Running Local

This Train of Thought Makes All Stops

Today’s Lesson In Irony: The Unfortunate Resting Place(s) of Oliver Plunkett

Posted by Bob Kohm on March 12, 2009

Saint Oliver Plunkett was the last Catholic martyr to find his martyrdom on England’s shores, taken from his Church in Ireland in 1679 and then brought to London for trial in 1680. Plunkett was not indicted by a grand jury on charges of Popishness and Promoting the Roman Faith, but a second jury, headed by a friend of the Crown’s, was far more accommodating. After what could best be described as a kangaroo trial, Archbishop Plunkett received some disheartening news– not only was he to be executed, he was to be hanged, drawn, and quartered for the Crown’s amusement.

This was not, as they say, ideal news. His sentence translated to being hanged but cut down after 10 minutes or so of agony, dragged to a large block upon which he would be tied down, revived with icy water, and forced to watch as first his testicles and then penis were cut off and tossed on a brazier to burn before his eyes. Following that delight, his abdomen was sliced open and his intestines reeled out onto a rolling pin looking device with little spiky bits… and then tossed upon said brazier to be burnt before his eyes. Things improved slightly, if terminally, next with his head being lopped off, followed posthumously by his body being divided into four part and taken for display about the shire.

And then irony intruded.

You would think after a day like that people would be willing to let well enough alone with the poor departed (no pun intended…) Plunkett. You, of course, would be wrong. After a couple of years, Plunkett’s parts would be dug up from their resting place and taken on the road, first to a Benedictine Abbey in Germany for reburial, although his head would continue on to Rome with a tour stop in Armagh before finally coming to, uhm, rest in St. Peter’s Drogheda. The “uhm” signifies that to this day Plunkett’s head is on display in the Shrine of Oliver Plunkett  at St. Peter’s, just in case you ever find yourself in Drogheda, Ireland on a dank afternoon with no plans.

The real irony, though, is where much of the rest of the beheaded, benighted Plunkett was eventually laid to rest… Downside Abbey in England. Yes, Downside, as in, “There may be some downside in not giving the Crown what it wants, Archbishop”.

At least he was made a Saint, I guess.


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