death for such vandalism would not be enrolled as a martyr. Lactantius, on the other hand, has only mild censure for a Christian of Nicomedia who suffered martyrdom for tearing down the edict of persecution (Do mort. pers., xiii). In one case St. Cyprian authorizes seeking martyrdom. Writing to his priests and deacons regarding repentant lapsi who were clamouring to be received back into communion, the bishop after giving general directions on the subject, concludes by saying that if these impatient personages are so eager to get back to the Church there is a way of doing so open to them. "The struggle is still going forward", he says, "and the strife is waged daily. If they (the lapsi) truly and with constancy repent of what they have done, and the fervour of their faith prevails, he who cannot be delayed may be crowned" (Ep. xiii).


Acceptance of the national religion in antiquity was an obligation incumbent on all citizens; failure to worship the gods of the State was equivalent to treason. This universally accepted principle is responsible for the various persecutions suffered by Christians before the reign of Constantine; Christians denied the existence of and therefore refused to worship the gods of the state pantheon. They were in consequence regarded as atheists. It is true, indeed, that the Jews also rejected the gods of Rome, and yet escaped persecution. But the Jews, from the Roman standpoint, had a national religion and a national God, Jehovah, whom they had a full legal right to worship. Even after the destruction of Jerusalem, when the Jews ceased to exist as a nation, Vespasian made no change in their religious status, save that the tribute formerly sent by Jews to the temple at Jerusalem was henceforth to be paid to the Roman exchequer. For some time after its establishment, the Christian Church enjoyed the religious privileges of the Jewish nation, but from the nature of the case it is apparent that the chiefs of the Jewish religion would not long permit without protest this state of things. For they abhorred Christ's religion as much as they abhorred its Founder. At what date the Roman authorities had their attention directed to the difference between the Jewish and the Christian religion cannot be determined, but it appears to be fairly well established that laws proscribing Christianity were enacted before the end of the first century. Tertullian is authority for the statement that persecution of the Christians was institutum Neronianum - an institution of Nero - (Ad nat., i, 7). The First Epistle of St. Peter also Clearly alludes to the proscription of Christians, as Christians, at the time it was written (I, St. Peter, iv, 16). Domitian (81-96) also, is known to have punished with death Christian members of his own family on the charge of atheism (Suetonius, "Domitianus", xv). While it is therefore probable that the formula: "Let there be no Christians" (Christiani non sint) dates from the second half of the first century, yet the earliest clear enactment on the subject of Christianity is that of Trajan (98-117) in his famous letter to the younger Pliny, his legate in Bithynia.

Pliny had been sent from Rome by the emperor to restore order in the Province of Bithynia-Pontus. Among the difficulties he encountered in the execution of his commission one of the most serious concerned the Christians. The extraordinarily large number of Christians he found within his jurisdiction greatly surprised him: the contagion of their "Superstition", he reported to Trajan, affected not only the cities but even the villages and country districts of the province (Pliny, Ep., x, 96). One consequence of the general defection from the state religion was of an economic order: so many people had become Christians that purchasers were no longer found for the victims that once in great numbers were offered to the gods. Complaints were laid before the legate relative to this state of affairs, with the result that some Christians were arrested and brought before Pliny for examination. The suspects were interrogated as to their tenets and those of them who persisted in declining repeated invitations to recant were executed. Some of the prisoners, however, after first affirming that they were Christians, afterwards, when threatened with punishment, qualified their first admission by saying that at one time they had been adherents of the proscribed body but were so no longer. Others again denied that they were or ever had been Christians. Having never before had to deal with questions concerning Christians Pliny applied to the emperor for instructions on three points regarding which he did not see his way clearly: first, whether the age of the accused should be taken into consideration in meting out punishment; secondly, whether Christians who renounced their belief should be pardoned; and thirdly, whether the mere profession of Christianity should be regarded as a crime, and punishable as such, independent of the fact of the innocence or guilt of the accused of the crimes ordinarily associated with such profession.

To these inquiries Trajan replied in a rescript which was destined to have the force of law throughout the second century in relation to Christianity. After approving what his representative had already done, the emperor directed that in future the rule to be observed in dealing with Christians should be the following: no steps were to be taken by magistrates to ascertain who were or who were not Christians, but at the same time, if any person was denounced, and admitted that he was a Christian, he was to be punished - evidently with death. Anonymous denunciations were not to be acted upon, and on the other hand, those who repented of being Christians and offered sacrifice to the gods, were to be pardoned. Thus, from the year 112, the date of this document, perhaps even from the reign of Nero, a Christian was ipso facto an outlaw. That the followers of Christ were known to the highest authorities of the State to be innocent of the numerous crimes and misdemeanors attributed to them by popular calumny, is evident from Pliny's testimony to this effect, as well as from Trajan's order: conquirendi non sunt. And that the emperor did not regard Christians as a menace to the State is apparent from the general tenor of his instructions. Their only crime was that they were Christians, adherents of an illegal religion. Under this regime of proscription the Church existed from the year 112 to the reign of Septimius Severus (193-211). The position of the faithful was always one of grave danger, being as they were at the mercy of every malicious person who might, without a moment's warning, cite them before the nearest tribunal. It is true indeed, that the delator was an unpopular person in the Roman Empire, and, besides, in accusing a Christian he ran the risk of incurring severe punishment if unable to make good his charge against his intended victim. In spite of the danger, however, instances are known, in the persecution era, of Christian victims of delation.

