Memorial and history, Part 2: in which John Foxe reveals his sources

Laura Sangha

This is the second of a series of posts on issues relating to Exeter’s martyr memorial. The first post discusses the details of the martyrs themselves.

A monumental achievement

Foxe’s [?] monumental [?] achievement.

The information about Exeter’s martyrs that I related in yesterday’s post was taken from John Foxe’s Actes and Monuments, popularly known as the ‘Book of Martyrs’. Actes was first published in 1563, five years into the reign of Elizabeth I. It is a work of Protestant history and martyrology, mainly consisting of a polemical account of the sufferings of evangelicals under the Catholic Church.

I’ve previously discussed images of martyrdom on the monster, in this post I am more concerned with as a history of the ‘true’ Church. Continue reading

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Memorial and history, Part I: in which two people meet a terrible end

Laura Sangha

googlemapsA recent trip to the pub took me into a new part of Exeter, and on my way there I stumbled across a fascinating snapshot of its history. At the corner of Barnfield and Denmark roads I came to a memorial in the form of an obelisk of Dartmoor granite, with four bronze panels around its base. I assumed it was a twentieth-century war memorial, and went to have a closer look at the bronze reliefs – hey, I’m a historian, my profession compels me to! On examination, I was surprised to discover not a weary line thomas benet bronzeof soldiers in metal helmets, but instead what appeared to be a monk fixing a notice to a wooden door, and I didn’t need the inscription to tell me the door belonged to Exeter Cathedral – an angel from the first tier of sculptures on the West front is clearly depicted on the right hand side. What’s more, a second bronze showed a women chained to a post, clearly suffering a fiery death at the hands of the authorities. Reading the inscriptions, I realised that I had chanced upon a memorial to two sixteenth-century Protestant martyrs who had met their deaths in Exeter.

Firing up the computer on my return home, I soon disappeared down the rabbit hole of the city’s history and our memories, stories about and uses of our past. My initial idea for a brief post mutated into a series of linked musings on the tangled threads of the regional and national history, in all its venerable and unsavoury glory. I’ll be publishing one each day this week. Today I start with the story of the two martyrs commemorated on the memorial, Thomas Benet and Agnes Prest. Continue reading