Campion's 'Reasons' go on display in Oxford
A copy of a famous document written by the Jesuit martyr, St Edmund Campion SJ, has gone on display at Stonor Park, the house in south Oxfordshire where it was secretly produced more than 400 years ago. The copy of his Decem Rationes (Ten Reasons) is believed to be one of just five in the world. The Jesuits in Britain also have copies in their Archives but they are not as old: they date from 1584 and 1631. The Stonor copy, which has been loaned by the Diocese of Portsmouth, dates from 1581. It has been put on public display in the Long Gallery in the house.
Following the publication of his argument for Catholic Christianity against Protestant criticisms (known as ‘Campion’s Bragge’), Campion published a book, using a secret press set up by follow Jesuit, Fr Robert Persons SJ, in which he protested that he was not relying on his own ingenuity and powers of persuasion, but on the force of truth and tradition itself. His ‘Ten Reasons’ for accepting the Catholic position offered a genuine challenge to the establishment theologians. While he was writing, Campion was also ministering and preaching in Catholic houses in the Midlands and North England.
Keeping Catholic heritage alive
The pamphlet Decem Rationes was printed on a press hidden in the roof of Stonor Park, a recusant home, in 1581. When 400 copies of it were distributed in Oxford, it caused a sensation and Campion was tracked down within weeks. Stonor was raided and the printing press was removed. Once apprehended, Campion was tortured in the Tower of London and executed at Tyburn (near Marble Arch in London) on 1 December 1581.
Stonor Park has been lived in by the same family for over 800 years. The return of the pamphlet to Stonor coincides with a large scale renovation of its 13th century chapel, which was used throughout the years of the Catholic repression. The chapel was restored with funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund and other grant making trusts. The entire Chapel roof has been retiled, a new stone floor installed and the Stations of the Cross given by the writer Graham Greene (a frequent visitor to Stonor) have been put on display around the walls.
Lord Camoys, whose ancestors gave shelter to Campion, says the restoration of the Chapel is a vital step in keeping this important part of Catholic heritage alive and hopes more visitors will come to see it for themselves. “If the Chapel goes, the family goes", he says, adding that they see themselves as the guardians of the Chapel and the house.
Stonor Park is open Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday afternoons. Mass is celebrated every Sunday in the Chapel of the Blessed Trinity at 10.30am.