The prescriptions of Trajan on the subject of Christianity were modified by Septimius Severus by the addition of a clause forbidding any person to become a Christian. The existing law of Trajan against Christians in general was not, indeed, repealed by Severus, though for the moment it was evidently the intention of the emperor that it should remain a dead letter. The object aimed at by the new enactment was, not to disturb those already Christians, but to check the growth of the Church by preventing conversions. Some illustrious convert martyrs, the most famous being Sts. Perpetua and Felicitas, were added to the roll of champions of religious freedom by this prohibition, but it effected nothing of consequence in regard to its primary purpose. The persecution came to an end in the second year of the reign of Caracalla (211-17). From this date to the reign of Decius (250-53) the Christians enjoyed comparative peace with the exception of the short period when Maximinus the Thracian (235-38) occupied the throne. The elevation of Decius to the purple began a new era in the relations between Christianity and the Roman State. This emperor, though a native of Illyria, was nevertheless profoundly imbued with the spirit of Roman conservatism. He ascended the throne with the firm intention of restoring the prestige which the empire was fast losing, and he seems to have been convinced that the chief difficulty in the way of effecting his purpose was the existence of Christianity. The consequence was that in the year 250 he issued an edict, the tenor of which is known only from the documents relating to its enforcement, prescribing that all Christians of the empire should on a certain day offer sacrifice to the gods.

This new law was quite a different matter from the existing legislation against Christianity. Proscribed though they were legally, Christians had hitherto enjoyed comparative security under a regime which clearly laid down the principle that they were not to be sought after officially by the civil authorities. The edict of Decius was exactly the opposite of this: the magistrates were now constituted religious inquisitors, whose duty it was to punish Christians who refused to apostatize. The emperor's aim, in a word, was to annihilate Christianity by compelling every Christian in the empire to renounce his faith. The first effect of the new legislation seemed favourable to the wishes of its author. During the long interval of peace since the reign of Septimius Severus - nearly forty years - a considerable amount of laxity had crept into the Church's discipline, one consequence of which was, that on the publication of the edict of persecution, multitudes of Christians besieged the magistrates everywhere in their eagerness to comply with its demands. Many other nominal Christians procured by bribery certificates stating that they had complied with the law, while still others apostatized under torture. Yet after this first throng of weaklings had put themselves outside the pale of Christianity there still remained, in every part of the empire, numerous Christians worthy of their religion, who endured all manner of torture, and death itself, for their convictions. The persecution lasted about eighteen months, and wrought incalculable harm.

Before the Church had time to repair the damage thus caused, a new conflict with the State was inaugurated by an edict of Valerian published in 257. This enactment was directed against the clergy, bishops priests, and deacons, who were directed under pain of exile to offer sacrifice. Christians were also forbidden, under pain of death, to resort to their cemeteries. The results of this first edict were of so little moment that the following year, 258, a new edict appeared requiring the clergy to offer sacrifice under penalty of death. Christian senators, knights, and even the ladies of their families, were also affected by an order to offer sacrifice under penalty of confiscation of their goods and reduction to plebeian rank. And in the event of these severe measures proving ineffective the law prescribed further punishment: execution for the men, for the women exile. Christian slaves and freedmen of the emperor's household also were punished by confiscation of their possessions and reduction to the lowest ranks of slavery. Among the martyrs of this persecution were Pope Sixtus II and St. Cyprian of Carthage. Of its further effects little is known, for want of documents, but it seems safe to surmise that, besides adding many new martyrs to the Church's roll, it must have caused enormous suffering to the Christian nobility. The persecution came to an end with the capture (260) of Valerian by the Persians; his successor, Gallienus (260-68), revoked the edict and restored to the bishops the cemeteries and meeting places.

From this date to the last persecution inaugurated by Diocletian (284-305) the Church, save for a short period in the reign of Aurelian (270-75), remained in the same legal situation as in the second century. The first edict of Diocletian was promulgated at Nicomedia in the year 303, and was of the following tenor: Christian assemblies were forbidden; churches and sacred books were ordered to be destroyed, and all Christians were commanded to abjure their religion forthwith. The penalties for failure to comply with these demands were degradation and civil death for the higher classes, reduction to slavery for freemen of the humbler sort, and for slaves incapacity to receive the gift of freedom. Later in the same year a new edict ordered the imprisonment of ecclesiastics of all grades, from bishops to exorcists. A third edict imposed the death-penalty for refusal to abjure, and granted freedom to those who would offer sacrifice; while a fourth enactment, published in 304, commanded everybody without exception to offer sacrifice publicly. This was the last and most determined effort of the Roman State to destroy Christianity. It gave to the Church countless martyrs, and ended in her triumph in the reign of Constantine.


