Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Bl Thomas Abel

The Oxford Gregorian Chant Society is under the spiritual patronage of Blessed Thomas Abel. He was a student of Magdalen College, a priest, and a musician, and the chaplain and music teacher to Queen Katharine of Aragon. Like other opponents of Henry's divorce of Katharine, he was imprisoned; with two of them, Bl. Edmund Powell and Bl. Richard Feathersone, he was executed (hanged, drawn, and quartered) on 30th July 1540. Three Zwinglian Protestants were burnt for heresy on the same occasion. Since Powell was a Welshman, the three are honoured on 30th July with a feastday in the Dioceses of Wales in the Extraordinary Form calendar.

While imprisoned in the Tower of London, in the Beauchamp Tower, Abel carved a rebus, or visual pun, on the wall: a play on his name, 'A-bell'.

Immediately below this carving is another, by Prior Lawrence Cook of the Carmelite Priory at Doncaster, another beatus who was executed in 1538, for his lack of enthusiasm for the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Many other Catholic prisoners wrote their names on the walls around the Beauchamp tower cell; the most famous was a later prisoner, and a saint, St Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel. You can in this picture see his name and part of the Latin motto he composed: 'The more we suffer for Christ in this life, the more glory we shall have in the next life.' After many years in prison he died there in 1595.

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