Alexander Briant

Alexander Briant (17 August 1556 – 1 December 1581) was an English Jesuit and martyr, executed at Tyburn.


Alexander Briant
Priest and Martyr
Born17 August 1556[1]
Somerset, England
Died1 December 1581(1581-12-01) (aged 25)
Tyburn, London, England
Venerated inCatholic Church
Beatified15 December 1921, Rome by Pope Pius XI
Canonized1970, Rome by Pope Paul VI
Feast1 December

He was born in Somerset, and entered Hart Hall, Oxford (now Hertford College), at an early age. While there, he became a pupil of Robert Parsons[2] and he completed his studies with him at Balliol College, which, along with his association with Richard Holtby, led to his conversion. After leaving university, he entered the English College at Reims then went to the English College, Douai, and was ordained priest on 29 March 1578. Assigned to the English mission in August of the following year, he laboured with zeal in his own county of Somerset.[3]

A party of the persecution, searching for Parsons, placed Alexander Briant under arrest on 28 April 1581. Arrested along with Briant was Gilbert Bodey, brother of John Bodey. Gilbert Bodey was scourged at Bridewell and afterwards confined to Counter Prison. He was released on bond, and when not called to appear, escaped to Rheims.[4]

In the hope of extorting information, Briant was sent to the Counter. After fruitless attempts to this end, he was taken to the Tower of London where he was subjected to torture. It was during this confinement that Briant penned his letter to the Jesuit Fathers in England requesting admission into the Society, which was granted. He was arraigned with six other priests on 16 November 1581, in Queen's Bench, Westminster, on the charge of high treason, and condemned to death. In his letter to the Jesuit Fathers he says that he felt no pain during the various tortures he underwent, and adds: "Whether this that I say be miraculous or no, God knoweth." He was twenty-five years old when he was executed by being hanged, drawn and quartered on 1 December 1581. Through either malice or carelessness of the executioner he was put to needless suffering.[3] Edmund Campion and Ralph Sherwin were also executed with him.[5]

Alexander Briant was declared venerable on 8 December 1921 by Pope Pius XI and beatified one week later on 15 December.[6] Alexander Briant was canonized nearly forty-nine years later in 1970 by Pope Paul VI as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales with a common feast day of 25 October. His individual feast day is celebrated on 1 December, the day of his martyrdom.