Of the 249 years from the first persecution under Nero (64) to the year 313, when Constantine established lasting peace, it is calculated that the Christians suffered persecution about 129 years and enjoyed a certain degree of toleration about 120 years. Yet it must be borne in mind that even in the years of comparative tranquillity Christians were at all times at the mercy of every person ill-disposed towards them or their religion in the empire. Whether or not delation of Christians occurred frequently during the era of persecution is not known, but taking into consideration the irrational hatred of the pagan population for Christians, it may safely be surmised that not a few Christians suffered martyrdom through betrayal. An example of the kind related by St. Justin Martyr shows how swift and terrible were the consequences of delation. A woman who had been converted to Christianity was accused by her husband before a magistrate of being a Christian. Through influence the accused was granted the favour of a brief respite to settle her worldly affairs, after which she was to appear in court and put forward her defence. Meanwhile her angry husband caused the arrest of the catechist, Ptolomæus by name, who had instructed the convert. Ptolomæus, when questioned, acknowledged that he was a Christian and was condemned to death. In the court, at the time this sentence was pronounced, were two persons who protested against the iniquity of inflicting capital punishment for the mere fact of professing Christianity. The magistrate in reply asked if they also were Christians, and on their answering in the affirmative both were ordered to be executed. As the same fate awaited the wife of the delator also, unless she recanted, we have here an example of three, possibly four, persons suffering capital punishment on the accusation of a man actuated by malice, solely for the reason that his wife had given up the evil life she had previously led in his society (St. Justin Martyr, II, Apol., ii).

As to the actual number of persons who died as martyrs during these two centuries and a half we have no definite information. Tacitus is authority for the statement that an immense multitude (ingens multitudo) were put to death by Nero. The Apocalypse of St. John speaks of "the souls of them that were slain for the word of God" in the reign of Domitian, and Dion Cassius informs us that "many" of the Christian nobility suffered death for their faith during the persecution for which this emperor is responsible. Origen indeed, writing about the year 249, before the edict of Decius, states that the number of those put to death for the Christian religion was not very great, but he probably means that the number of martyrs up to this time was small when compared with the entire number of Christians (cf. Allard, "Ten Lectures on the Martyrs", 128). St. Justin Martyr, who owed his conversion largely to the heroic example of Christians suffering for their faith, incidentally gives a glimpse of the danger of professing Christianity in the middle of the second century, in the reign of so good an emperor as Antoninus Pius (138-61). In his "Dialogue with Trypho" (cx), the apologist, after alluding to the fortitude of his brethren in religion, adds, "for it is plain that, though beheaded, and crucified, and thrown to wild beasts, and chains, and fire, and all other kinds of torture, we do not give up our confession; but, the more such things happen, the more do others in larger numbers become faithful. . . . Every Christian has been driven out not only from his own property, but even from the whole world; for you permit no Christian to live." Tertullian also, writing towards the end of the second century, frequently alludes to the terrible conditions under which Christians existed ("Ad martyres", "Apologia", "Ad Nationes", etc.): death and torture were ever present possibilities.

But the new régime of special edicts, which began in 250 with the edict of Decius, was still more fatal to Christians. The persecutions of Decius and Valerian were not, indeed, of long duration, but while they lasted, and in spite of the large number of those who fell away, there are clear indications that they produced numerous martyrs. Dionysius of Alexandria, for instance, in a letter to the Bishop of Antioch tells of a violent persecution that took place in the Egyptian capital, through popular violence, before the edict of Decius was even published. The Bishop of Alexandria gives several examples of what Christians endured at the hands of the pagan rabble and then adds that "many others, in cities and villages, were torn asunder by the heathen" (Euseb., "Hist. eccl.", VI, xli sq.). Besides those who perished by actual violence, also, a "multitude wandered in the deserts and mountains, and perished of hunger and thirst, of cold and sickness and robbers and wild beasts" (Euseb., l. c.). In another letter, speaking of the persecution under Valerian, Dionysius states that "men and women, young and old, maidens and matrons, soldiers and civilians, of every age and race, some by scourging and fire, others by the sword, have conquered in the strife and won their crowns" (Id., op. cit., VII, xi). At Cirta, in North Africa, in the same persecution, after the execution of Christians had continued for several days, it was resolved to expedite matters. To this end the rest of those condemned were brought to the bank of a river and made to kneel in rows. When all was ready the executioner passed along the ranks and despatched all without further loss of time (Ruinart, p. 231).

