Blessed Thomas Holland

Blessed Thomas Holland

Thomas Holland


  • Death: 12/12/1642
  • Nationality (place of birth): England

Thomas Holland (1600-1642) suffered from poor health during the whole of the seven years he spent in active ministry in his native England. Despite his suffering he fearlessly moved around London to bring the sacraments to Catholics during a period of oppression.

He was born in Lancasshire and attended the English College at Saint-Omer in Flanders for six years. He moved to Valladolid, Spain, in August 1621, to attend the English College there and then returned to Flanders in 1624 so that he could enter the Jesuits. He did his novitiate and theological study in Flanders and was ordained there before being assigned to be the spiritual director of the scholastics at Saint-Omer. In 1635 he was assigned to the English mission in the hope that his native air would meliorate the poor health he had begun to suffer.

The conditions in which he had to live in England made his health worse, not better. He had to stay indoors all day and travel only at night because of the danger of arrest by priest-hunters. The hardships he endured caused a loss of appetite, which only worsened his condition. Ill health, however, did not keep from ministry; and he continued until his arrest on Oct. 4, 1642 on suspicion of being a priest. He was detained at New Prison in London for two weeks and then taken to Newgate at the time of his trial. No evidence could be put forth proving that he was a priest, and he had been very careful in prison not to be caught praying, but when the court asked him to swear that he was not a priest, he refused; the jury found him guilty and condemned him to die. The French ambassador offered to intervene to try to win his freedom, but Holland said he preferred martyrdom. Some Capuchin friends smuggled Mass supplies into prison so he could celebrate the Eucharist one last time. On the morning of Dec. 12 he was dragged to Tyburn to be executed. He prayed for those who had condemned him and for King Charles I, the royal family, parliament and the nation. He gave the hangman the little money he had, forgave him for what he was about to do and then was hanged until he was dead. His body was then beheaded and quartered and exposed on London bridge.

Other English Martyrs

Originally Collected and edited by: Tom Rochford, SJ