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Martyrdom of Hugh Faringdon, Last Abbot of Reading in 1539

Oil on canvas by Harry Morley - 1917

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Martyrdom of Hugh Faringdon, Last Abbot of Reading in 1539, by Harry Morley, 1917

This picture shows the execution of Hugh Faringdon, Abbot of Reading, in 1539 during the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII. Henry's dissatisfaction with his marriage to Catherine of Aragon and their inability to have a male heir began a religious upheaval in England. Henry VIII eventually split from Rome, making himself head of the English church, and started a programme of dissolving religious houses. Faringdon was accused of denying the king’s title to be head of the Church in England and was found guilty of treason. He was sentenced to death by being drawn, hanged, disembowelled and beheaded.

The Abbot was dragged on a hurdle by a horse around the streets of Reading. The painting shows him tied to the hurdle beside the gallows by the west front of the Abbey church in the Forbury. At Faringdon’s feet stand two priests, John Eynon, priest of St Giles, and John Rugg, who were also executed. The Mayor of Reading, Thomas Mirth, is robed in a black gown; next to him are the two burgesses of Parliament, Thomas Vachell and John Raymond, with a sergeant at law representing the State.

This is one of ten paintings illustrating important events in the history of Reading Abbey. They were commissioned from 1909 onwards by Dr Jamieson Boyd Hurry, a local doctor with a particular interest in Reading Abbey.

Museum object number REDMG : 1931.272.1

width 1510 mm, height 2090 mm

See related topic: Reading Abbey