But the last persecution was even more severe than any of the previous attempts to extirpate Christianity. In Nicomedia "a great multitude" were put to death with their bishop, Anthimus; of these some perished by the sword, some by fire, while others were drowned. In Egypt "thousands of men, women and children, despising the present life, . . . endured various deaths" (Euseb., "Hist. eccl.", VII, iv sqq.), and the same happened in many other places throughout the East. In the West the persecution came to an end at an earlier date than in the East, but, while it lasted, numbers of martyrs, especially at Rome, were added to the calendar (cf. Allard, op. cit., 138 sq.). But besides those who actually shed their blood in the first three centuries account must be taken of the numerous confessors of the Faith who, in prison, in exile, or in penal servitude suffered a daily martyrdom more difficult to endure than death itself. Thus, while anything like a numerical estimate of the number of martyrs is impossible, yet the meagre evidence on the subject that exists clearly enough establishes the fact that countless men, women and even children, in that glorious, though terrible, first age of Christianity, cheerfully sacrificed their goods, their liberties, or their lives, rather than renounce the faith they prized above all.


The first act in the tragedy of the martyrs was their arrest by an officer of the law. In some instances the privilege of custodia libera, granted to St. Paul during his first imprisonment, was allowed before the accused were brought to trial; St. Cyprian, for example, was detained in the house of the officer who arrested him, and treated with consideration until the time set for his examination. But such procedure was the exception to the rule; the accused Christians were generally cast into the public prisons, where often, for weeks or months at a time, they suffered the greatest hardships. Glimpses of the sufferings they endured in prison are in rare instances supplied by the Acts of the Martyrs. St. Perpetua, for instance, was horrified by the awful darkness, the intense heat caused by overcrowding in the climate of Roman Africa, and the brutality of the soldiers (Passio SS. Perpet., et Felic., i). Other confessors allude to the various miseries of prison life as beyond their powers of description (Passio SS. Montani, Lucii, iv). Deprived of food, save enough to keep them alive, of water, of light and air; weighted down with irons, or placed in stocks with their legs drawn as far apart as was possible without causing a rupture; exposed to all manner of infection from heat, overcrowding, and the absence of anything like proper sanitary conditions - these were some of the afflictions that preceded actual martyrdom. Many naturally, died in prison under such conditions, while others, unfortunately, unable to endure the strain, adopted the easy means of escape left open to them, namely, complied with the condition demanded by the State of offering sacrifice.

Those whose strength, physical and moral, was capable of enduring to the end were, in addition, frequently interrogated in court by the magistrates, who endeavoured by persuasion or torture to induce them to recant. These tortures comprised every means that human ingenuity in antiquity had devised to break down even the most courageous; the obstinate were scourged with whips, with straps, or with ropes; or again they were stretched on the rack and their bodies torn apart with iron rakes. Another awful punishment consisted in suspending the victim, sometimes for a whole day at a time, by one hand; while modest women in addition were exposed naked to the gaze of those in court. Almost worse than all this was the penal servitude to which bishops, priests, deacons, laymen and women, and even children, were condemned in some of the more violent persecutions; these refined personages of both sexes, victims of merciless laws, were doomed to pass the remainder of their days in the darkness of the mines, where they dragged out a wretched existence, half naked, hungry, and with no bed save the damp ground. Those were far more fortunate who were condemned to even the most disgraceful death, in the arena, or by crucifixion.


It is easy to understand why those who endured so much for their convictions should have been so greatly venerated by their co-reigionists from even the first days of trial in the reign of Nero. The Roman officials usually permitted relatives or friends to gather up the mutilated remains of the martyrs for interment, although in some instances such permission was refused. These relics the Christians regarded as "more valuable than gold or precious stones" (Martyr. Polycarpi, xviii). Some of the more famous martyrs received special honours, as for instance, in Rome, St. Peter and St. Paul, whose "trophies", or tombs, are spoken of at the beginning of the third century by the Roman priest Caius (Eusebius, "Hist. eccl.", II, xxi, 7). Numerous crypts and chapels in the Roman catacombs, some of which, like the capella grœca, were constructed in sub-Apostolic times, also bear witness to the early veneration for those champions of freedom of conscience who won, by dying, the greatest victory in the history of the human race. Special commemoration services of the martyrs, at which the holy Sacrifice was offered over their tombs - the origin of the time - honoured custom of consecrating altars by enclosing in them the relics of martyrs - were held on the anniversaries of their death; the famous Fractio Panis fresco of the capella grœca, dating from the early second century, is probably a representation (see s. v. FRACTIO PANIS; EUCHARIST, SYMBOLS OF) in miniature, of such a celebration. From the age of Constantine even still greater veneration was accorded the martyrs. Pope Damasus (366-84) had a special love for the martyrs, as we learn from the inscriptions, brought to light by de Rossi, composed by him for their tombs in the Roman catacombs. Later on veneration of the martyrs was occasionally exhibited in a rather undesirable form; many of the frescoes in the catacombs have been mutilated to gratify the ambition of the faithful to be buried near the saints (retro sanctos), in whose company they hoped one day to rise from the grave. In the Middle Ages the esteem in which the martyrs were held was equally great; no hardships were too severe to be endured in visiting famous shrines, like those of Rome, where their relics were contained.



This work is strictly what its title page imports, a compilation. Fox's "Book of Martyrs" has been made the basis of this volume. Liberty, however, has been taken to abridge wherever it was thought necessary;—to alter the antiquated form of the phraseology; to introduce additional information; and to correct any inaccuracy respecting matters of fact, which had escaped the author of the original work, or which has been found erroneous by the investigation of modern research.

