Son of John and Anna Roberts; his ancestors were princes in Wales. Raised Protestant, John always felt an affinity for Catholicism. He studied at Saint John’s College, Oxford from 1595 to 1597, but left without a degree. He then studied law at the Inns of Court at age 21. In 1598, while travelling in France, he joined the Church of Rome at Notre Dame in Paris.
Entered the English College at Valladolid, Spain on 18 October 1598. He left the College in 1599 to join the Abbey of Saint Benedict in Valladolid. Benedictine novice at the Abbey of Saint Martin in Compostela, Spain in 1600. Ordained there.
Father John returned to England as a missioner, leaving on 26 December 1602, and entering the country in April 1603. Arrested in May 1603, and exiled. Returned to England in 1604, and worked with plague victims in London; arrested and banished again. Returned to England in 1605. During a search for suspects involved in the Gunpowder Plot, John was found in the home of Mrs Thomas Percy, and was arrested again. Though he had no connection to the Plot, he spent seven months in prison, and was exiled again in July 1606.
While in exile he founded a house in Douai for exiled English Benedictines; this house became the monastery of Saint Gregory. Responsible for the conversion of Blessed Maurus Scott. Returned to England in October 1607, was arrested in December, and sent to Gatehouse prison. He escaped, and spent a year working in London, but was again arrested. His execution was scheduled for May 1609, but the intercession of the French ambassador led to a reduction in sentence; he was exiled yet again.
Returned to England a few months later, he was arrested while celebrating Mass on 2 December 1610. Convicted on 5 December 1610 of the crime of priesthood. Martyred with Blessed Thomas Somers. One of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.
- hanged, drawn, and quartered on 10 December 1610 at Tyburn, London, England
- body taken to Saint Gregory’s in Douai, France, but disappeared during the French Revolution
- two fingers are preserved at Downside Abbey and Erdington Abbey
- Book of Saints, by the Monks of Ramsgate
- Catholic Encyclopedia: Downside Abbey
- Catholic Encyclopedia: John Roberts
- Hagiography Circle
- Our Sunday Visitor’s Encyclopedia of Saints
- “Saint John Roberts”. Saints.SQPN.com. 27 November 2009. Web. 26 May 2013. <http://saints.sqpn.com/saint-john-roberts/>