The site of the London Charterhouse has been associated with many English martyrs, among them St Philip Howard, whose reconversion to the Faith 400 years ago will be celebrated on the Arundel Pilgrimage this year, writes Fr Mark Elvins.
ON THE north side of Charterhouse Square in the City of London stand the remains of the old London Charterhouse.
It was founded in 1371 by Sir Walter Manny, dedicated to Our Lady of the Salutation. This ground was the seedbed of martyrdom; the first to suffer was St John Houghton, the Prior of the Charterhouse who gave his life in defence on the papal prerogative.
Three monks and one lay brother followed him to Tyburn and four more monks and five lay brothers starved to death in Newgate Prison.
After the dissolution of the religious houses the London Charterhouse became royal property and then in 1565 it was bought by the fourth Duke of Norfolk and re-named Howard House.
It was here that the young St Philip Howard grew up and here spent some of his formative years, between seven and eight years old he must have received his first religious instruction in this house.
Years later when Philip was Earl of Arundel and leading courtier he attended a public debate on the last day of August 1581 in the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula within the Tower of London.
St Edmund Campion bent with torture and loaded with chains faced ranks of Protestant divines who sat in comfort with works of reference before them.
In this unequal contest Philip Howard was so moved by Campion's sincerity, humility and obvious sanctity that his soul was touched. He had lapsed from his faith for many years but from this experience his life was changed and he sought to be reconciled.
Three years later in 1584 Philip was lodged in his father's old home — the London Charterhouse, his mind no doubt turning back to his childhood, he must have recalled the heroic witness of the Carthusian martyrs who went out from there, and thus determined to return to the sacraments.
He obtained the services of the famous Jesuit Fr William Weston, received the sacraments, and then sought refuge abroad. He was arrested mid-channel and spent eleven linger-years in the Tower under sentence, with the daily expectation of execution.
He must have been comforted during this time with the thought that the Carthusian martyrs of London had been imprisoned in the same place; he died of the effects of his imprisonment in 1595 and in 1970 he was canonised along with those same Carthusians.
This year marks the four hundredth anniversary of St Philip's re-conversion in 15841 and it is tempting to conclude that those holy Carthusians who died 20 years before his birth and whose charterhouse was his home, must have had some part in his re-conversion.
Details of the Arundel Pilgrimage, July 30-August 5, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of St Philip's conversion — can be obtained from Fr M T Elvins, 55, Upper North Street, Brighton.