The object of this work, is to give a brief history of persecution since the first introduction of christianity, till the present time. In doing this, we have commenced with the martyrdom of Stephen, and following the course of events, have brought the History of persecution down to the year 1830. In all ages, we find that a disposition to persecute for opinion's sake, has been manifested by wicked men, whatever may have been their opinions or sentiments on religious subjects. The intolerant jew, and the bigoted pagan, have exhibited no more of a persecuting spirit, than the nominal professor of christianity, and the infidel and the avowed atheist. Indeed, it seems to be an "inherent vice," in unsanctified nature to endeavour by the pressure of physical force, to restrain obnoxious sentiments, and to propagate favourite opinions. It is only when the heart has been renewed and sanctified by divine grace, that men have rightly understood and practised the true principles of toleration. We do not say that none but real christians have adopted correct views respecting civil and religious liberty;—but we affirm that these views owe their origin entirely to christianity and its genuine disciples.

Though nearly all sects have persecuted their opponents, during a brief season, when men's passions were highly excited, and true religion had mournfully declined, yet no denomination except the papal hierarchy, has adopted as an article of religious belief, and a principle of practical observance, the right to destroy heretics for opinion's sake. The decrees of councils, and the bulls of popes, issued in conformity with those decrees, place this matter beyond a doubt. Persecution, therefore, and popery, are inseparably connected; because claiming infallibility, what she has once done is right for her to do again; yea, must be done under similar circumstances, or the claims of infallibility given up. There is no escaping this conclusion. It is right, therefore, to charge upon popery, all the persecutions and horrid cruelties which have stained the annals of the papal church during her long and bloody career of darkness and crime. Every sigh which has been heaved in the dungeons of the Inquisition—every groan which has been extorted by the racks and instruments of torture, which the malice of her bigoted votaries, stimulated by infernal wisdom, ever invented, has witnessed in the ear of God, against the "Mother of Harlots;" and those kings of the earth, who giving their power to the "Beast" have aided her in the cruel work of desolation and death. The valleys of Piedmont, the mountains of Switzerland, the vine crowned hills of Italy and France—and all parts of Germany and the low countries, have by turns, been lighted by the fires of burning victims, or crimsoned with the blood of those who have suffered death at the hands of the cruel emissaries of popery. England too, has drunken deep of the "wine of the fierceness of her wrath," as the blood of Cobham, and the ashes of the Smithfield martyrs can testify. Ireland and Scotland, likewise, have each been made the theatre of her atrocities. But no where has the system been exhibited in its native unalleviated deformity, as in Spain, Portugal and their South American dependencies. For centuries, such a system of police was established by the Holy Inquisitors, that these countries resembled a vast whispering gallery, where the slightest murmur of discontent could be heard and punished. Such has been the effect of superstition and the terror of the Holy Office, upon the mind, as completely to break the pride of the Castillian noble, and make him the unresisting victim of every mendicant friar and "hemp-sandaled monk."

Moreover, the papal system has opposed the march of civilization and liberty throughout the world, by denouncing the circulation of the Bible, and the general diffusion of knowledge. Turn to every land where popery predominates, and you will find an ignorant and debased peasantry, a profligate nobility, and a priesthood, licentious, avaricious, domineering and cruel.

But it may be asked, is popery the same system now as in the days of Cardinal Bonner and the "Bloody Mary." We answer yes. It is the boast of all catholics that their church never varies, either in spirit or in practice. For evidence of this, look at the demonstrations of her spirit in the persecutions in the south of France, for several years after the restoration of the Bourbons, in 1814. All have witnessed with feelings of detestation, the recent efforts of the apostolicals in Spain and Portugal, to crush the friends of civil and religious liberty in those ill-fated countries. The narrative of Asaad Shidiak, clearly indicates that the spirit of popery, has lost none of its ferocity and bloodthirstiness since the Piedmontese war, and the Bartholomew massacre. Where it has power, its victims are still crushed by the same means which filled the dungeons of the inquisition, and fed the fires of the auto de fe.

This is the religion, to diffuse which, strenuous efforts are now making in this country. Already the papal church numbers more than half a million of communicants. This number is rapidly augmenting by emigration from catholic countries, and by the conversion of protestant children who are placed in their schools for instruction. The recent events in Europe, will, no doubt, send to our shores hundreds of jesuit priests, with a portion of that immense revenue which the papal church has hitherto enjoyed. Another thing, which will, no doubt, favour their views, is the disposition manifested among some who style themselves liberalists, to aid catholics in the erection of mass houses, colleges, convents and theological seminaries. This has been done in numerous instances; and when a note of warning is raised by the true friends of civil and religious liberty, they are treated as bigots by those very men who are contributing of their substance to diffuse and foster the most intolerant system of bigotry, and cruel, unrelenting despotism, the world has ever seen. Other sects have persecuted during some periods of their history; but all now deny the right, and reprobate the practice except catholics. The right to destroy heretics, is a fundamental article in the creed of the papal church. And wherever her power is not cramped, she still exercises that power to the destruction of all who oppose her unrighteous usurpation. All the blood shed by all other christian sects, is no more in comparison to that shed by the papacy, than the short lived flow of a feeble rill, raised by the passing tempest, to the deep overwhelming tide of a mighty river, which receives as tributaries, the waters of a thousand streams.

