St David Lewis Archive

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Biography of St David Lewis SJ

David Lewis was born in Abergavenny and, although raised as a Protestant, had Catholic links on both sides of his family, including the Ven. Dom Augustine Baker OSB, another son of Abergavenny, who was responsible for ensuring the pre-Reformation Benedictines did not become extinct, but re-grouped in exile.

During a visit to Paris when only 16, David Lewis converted to Roman Catholicism and subsequently travelled to Rome where in 1642 he was ordained to the Sacred Priesthood.

Three years later he joined the Jesuit Order who had a college at The Cwm near Monmouth which was their base for ministering to the Catholics of Monmouthshire and Herefordshire.

David Lewis, sometimes using the alias Charles Baker, cared for the mission for over 30 years. For five years he was assisted by Saint Philip Evans SJ.

Throughout the Civil War and the Commonwealth period, the Catholics of Monmouthshire kept the Faith. We know that both he & St Philip Evans SJ said Mass in the chapel which has been found in the attic of the Plas Gunter Mansion in Abergavenny

Over 320 Catholic Priests were arrested following the malicious and untrue allegations of Titus Oates, in 1678/1679.

David Lewis was arrested at Llantarnam, tried at Monmouth and interrogated in London. He was condemned not for participation in any plot, but because he exercised his Sacred Priesthood by celebrating Holy Mass and administering the Sacraments. This constituted High Treason. His rigorous interrogators could find no other fault than his Priesthood, but nonetheless, he was condemned to death, and was returned to Monmouthshire.  He was hung, drawn and quartered at Usk on 27th August 1679. His mortal remains were buried before the front door of Usk Priory.

St David Lewis was a contemporary of St Philip Evans SJ who trained at St Omer and who worked with him at the Jesuit mission at the Cwm near Abergavenny. He was executed at Cardiff on 22nd July 1679. St John Kemble of Hereford was executed in the same year.

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