David Lewis was born at Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, in the year 1616. This part of Wales has a landscape and culture all of its own. He was raised as a Protestant.
At sixteen years of age, while visiting Paris, he was reconciled to the Catholic Church. Subsequently, he went to study in Rome, where in 1642, he was ordained as a priest. Three years later he became a Jesuit.
In 1647, he returned home and, for over thirty years, worked in South Wales, with his base at the Cwm.
This hamlet in located in Herefordshire, which is sheltered between the high ridges of the Welsh Black Mountains to the west and Malvern Hills to the east. At the Cym, the Jesuits maintained two remote farmhouses, which also functioned as a shelter for hunted priests.
In November 1534 parliament ratified the Act of Supremacy which declared the king to be the only supreme head of the Church in England. Henry VIII formally assumed the title on 1st. February 1535. The Act of Supremacy was quickly followed by the Treason Act, and explicitly enjoined the penalty of high treason on anyone who might 'maliciously' desire to deprive the king of his title of supreme head of the Church. All bishops, priests and religious were required to sign a formal document explicitly acknowledging Henry VIII as head of the church in England.
David Lewis was arrested in November 1678, at Llantarnan in Monmouthshire. He was condemned, as a Roman Catholic priest and for saying Catholic masses, at the Assizes in Monmouth in March 1679. Like St John Wall and St John Kemble, he was then sent to London to be examined by Titus Oates and others.
Titus Oates and Israel Tonge were two disreputable informers who fabricated a Jesuit plot later known as the Popish Plot of 1678-79. Oates falsely claimed that there was a Catholic conspiracy to kill King Charles II, place James, his Catholic brother on the throne, massacre Protestants, and reinstitute Catholicism with the help of a French army.
David Lewis was finally brought back to Usk in Monmouthshire for his execution. Here he was hanged, drawn and quartered on 27 August 1679.
After the Titus Oates persecution (1679-80) the Welsh-speaking clergy were either executed or exiled, and the chill mists of Calvinism settled on Cambria's hills and vales.
Together with St. John Wall, St. John Kemble and 37 other martyrs, St. David Lewis was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970 as the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.
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