We trust the present work, therefore, will prove a salutary check to the progress of that system whose practical effects have ever been, and ever must be, licentiousness, cruelty, and blood.

The narratives of Asaad Shidiak, Mrs. Judson, the persecutions in the West Indies, and in Switzerland, have never before been incorporated in any book of Martyrs. They serve to show the hideous nature of persecution, and the benefit of christian missions.

At the close of this volume will be found a sketch of the French revolution of 1789, as connected with persecution. It has long been the practice of infidels to sneer at christianity, because some of its nominal followers have exhibited a persecuting spirit. And although they knew that christianity condemns persecution in the most pointed manner, yet they have never had the generosity to discriminate between the system, and the abuse of the system by wicked men. Infidelity on the other hand, has nothing to redeem it. It imposes no restraint on the violent and lifelong passions of men. Coming to men with the Circean torch of licentiousness in her hand, with fair promises of freedom, she first stupefies the conscience, and brutifies the affections; and then renders her votaries the most abject slaves of guilt and crime. This was exemplified in the French revolution. For centuries, the bible had been taken away, and the key of knowledge wrested from the people. For a little moment, France broke the chains which superstition had flung around her. Not content, however, with this, she attempted to break the yoke of God: she stamped the bible in the dust, and proclaimed the jubilee of licentiousness, unvisited, either by present or future retribution. Mark the consequence. Anarchy broke in like a flood, from whose boiling surge blood spouted up in living streams, and on whose troubled waves floated the headless bodies of the learned, the good, the beautiful and the brave. The most merciless proscription for opinion's sake, followed. A word, a sigh, or a look supposed inimical to the ruling powers, was followed with instant death. The calm which succeeded, was only the less dreaded, because it presented fewer objects of terrific interest, as the shock of the earthquake creates more instant alarm, than the midnight pestilence, when it walks unseen, unknown amidst the habitations of a populous city.

The infidel persecutions in France and Switzerland, afford a solemn lesson to the people of this country. We have men among us now, most of them it is true, vagabond foreigners, who are attempting to propagate the same sentiments which produced such terrible consequences in France. Under various names they are scattering their pestilent doctrines through the country. As in France, they have commenced their attacks upon the bible, the Sabbath, marriage, and all the social and domestic relations of life. With flatteries and lies, they are attempting to sow the seeds of discontent and future rebellion among the people. The ferocity of their attacks upon those who differ from them, even while restrained by public opinion, shews what they would do, provided they could pull down our institutions and introduce disorder and wild misrule. We trust, therefore, that the article on the revolution in France, will be found highly instructive and useful.


The history of the church may almost be said to be a history of the trials and sufferings of its members, as experienced at the hands of wicked men. At one time, persecution, as waged against the friends of Christ, was confined to those without; at another, schisms and divisions have arrayed brethren of the same name against each other, and scenes of cruelty and woe have been exhibited within the sanctuary, rivalling in horror the direst cruelties ever inflicted by pagan or barbarian fanaticism. This, however, instead of implying any defect in the gospel system, which breathes peace and love; only pourtrays in darker colours the deep and universal depravity of the human heart. Pure and unsophisticated morality, especially when attempted to be inculcated on mankind, as essential to their preserving an interest with their Creator, have constantly met with opposition. It was this which produced the premature death of John the Baptist. It was the cutting charge of adultery and incest, which excited the resentment of Herodias, who never ceased to persecute him, until she had accomplished his destruction. The same observation is equally applicable to the Jewish doctors, in their treatment of our blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. In the sudden martyrdom of John the Baptist, and the crucifixion of our Lord, the history of christian martyrdom must be admitted to commence; and from these, as a basis for the subsequent occurrences, we may fairly trace the origin of that hostility, which produced so lavish an effusion of christian blood, and led to so much slaughter in the progressive state of christianity.

As it is not our business to enlarge upon our Saviour's history, either before or after his crucifixion, we shall only find it necessary to remind our readers of the discomfiture of the Jews by his subsequent resurrection. Though one apostle had betrayed him; though another had denied him, under the solemn sanction of an oath; and though the rest had forsaken him, unless we may except "the disciple who was known unto the high-priest;" the history of his resurrection gave a new direction to all their hearts, and, after the mission of the Holy Spirit, imparted new confidence to their minds. The powers with which they were endued emboldened them to proclaim his name, to the confusion of the Jewish rulers, and the astonishment of Gentile proselytes.

I. St. Stephen

St. Stephen suffered the next in order. His death was occasioned by the faithful manner in which he preached the gospel to the betrayers and murderers of Christ. To such a degree of madness were they excited, that they cast him out of the city and stoned him to death. The time when he suffered is generally supposed to have been at the passover which succeeded to that of our Lord's crucifixion, and to the æra of his ascension, in the following spring.

