John Cornelius (called also Mohun) was born of Irish parents at Bodmin, in Cornwall, on the estate of Sir John Arundell, of Lanherne, in 1557; martyred at Dorchester, 4 July 1594. Sir John Arundell took an interest in the talented boy and sent him to Oxford. Not satisfied with the new religion taught there, John Cornelius went to the great “seminary of martyrs”, then at Reims, and a little later, on 1 April 1580, entered the English College, Rome, to pursue his theological studies. After his ordination he was sent as a missionary to England and laboured there for nearly ten years. He practised mortification, was devoted to meditation, and showed much zeal in the ministry. While acting as chaplain to Lady Arundell, he was arrested on 24 April 1594, at Chideock Castle, by the sheriff of Dorsetshire. He was met on the way by Thomas Bosgrave, a relative of the Arundell family, who offered him his own hat, as he had been dragged out bareheaded. Thereupon Bosgrave was arrested. Two servants of the castle, John (or Terence) Carey and Patrick Salmon, natives of Dublin, shared the same fate. When they reached the sheriff’s house a number of Protestant clergymen heaped abuse upon the Catholic religion, but were so well answered that the sheriff stopped the disputation. The missionary was sent to London and brought before the Lord Treasurer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and others, who, by words and torture, tried in vain to obtain the names of such as had given him shelter or assistance. He was brought back to Dorchester and with his three companions condemned to death, 2 July 1594. He was accused of high treason, because he was a priest and had returned to England; the others were charged with felony, for having rendered assistance to one whom they knew to be a priest; but all were assured that their lives would be spared if they embraced Protestantism.
While in prison, John Cornelius was admitted to membership in the Society of Jesus. On the way to execution none of the confessors showed signs of fear. The first to ascend the scaffold was John Carey; he kissed the rope, exclaiming “O precious collar”, made a solemn profession of faith and died a valiant death. Before his execution Patrick Salmon, a man much admired for his virtues, exhorted the spectators to embrace the Faith, for which he and his companions were giving their lives. Then followed Thomas Bosgrave, a man of education, who delivered a stirring address on the truth of his belief. The last to suffer was John Cornelius, who kissed the gallows with the words of Saint Andrew, “O Cross, long desired”, etc. On the ladder he tried to speak to the multitude, but was prevented. After praying for his executioners and for the welfare of the queen, John Cornelius also was executed. The body was taken down and quartered, his head was nailed to the gibbet, but soon removed. The bodies were buried by the Catholics.
- Francis Mershman. “Venerable John Cornelius and Companions”. . Saints.SQPN.com. 1 July 2013. Web. 1 October 2014. <>