Our Patron — St John Stone
St John Stone was a member of the Austin Friars (Order of St Augustin) whose
Priory was in St George’s Street, Canterbury (the area still known as ‘Whitefriars’).
The picture of St John Stone in his prison cell awaiting execution
is from an engraving which was printed in 1612 at Liege in a volume by Georges
Maigret Buillonoy OSA (1573 — 1633)
Under the Act of Supremacy of 1534 Henry VIII had himself proclaimed “Supreme Head
under God of the Church of England”. The Treason Act of 1536 made failure to
acknowledge the legitimate titles of the King of England an offence of “High Treason”
punishable by death.
A former Dominican Friar, Richard Ingworth, who had signed the Act of Supremacy and had
been made Bishop of Dover in the new Church of England visited Whitefriars on
14th December 1538 in order to receive its surrender. All submitted except St John
Richard Ingworth wrote to Thomas Cromwell, the King’s Vicar General: “(John Stone)
behaved very ... traitorously before all the company ... I, perceiving his demeanour,
straight sequested him so that no man spake with him. ... at all times he still held
and still willed to die for it, that the King may not be head of the Church of England
but must be a spiritual father appointed by God.”
So persuasive were St John Stone’s arguments that Richard Ingworth feared it might cause
others to recant. He was therefore taken to London and imprisoned in the Tower where he was
examined by Thomas Cromwell. After a year, he was sent back to Canterbury to be tried. He
was initially held in Canterbury Castle where the following event took place:
“Having poured forth prayers to God in prison and fasted continuously for three days he
heard a voice though he saw no one, which addressed him by name and bade him to be of good
heart and not to hesitate to suffer death with constancy for the belief which he had professed.
From which afterwards he gained such eagerness and strength as never to allow himself by
persuation or terror to be drawn from his purpose.”
In December 1539 St John Stone was condemned to be hanged, drawn and quartered for High
Treason, the execution to take place on the ancient mound now known as “Dane John”. While
awaiting execution St John Stone was imprisoned in the Westgate tower. The exact date of his
martyrdom is not known but is usually reckoned to be 27th December 1539.
Pope Leo XIII beatified St John Stone in 1886 and he was canonised as one of The Forty
Martyrs of England & Wales by Pope Paul VI on 25th October 1970.