Upon this a great persecution was raised against all who professed their belief in Christ as the Messiah, or as a prophet. We are immediately told by St. Luke, that "there was a great persecution against the church, which was at Jerusalem;" and that "they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles."

About two thousand christians, with Nicanor, one of the seven deacons, suffered martyrdom during the "persecution which arose about Stephen."

II. James the Great.

The next martyr we meet with, according to St. Luke, in the History of the Apostles' Acts, was James the son of Zebedee, the elder brother of John, and a relative of our Lord; for his mother Salome was cousin-german to the Virgin Mary. It was not until ten years after the death of Stephen, that the second martyrdom took place; for no sooner had Herod Agrippa been appointed governor of Judea, than, with a view to ingratiate himself with them, he raised a sharp persecution against the christians, and determined to make an effectual blow, by striking at their leaders. The account given us by an eminent primitive writer, Clemens Alexandrinus, ought not to be overlooked; that, as James was led to the place of martyrdom, his accuser was brought to repent of his conduct by the apostle's extraordinary courage and undauntedness, and fell down at his feet to request his pardon, professing himself a christian, and resolving that James should not receive the crown of martyrdom alone. Hence they were both beheaded at the same time. Thus did the first apostolic martyr cheerfully and resolutely receive that cup, which he had told our Saviour he was ready to drink. Timon and Parmenas suffered martyrdom about the same time; the one at Phillippi, and the other in Macedonia. These events took place A. D. 44.

III. Philip.

Was born at Bethsaida, in Galilee, and was the first called by the name of "Disciple." He laboured diligently in Upper Asia, and suffered martyrdom at Heliopolis, in Phrygia. He was scourged, thrown into prison, and afterwards crucified, A. D. 54.

IV. Matthew,

Whose occupation was that of a toll-gatherer, was born at Nazareth. He wrote his gospel in Hebrew, which was afterwards translated into Greek by James the Less. The scene of his labors was Parthia, and Ethiopia, in which latter country he suffered martyrdom, being slain with a halberd in the city of Nadabah, A. D. 60.

V. James the Less,

Is supposed by some to have been the brother of our Lord, by a former wife of Joseph. This is very doubtful, and accords too much with the catholic superstition, that Mary never had any other children except our Saviour. He was elected to the oversight of the churches of Jerusalem; and was the author of the epistle ascribed to James in the sacred canon. At the age of ninety-four, he was beat and stoned by the Jews; and finally had his brains dashed out with a fuller's club.

VI. Matthias,

Of whom less is known than of most of the other disciples, was elected to fill the vacant place of Judas. He was stoned at Jerusalem and then beheaded.

VII. Andrew,

Was the brother of Peter. He preached the gospel to many Asiatic nations; but on his arrival at Edessa, he was taken and crucified on a cross, the two ends of which were fixed transversely in the ground. Hence the derivation of the term, St. Andrew's Cross.

VIII. St. Mark,

Was born of Jewish parents of the tribe of Levi. He is supposed to have been converted to christianity by Peter, whom he served as an amanuensis, and under whose inspection he wrote his gospel in the Greek language. Mark was dragged to pieces by the people of Alexandria, at the great solemnity of Serapis their idol, ending his life under their merciless hands.

IX. Peter,

Was born at Bethsaida, in Galilee. He was by occupation a fisherman. Christ gave him a name which in Syriac implies a rock. Peter is supposed to have suffered martyrdom at Rome, during the reign of the emperor Nero, being crucified with his head downward, at his own request.

[It is, however, very uncertain, whether Peter ever visited Rome at all. The evidence rather favouring the supposition that he ended his days in some other country.—Ed.]

X. Paul,

The great apostle of the Gentiles, was a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, a native of Tarsus in Cilicia, and before his conversion was called Saul. After suffering various persecutions at Jerusalem, Iconium, Lystra, Phillippi and Thessalonica, he was carried prisoner to Rome, where he continued for two years, and was then released. He afterwards visited the churches of Greece and Rome, and preached the gospel in Spain and France, but returning to Rome, he was apprehended by order of Nero, and beheaded.

XI. Jude,

The brother of James, was commonly called Thaddeus. He was crucified at Edessa, A. D. 72.

XII. Bartholomew,

Preached in several countries, and having translated the gospel of Matthew into the language of India, he propagated it in that country. He was at length cruelly beaten and then crucified by the impatient idolaters.

XIII. Thomas,

Called Didymus, preached the gospel in Parthia and India, where exciting the rage of the pagan priests, he was martyred by being thrust through with a spear.

XIV. Luke,

The evangelist, was the author of the gospel which goes under his name. He travelled with Paul through various countries, and is supposed to have been hanged on an olive tree, by the idolatrous priests of Greece.

XV. Simon,

Surnamed Zelotes, preached the gospel in Mauritania, Africa, and even in Britain, which latter country he was crucified, A. D. 74.

