The secret life of Welsh martyr St John Roberts

12th August 2010

Broadcast the day after a historic service at Westminster Cathedral to commemorate
the life of St John Roberts, Green Bay's documentary programme Merthyr Meirionnydd
(The Martyr of Meirioneth) looks at the life story of the Trawsfynydd man who died
for his Catholic faith.

Broadcaster Guto Harri follows the trail of the monk who died 400 years ago,
discovering that the life of the man canonized by the Catholic Church was sometimes
akin to a film thriller.

"Here's a man who plays hide and seek with the secret police and cut his prison cell
bars to escape as he faces the gallows", says Guto. "He acts more like James Bond
than a saint. The issues underlying the history are echoed today, dealing as they do
with someone considered to be a religious extremist, living abroad and considered a
threat to the very fabric of the state."

The Welsh language will be heard for the first time in the official service at
Westminster Cathedral on 17 July when the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams,
addresses the congregation.

John Roberts came from an influential Meirioneth family and his parents hoped that
he would follow a career in law in London. But he turned his back on his comfortable
life as a student and turned to the Catholic faith at a time when allegiance to Rome
and the Pope was considered treason under the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I.

He was arrested and jailed a number of times, having been betrayed by
fellow-Catholics who were spies and double agents for the English Crown. But he also
succeeded in escaping several times by using his contacts and ingenuity.

John Roberts was finally caught, found guilty of treason and martyred in December 1610.

 

 

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