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Black and white photograph showing group of young men wearing priest collars having picnic

Explore the Past

Explore the Jesuits in Britain's past through exhibitions, podcasts, oral history projects, and useful resources for conducting your own research.

Virtual Timeline

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Visit our virtual timeline of the Jesuits in England, Scotland, and Wales, created for the 400th anniversary of the English Province of the Society of Jesus in January 2023.

Online Exhibitions

A series of virtual exhibitions created in-house by the British Jesuit Archives or through Jesuit Collections, an online platform for collaborative projects with Stonyhurst College.

Latest exhibition:

1623 Books

This online exhibition, inspired by the 400th anniversary of the foundation of the English (later British) Jesuit Province, looks at all the books in the British Jesuit Archive's Antiquarian Book Collection which were published in 1623.

The thirteen works encompass anti-Protestant controversial writing, devotional literature, Lives of saints, martyrs and holy men, conversion stories and more.  As objects, these books retain signs of how they have been owned and cared for over the 4 centuries since they were printed.

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Hot Holy Ladies

This exhibition, in collaboration with Stonyhurst College, tells the story of Helena Wintour, who operated at the centre of a recusant network with close ties to Jesuit missionaries. Creating illegal vestments, she was forced to operate in secret under threat of exposure. Although her name was tainted by association with the most notorious attempt at terrorism of the 17th century, the Gunpowder Plot, she persisted in this dangerous, subversive work, and defiantly embroidered her name on the vestments.

Her life story is told here through a documentary, and Stonyhurst College Curator, Dr Jan Graffius, introduces her 6 surviving vestments in a series of short videos.

Title How bleedeth burning love, subtitle British Jesuit Province's Relics of the 40 Martyrs

How Bleedeth Burning Love: British Jesuit Province's Relics of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the canonisation of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, this online exhibition examines the faith stories of these remarkable men and women from the 16th and 17th centuries. It is illustrated with images of their relics and other manuscripts and artefacts in the care of the Jesuits in Britain Archives and Stonyhurst College.

Collage of a photo and two documents.

Jesuit Army Chaplains, 1914

At the end of its first year there were 10 Jesuits serving as military chaplains in the First World War. By the end of 1917, the year that saw the US enter the war and the battle of Passchendaele, this number had risen to over 70. This exhibition showcases the profiles of those first 10 Jesuit chaplains.

Digitised Archives

Painting of a bombed out church

Leslie Walker SJ
WW1 Watercolour on Paper

Sketches by WW1 chaplain Leslie Walker with the 19th Division in the north of France, August 1915 - May 1916.

Digitised by the Jesuits in Britain

Podcasts

A series of podcasts by Jesuit Collections, a collaborative project with Stonyhurst College and other contributors, to accompany our online exhibitions.

Latest podcast:

The Holywell Bones

Rebecca Somerset (Archivist, British Jesuit Archives) conducts a discussion with Professor Maurice Whitehead (Research Fellow & Director of Heritage Collections, Venerable English College in Rome), Dr Jan Graffius (Curator, Stonyhurst College Collections) and Dr Hannah Thomas (Special Collections Manager and Research Fellow, Congregation of Jesus English Province at the Bar Convent in York) about the bones found at Holywell. They discuss the 17th century Welsh Catholic historical background before considering the bones themselves and why the conclusion was reached that these belonged to the martyrs Philip Evans and John Lloyd.

Notes:
A copy of the Ortelius map mentioned by Maurice can be seen here: Angliae, Scotiae, et Hiberniae, sive Britannicar: Insularum Descriptio - Maps Project - Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections

Full transcript available here.

Credit:
The recording was edited by Sherene Chan.

The Significance of Vestments

Rebecca Somerset (Archivist, British Jesuit Archives) conducts an interview with Dr Jan Graffius (Curator, Stonyhurst College Collections) about the Hot, Holy Ladies exhibition launched in April 2022. They discuss the remarkable life of Helena Wintour and the underappreciated but essential role of 16th and 17th century Catholic women in saving many of the artefacts held by Stonyhurst and the British Jesuit Province today. The podcast also offers an understanding that vestments are a fundamental part of English and Welsh creative, literary and artistic history.

Links Mentioned:
www.jesuitcollections.org.uk

Full transcript available at www.jesuitcollections.org.uk/hot-holy-ladies

Credit:
The recording was edited by Emma Holland.

The Significance of Relics

Rebecca Somerset (Archivist, British Jesuit Archives) conducts an interview with Dr Jan Graffius (Curator, Stonyhurst College Collections) about Jan’s experience of researching and caring for relics. They discuss the skills needed to work with relics and how the stories of individual relics are discovered.

The podcast offers an understanding of why relics are important, and parallels are drawn between the relics of English and Welsh martyrs of the 16th and 17th centuries and of the relics of St Romero and others, who were killed in the 1980s in El Salavador. Of course, they touch on the recent relic exhibition, How Bleedeth Burning Love, which they jointly launched in March 2021.

Links Mentioned:
www.jesuitcollections.org.uk
www.jesuitarchives.co.uk
www.stonyhurst.ac.uk/open-to-the-pu…um/collections
www.thinkingfaith.org
Twitter: @JesuitArchives and @StonyArchivum
Instagram: @stonyhurst_collections

Credit:
The recording was edited by Emma Holland.

Transcript of recording

Oral History Projects

The Letters of Fr John Luck SJ

Fr John Luck SJ was a Jesuit priest who served as an army Chaplain to the forces between 1915 and 1919. During this time he wrote letters to his mother and sisters about the various journeys and day to day activities of the Royal Army Medical Corps. Through this correspondence we can gain a unique first-hand perspective of life in the forces during WW1. Find out more about his life and listen to the letters.

Jesuit Memories

Take a trip down memory lane with some of the Jesuits in Britain as they share the stories that have shaped their lives over the years both inside and outside of the Society of Jesus.

Useful Resources for Jesuit biography

Foley

Br Henry Foley SJ (1811-1891) was an English Jesuit Roman Catholic church historian. Foley’s Records of the English Province of the Society of Jesus: historic facts illustrative of the labours and sufferings of its members in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries – published in the late nineteenth century – is comprised of seven volumes and covers the early history of the mission and of the Jesuit priests who served it. It is a compilation of research that is invaluable to historical research, which has now been digitised by various organisations including the Hathi Trust Digital Library. 

Catalogues

A Catalogue is produced annually by each Province of the Society of Jesus that lists the permanent address of each Jesuit residing in the particular Province for the given year, along with their dates of birth, entry to the Society and – when applicable – profession of Final Vows. The Archives of the House of the Superior General have provided online access to the SJ Catalogues 1774-1945.

Catalogus Defunctorum

The Catalogus Defunctorum provides brief outline dates and places for all the Jesuits who died during this time frame. The Jesuit Archives of Central United States have put the SJ Catalogus Defunctorum 1814-1970 online.

Article on Henry Garnet SJ

An article produced in Spring 2018 by Archivist Rebecca Somerset based on a presentation to the Jesuit London Community on the life of the Jesuit Henry Garnet.

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