St. Cuthbert Mayne
Cuthbert Mayne was born at Youlston, near Barnstaple in Devon and educated at Barnstaple Grammar School. He was ordained a Protestant minister at the age of eighteen and instituted rector of Huntshaw, near Torrington.
After ordination, Cuthbert Mayne attended university, first at St Alban Hall, then at St John’s College, in Oxford, where he was made chaplain. Whilst at Oxford, he became a Catholic. Late in 1570, a letter addressed to him from Gregory Martin (a Catholic Priest and notable scholar) fell into the hands of the Bishop of London, to avoid arrest Mayne fled to Cornwall and then, in 1573, to the English College at Douai, France.
He was ordained a priest at Douai in 1575. In 1576, he left for the English mission in the company of another priest, and resided in the parish of Probus, Cornwall.
Cuthbert Mayne was arrested on 8th June 1577. While awaiting trial Cuthbert Mayne was imprisoned in Launceston gaol. The authorities sought a death sentence.
The trial judge, directed the jury to return a verdict of guilty. The jury found Mayne guilty of high treason on all counts, and accordingly he was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. Mayne responded, “Deo gratias”.
On the night of 27th November Cuthbert Mayne’s cell was reported by his fellow prisoners to have become full of a “great light”.
Before being brought to the place of execution, Cuthbert Mayne was offered his life in return for a renunciation of his religion and an acknowledgment of the supremacy of the queen as head of the church. Declining both offers, he kissed a copy of the Bible, declaring that “the queen neither ever was, nor is, nor ever shall be, the head of the church of England”.
Cuthbert Mayne was executed in Launceston on 29th November 1577. He was not allowed to speak to the crowd, but only to say his prayers quietly.
Relics of Cuthbert Mayne’s body survive in various locations. He was the first “seminary priest”, the group of priests who were trained not in England but in houses of studies on the Continent. He was also one of the group of prominent Catholic martyrs of the persecution who were later designated as the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.
Cuthbert Mayne was beatified by Pope Leo XIII, by means of a decree of 29th December 1886 and was canonized along with the other Martyrs of England and Wales by Pope Paul VI on 25th October 1970.