Mayne, Cuthbert, St.

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Protomartyr of the English College, Douai; b. Youlston, near Barnstaple, 1543 or 1544; d. Launceston, Nov. 30, 1577. His uncle, a schismatic priest, who held a rich benefice that he hoped to pass on to his nephew, sent him to Barnstaple Grammar School. At 17, Mayne was presented with the living at the parish of Huntshaw and was later ordained a minister of the new Anglican Church there. Five years later he went to Oxford where he took his arts degree at St. Alban's Hall (later incorporated into Merton College). At Oxford, Cuthbert fell under the influence of Edmund campion and Gregory Martin. After they left, Cuthbert lingered on, torn between his duty to his uncle and the benefice and his wish to become a Catholic priest.

At last the matter was settled for him. Campion and Martin had sent several letters to Cuthbert urging him to join them at Douai. One letter fell into the hands of the bishop of London; he sent men to arrest Cuthbert, who, however, was away at the time. Having been warned by Thomas Ford, he decided to resign his chaplaincy and leave the country. This was toward the end of 1570 and nothing more is heard of him until he arrived at the English College, Douai, in 1573. On Feb. 7, 1575, he was ordained, and the following year he took his degree as a bachelor of theology. In April 1576, he returned to England with John Paine. He made his way to the house of Francis Tregian, Golden Manor in Cornwall, where he posed as a steward.

It was a short ministry. On June 8, 1577, Richard Grenville, Sheriff of Cornwall (the hero of Tennyson's Revenge ), with nine or ten justices of peace and 100 armed men, arrived at Golden Manor. He arrested Cuthbert and almost the entire household. The whole party was brought to Truro to be questioned by Bishop Brad-bridge, who closely examined Cuthbert's papers, but found nothing incriminating. From Truro, Cuthbert was taken to Launceston Castle and thrown into a foul dungeon. After three month's imprisonment, he was tried as a traitor before the Launceston Assizes on Sept. 16, 1577. This was a test case because Mayne was the first seminary priest to be caught. The prosecution had only circumstantial evidence that he was a priest and the jury returned from its first retirement puzzled and uncertain. However, after a threatening harangue from Grenville, it gave the verdict of guilty.

One of the judges, named Jeffreys, was not satisfied with the justice of the verdict and made a report to the Privy Council. The council submitted the matter to the whole bench of judges whose opinion was divided; whereupon the council ordered the execution to be carried out as "a terror to the Papists." Francis Tregian, then imprisoned in London, was offered his life and Cuthbert's also if he would join the Protestant Church but he replied that "he would not hazard his soul to hell to withhold his man's [Cuthbert's] from heaven."

On Nov. 30, 1577, Cuthbert was bound to a hurdle and drawn to the market square at Launceston. He was allowed to hang only for a minute and was then butchered alive. His skull is preserved at the Carmelite convent at Lanherne. There have been many reported miracles attributed to him. He was beatified by Leo XIII in 1886, and canonized by Paul VI in 1970.

Feast: Nov. 29.

Bibliography: t. cooper, The Dictionary of National Biography from the Earliest Times to 1900 13:161162. w. allen, A Briefe Historie of the Glorious Martyrdom of Twelve Reverend Priests (Rheims 1582; reprint London 1908). r. challoner, Memoirs of Missionary Priests, ed. j. h. pollen (rev. ed. London 1924). p. a. boyan and g. r. lamb, Francis Tregian (New York 1955).

[g. fitzherbert]