John Nelson

Deceased Person

1534 – 1578


Who was John Nelson?

John Nelson was an English Jesuit martyr who was executed during the reign of Elizabeth I.

Nelson was from Skelton, York. He was nearing 40 when he left for Douai in 1573 for training as a priest. Two of his four brothers would later follow him there to become priests. He was ordained at Binche in the County of Hainaut by Monsignor Louis de Berlaymont, Archbishop of Cambrai, on 11 June 1576. The date and place of his admission to the Society of Jesus are unknown, but it was probably shortly before his arrest. The next November, he left for his mission, which appears to have been in London. He was arrested on 1 December 1578, "late in the evening as he was saying the Nocturne of the Matins for the next day following", and was put into Newgate Prison as a suspected Papist.

When interrogated about a week later, he refused to take the oath recognizing the Queen's supremacy in spiritual matters, and was induced by the commissioners to declare the Queen a schismatic. Under the Legislation of 1571, this was high treason and was punishable by death. He was condemned to death on 1 February 1578, and was confined after the trial in an underground dungeon in the Tower of London, the Pit of the Tower. While in prison he subsisted on bread and water and was able to say Mass.

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  • Catholicism
Lived in
  • North Yorkshire
Feb 3, 1578

on July 23, 2013


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