XVI. John,

The "beloved disciple," was brother to James the Great. The churches of Smyrna, Pergamos, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea, and Thyatira, were founded by him. From Ephesus he was ordered to be sent to Rome, where it is affirmed he was cast into a cauldron of boiling oil. He escaped by miracle, without injury. Domitian afterwards banished him to the Isle of Patmos, where he wrote the Book of Revelation. Nerva, the successor of Domitian, recalled him. He was the only apostle who escaped a violent death.

XVII. Barnabas,

Was of Cyprus, but of Jewish descent, his death is supposed to have taken place about A. D. 73.


The First Persecution under Nero, A. D. 67.

The first persecution of the church took place in the year 67, under Nero, the sixth emperor of Rome. This monarch reigned for the space of five years, with tolerable credit to himself, but then gave way to the greatest extravagancy of temper, and to the most atrocious barbarities. Among other diabolical whims, he ordered that the city of Rome should be set on fire, which order was executed by his officers, guards, and servants. While the imperial city was in flames, he went up to the tower of Macænas, played upon his harp, sung the song of the burning of Troy, and openly declared, "That he wished the ruin of all things before his death." Besides the noble pile, called the circus, many other palaces and houses were consumed; several thousands perished in the flames, were smothered in the smoke, or buried beneath the ruins.

This dreadful conflagration continued nine days; when Nero, finding that his conduct was greatly blamed, and a severe odium cast upon him, determined to lay the whole upon the christians, at once to excuse himself, and have an opportunity of glutting his sight with new cruelties. This was the occasion of the first persecution; and the barbarities exercised on the christians were such as even excited the commisseration of the Romans themselves. Nero even refined upon cruelty, and contrived all manner of punishments for the christians that the most infernal imagination could design. In particular, he had some sewed up in the skins of wild beasts, and then worried by dogs till they expired; and others dressed in shirts made stiff with wax, fixed to axletrees, and set on fire in his gardens, in order to illuminate them. This persecution was general throughout the whole Roman empire; but it rather increased than diminished the spirit of christianity. In the course of it, St. Paul and St. Peter were martyred.

To their names may be added, Erastus, chamberlain of Corinth; Aristarchus, the Macedonian; and Trophimus, an Ephesian, converted by St. Paul, and fellow-labourer with him; Joseph, commonly called Barsabas; and Ananias, bishop of Damascus; each of the seventy.

The Second Persecution, under Domitian, A. D. 81.

The emperor Domitian, who was naturally inclined to cruelty, first slew his brother, and then raised the second persecution against the christians. In his rage he put to death some of the Roman senators, some through malice; and others to confiscate their estates. He then commanded all the lineage of David to be put to death.

Among the numerous martyrs that suffered during this persecution was Simeon, bishop of Jerusalem, who was crucified; and St. John, who was boiled in oil, and afterward banished to Patmos. Flavia, the daughter of a Roman senator, was likewise banished to Pontus; and a law was made, "That no christian, once brought before the tribunal, should be exempted from punishment without renouncing his religion."

A variety of fabricated tales were, during this reign, composed in order to injure the christians. Such was the infatuation of the pagans, that, if famine, pestilence, or earthquakes afflicted any of the Roman provinces, it was laid upon the christians. These persecutions among the christians increased the number of informers and many, for the sake of gain, swore away the lives of the innocent.

Another hardship was, that, when any christians were brought before the magistrates, a test oath was proposed, when, if they refused to take it, death was pronounced against them; and if they confessed themselves christians, the sentence was the same.

The following were the most remarkable among the numerous martyrs who suffered during this persecution.

Dionysius, the Areopagite, was an Athenian by birth, and educated in all the useful and ornamental literature of Greece. He then travelled to Egypt to study astronomy, and made very particular observations on the great and supernatural eclipse, which happened at the time of our Saviour's crucifixion.

The sanctity of his conversation, and the purity of his manners, recommended him so strongly to the christians in general, that he was appointed bishop of Athens.

Nicodemus, a benevolent christian of some distinction, suffered at Rome during the rage of Domitian's persecution.

Protasius and Gervasius were martyred at Milan.

Timothy was the celebrated disciple of St. Paul, and bishop of Ephesus, where he zealously governed the church till A. D. 97. At this period, as the pagans were about to celebrate a feast called Catagogion, Timothy, meeting the procession, severely reproved them for their ridiculous idolatry, which so exasperated the people, that they fell upon him with their clubs, and beat him in so dreadful a manner, that he expired of the bruises two days after.

The Third Persecution, under Trajan, A. D. 108.

Nerva, succeeding Domitian, gave a respite to the sufferings of the christians; but reigning only thirteen months, his successor Trajan, in the tenth year of his reign A. D. 108, began the third persecution against the christians. While the persecution raged, Pliny 2d, a heathen philosopher wrote to the emperor in favor of the Christians; to whose epistle Trajan returned this indecisive answer: "The christians ought not to be sought after, but when brought before the magistracy, they should be punished." Trajan, however, soon after wrote to Jerusalem, and gave orders to his officers to exterminate the stock of David; in consequence of which, all that could be found of that race were put to death.