Saint Edmund Gennings

Sep 21, 2021 / Written by: Tonia Long

Feast December 10

English Martyr and Priest: 1567 – 1591

Early Life

One of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, St. Edmund was born in Lichfield, England amidst the throes of the Protestant Revolution, into a non-Catholic home. At the age of sixteen he became a page to a Catholic gentleman, Richard Sherwood. A thoughtful, serious boy naturally inclined to matters of faith, this appointment proved to be divinely ordained.

Portrait of Edmund Gennings

Impressed by his master's example, when Sherwood left England to become a priest, Edmund followed. He went immediately to the English College at Rheims where he was ordained a priest at Soissons in 1590, at twenty-three years of age. He immediately returned to the dangers of England under the assumed name of "Ironmonger.”

St. Edmund landed at Whitby. Being estranged from his family because of his conversion to the Catholic Faith, he headed straight for Lichfield to seek out his kindred with the intent of reconciliation and, God willing, further conversions. To his great disappointment, he found that all his relatives were dead except for one brother. This brother had left Lichfield and gone to London.

St. Edmund spent the next month furtively searching the streets of London for his last living relative. Eventually, when he was about to give up the search, he found his younger brother. Far from being won over to Catholicism, this brother only begged Edmund to go away, before he himself should become suspected of being a papist. For his brother’s sake and safety, Gennings then returned to France.


In 1591, our saint returned to England and, all too soon, to his martyrdom. His missionary career was brief. He and St. Polydore Plasden were seized by Richard Topcliffe and his officers while in the act of saying Mass at Gray's Inn in London on November 7 of that same year. The owner of the home, Saint Swithun Wells, was also captured by the English authorities.

On December 10, St. Edmund Gennings was hanged, drawn and quartered outside the same house in which his last Mass had been said. His execution was particularly bloody. His final speech angered Topcliffe, who ordered the rope to be cut down when he was barely stunned from the hanging. It is reported that St. Edmund uttered the words, “Sancte Gregori ora pro me” (Saint Gregory, pray for me) while his bowels were being torn from his body, and that the executioner swore, “Zounds! See, his heart is in my hand, and yet Gregory is in his mouth. O egregious Papist.” St. Swithun Wells was hanged immediately afterwards.

The martyrdom of Edmund Gennings was the occasion of several extraordinary incidents. The graces purchased through his suffering led to the conversion of his younger brother John, at last. John was then inspired to write his martyr-brother’s biography, which was then published in 1614 at Saint-Omer in France.

Martyrdom of the 40 English Martyrs
Over 600 English Catholics died in the persecutions of the 16th and 17th centuries. Being drawn and quartered (pictured above) was the most painful and humiliating form of martyrdom at that time.


Edmund Gennings was canonized as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales by Pope Paul VI on October 25, 1970.

The Forty Martyrs of England and Wales are a group of Catholic, lay and religious, men and women, executed between 1535 and 1679 for treason and related offences under various laws enacted by Parliament during the English Revolution. In honor of their heroic adherence to the Catholic Faith, we print all 40 names below.

Pope Paul VI
Pope Paul VI, who canonized the Forty Martyrs of England on October 25, 1970, one of who was St. Edmund Gennings.

The 40 Martyrs of England:

  • Saint John Almond
  • Saint Edmund Arrowsmith
  • Saint Ambrose Barlow
  • Saint John Boste
  • Saint Alexander Briant
  • Saint Edmund Campion
  • Saint Margaret Clitherow
  • Saint Philip Evans
  • Saint Thomas Garnet
  • Saint Edmund Gennings
  • Saint Richard Gwyn
  • Saint John Houghton
  • Saint Philip Howard
  • Saint John Jones
  • Saint John Kemble
  • Saint Luke Kirby
  • Saint Robert Lawrence
  • Saint David Lewis
  • Saint Anne Line
  • Saint John Lloyd
  • Saint Cuthbert Mayne
  • Saint Henry Morse
  • Saint Nicholas Owen
  • Saint John Payne
  • Saint Polydore Plasden
  • Saint John Plessington
  • Saint Richard Reynolds
  • Saint John Rigby
  • Saint John Roberts
  • Saint Alban Roe
  • Saint Ralph Sherwin
  • Saint Robert Southwell
  • Saint John Southworth
  • Saint John Stone
  • Saint John Wall
  • Saint Henry Walpole
  • Saint Margaret Ward
  • Saint Augustine Webster
  • Saint Swithun Wells
  • Saint Eustace White

A Catholic Mass center opened in 1967 in the New Invention area of Willenhall, West Midlands, was later upgraded to a church and was dedicated to Edmund Gennings.