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Christopher Holywood

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(Latinized, A Sacrobosco.)

Jesuit; b. At Artane, Dublin, in 1559; d. 4 September, 1626. His family, which draws its name from Holywood (Saithne), a village near Dublin, had long been distinguished both in Church and State. Christopher Holywood studied at Padua, entered the Society of Jesus at Dôle in 1579, was afterwards professor of Scripture and theology at Pont-a-Mousson, Ferrara, and Padua, and knew Bellarmine in the latter places. In 1598 he was sent to Ireland, but was arrested on his way and confined in the Gatehouse Prison, the Tower of London and Wisbech Castle, and was eventually shipped to the Continent after the death of Queen Elizabeth. He then resumed his interrupted journey and reached Ireland on St. Patrick's Eve, 1604. This same year he published two Latin controversial works at Antwerp. He was soon appointed superior of his brethren, a post of great importance in the absence of all bishops, for it had been impossible, during the fiery trial of Elizabeth's reign, even to preserve their succession. Holywood's letters and reports on the state of Ireland, of which over a score have been printed by Hogan, throw a vivid light on the history of the country. On the accession of King James, there had been a reaction in favour of Catholicism, and if this was strong even in England (see GUNPOWDER PLOT), it was far stronger in Ireland, leading in many cases to the reassumption of the old Catholic churches. Father Holywood and his fellow Jesuits had their hands full of work, reconciling the lapsed, settling quarrels, and healing the numberless wounds which the barbarous persecution had inflicted on the country. Though there were only four Jesuits in Ireland when he landed, their number rapidly increased, and there were forty-two when he died, besides sixty others in training or occupied in teaching on the Continent. The times of peaceful progress soon passed away, and after the imposition of the Oath of Allegiance there followed a persecution as severe as that of Elizabeth, and far more systematic. By the enforced education of their children as Protestants, many noble and influential families were lost to the Faith, and the lands of Catholics were freely given to Protestant settlers from England. The prospect became ever more gloomy. Yet Holywood's reports show that here and there the Catholics continued to make substantial progress. At Kilkenny, for instance, a school which lasted till Cromwell's time was begun in 1619. Five "residences", or bases for Jesuit Fathers, were established, whence missionaries were sent out in all directions, who worked with great success. Father Galway, about the same time, was sent to the islands and sea-coast of the west of Scotland. These years were perhaps the most laborious and fruitful of the Irish Jesuit mission. Holywood's last extant report is for the year 1624.


HOGAN, Ibernia Ignatiana (Dublin, 1880); IDEM, Distinguished Irishmen of the Sixteenth Century (London, 1894), 394-501; SOMMERVOGEL, Bibliotheque de la C. de J. (Brussels, 1893), IV, 446; Irish Ecclesiastical Record (Dublin, 1873).

About this page

APA citation. Pollen, J.H. (1910). Christopher Holywood. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Pollen, John Hungerford. "Christopher Holywood." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Marcy Milota.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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