On March 21st, 1587, a Jesuit priest called Thomas Pilchard (aka Pylcher) was executed in Dorchester, in Dorset. Contemporary letters and memoirs recount a series of remarkable occurences: the rope around Pilchard’s neck broke as he was hanging (a mark, for Catholics, of divine intervention), and instead of being hung, he was stabbed and then disembowelled by the hangman. Despite the groans and cries of the crowd, Pilchard remained calm and collected, and assisted in the process of pulling out his own bowels. A fellow Jesuit, William Warford, noted that all of those involved in the execution soon came to a horrible end, some after having been visited by a figure who looked like the dead Pilchard. Continue reading
The conversion narrative of Sir Tobie Matthew – the son of the Archbishop of York – who converted to Catholicism in 1605 while travelling in Italy, includes an interesting encounter with Cardinal Pinelli who asks Matthew to look to the ruins of Rome for inspiration: Continue reading
When we were planning this project, we decided that we would host two conferences, one on ‘Conversion Narratives in the Early Modern World’, and a second on ‘Conversion and Gender’. Our first conference will take place in June. Its aim is to bring together scholars from all over the world who are working on questions of conversion, both to create and reinforce networks between people with similar research interests, and to make sure that we are taking account of a genuinely global context in our own studies. The job of organising a conference can be a tricky one — we’ve been booking rooms, buying plane tickets, and scrutinising menus — and there can be problems along the way. The immensely popular York Races take place every year, but the timetable isn’t published until the end of the previous year, so we had already confirmed our dates by the time we found out that York will be full of people in suits and hats, enjoying the races but also booking up masses of city centre accommodation. Continue reading
We’ve been checking our blog stats, and see that the question ‘what is a conversion narrative?‘ is one of the most popular queries that brings google users to this blog. With that in mind, we have a short bibliography on the main project website that might help others who are working in this area. We’ll be very glad of any tips for materials to add to this section, and for any comments, thoughts, or questions about how we define or categorize a conversion narrative. Our own definition is catholic (in the wide-ranging rather than the religious sense): it includes any text, or even perhaps an image or object, which explicitly describes the process or experience of conversion and has some rhetorical or narrative shaping, however subtle.