An Unexpected History Lesson
Oliver Plunkett may have died in 1681 but you can still visit with him...in Drogheda. He was a priest, a teacher, the Roman Catholic Archbisop of Armagh. He was the last Roman Catholic martyr to die in England for treason and he became the first Irish Saint to be canonized in 700 years. He spent years traveling in disguise to avoid prosecution but eventually he was brought up on false charges of treason by the Church of England that claimed he was plotting against the king. He was judged in a trial that lasted all of 15 minutes and condemned to die for his faith.
A National Shrine to him is located in St. Peter's Church. They also display the door of his cell in Newgate Prison.
He was hung, drawn and quartered and his head was saved as a religious relic. And 294 years later he would be canonized for the miracle of saving a life through prayer, and become a celebrated saint.
After years protected by lay nuns, the head, (and an assortment of his ribs and other bones) were moved to St. Peter's Church in Drogheda and they attract thousands of visitors a year.
I've been by to see him a few times now when I visit friends in Drogheda. It seems odd to me to display the mummified head as they do in a brass shrine that reaches high into the arches of the ceiling there. But there are almost always patrons lined up to see him. He continues to serve as a role model 337 years after his death. I'm not a religious person, but even I admire his resolve. How can you see something like that, and not?
I can't say I went there specifically to see Saint Oliver Plunkett, it is a bit gruesome indeed. But now that I know where he is, I do drop in, when I'm in town.