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John Ogilvie (saint)

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John Ogilvie

John Ogilvie
Drumnakeith, Banffshire, Scotland
Died10 March 1615(1615-03-10) (aged 34–35)
Glasgow Cross, Scotland
Venerated inCatholic Church
Beatified22 December 1929, Rome, Vatican City by Pius XI
Canonized17 October 1976, Rome, Vatican City by Paul Vl
Feast10 March

John Ogilvie, SJ (1580 – 10 March 1615) was a Scottish Jesuit priest. For his work in service to a persecuted Catholic community in 17th century Scotland, and in being hanged for his faith, he became the only post-Reformation Scottish saint.

Ogilvie was brought up a Calvinist and sent to continental Europe to further his education. His interest piqued by the popular debates going on between Catholic and Calvinist scholars, he took up studies with the Benedictines, and then with the Jesuits. He became a Jesuit and was sent to Scotland, where he worked among the few Catholics in the area of Glasgow. Arrested after less than a year, he was hanged at Glasgow Cross in 1615.


John was the eldest son of Walter Ogilvie, a respected Calvinist who owned the estate of Drumnakeith in Banffshire. His family was partly Roman Catholic and partly Presbyterian. At the age of twelve he was sent to continental Europe to be educated. He attended a number of Catholic educational establishments, under the Benedictines at Regensburg in Germany and with the Jesuits at Olmutz and Brunn in Moravia.

In the midst of the religious controversies and turmoil that engulfed the Europe of that era, he decided to become a Catholic. In 1597, aged seventeen, he was received into the Catholic Church by Cornelius a Lapide S.J., professor of sacred scripture at Leuven, Belgium. Ogilvie joined the Society of Jesus in 1599 and was ordained a priest at Paris in 1613.[1] After ordination he served in Rouen in Normandy where he made repeated requests to be sent to Scotland to minister to the few remaining Catholics in the Glasgow area. (After the Scottish Reformation in 1560 it had become illegal there to preach, proselytise for, or otherwise endorse Catholicism.)[2]

The Jesuit John Ogilvie, who was publicly hanged and drawn on 10 March 1615 in Glasgow

It was his hope that some Catholic nobles there would aid him, given his lineage. Finding none, he went to London, then back to Paris, and finally returned to Scotland in November 1613 disguised as a horse trader named John Watson. Thereafter he began to preach in secret, offering Mass clandestinely in private homes. This ministry was to last less than a year. In October 1614, Ogilvie was discovered and arrested in Glasgow under the orders of Archbishop John Spottiswood, and was imprisoned. He was initially treated well, but after continually refusing to confess, was tortured by sleep deprivation. He aggravated his position by refusing to pledge allegiance to the royal authority of King James over the Church within his dominions, and it was for this alleged crime that Fr. Ogilvie was tried. During the trial he criticised the King for 'playing the runagate from God' and stated he would acknowledge his authority over the Church no more than the authority of an 'old hat'. Found guilty, Fr. Ogilvie was hanged at Glasgow Cross on 10 March 1615, aged thirty-six.[3]

Ogilvie's last words were: "If there be here any hidden Catholics, let them pray for me but the prayers of heretics I will not have." After he was pushed from the stairs, he threw his concealed rosary out into the crowd. According to legend, one of his enemies caught it and subsequently became a devout, lifelong Catholic. After his execution Ogilvie's followers were rounded up and put in jail. They suffered heavy fines, but none received the death penalty.

The customary beheading and quartering were omitted owing to undisguised popular sympathy, and his body was hurriedly buried in the churchyard of Glasgow cathedral.[1]


As a martyr of the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation he was declared Venerable in the seventeenth century. Ogilvie was beatified in 1929 and canonised in 1976 on 17 October, becoming the only post-Reformation Scottish saint.[4][5] His feast day is celebrated on 10 March in the Catholic Church in Scotland. In the rest of the world it is celebrated on 14 October. In Corby, Northamptonshire — an English town with a strong Scottish heritage — a Catholic church registered in March 1980 is dedicated to John Ogilvie.[6] In the Scottish Highlands there is the Parish of Saint John Ogilvie comprising the Churches of Saint Joseph’s in Invergordon and Saint Vincent De Paul’s in Tain. At the service to mark the quadricentenary of his death, he was described as "Scotland's only Catholic martyr".[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Barrett, Michael. "Ven. John Ogilvie." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 11 December 2021 Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. ^ "Patron Saints Index: Saint John Ogilvie". 15 January 2009. Archived from the original on 15 January 2009. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  3. ^ "10. mars: Den hellige John Ogilvie (~1580–1615)". 13 March 2010. Archived from the original on 13 March 2010. Retrieved 14 May 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  4. ^ Solenne canonizzazione in San Pietro del beato Giovanni Ogilvie vatican.va, article in Italian
  5. ^ "Irondequoit Catholic Communities – – John Ogilvie". 11 October 2008. Archived from the original on 11 October 2008. Retrieved 14 May 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  6. ^ "No. 48154". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 April 1980. p. 5584.
  7. ^ "Jesuits in Britain - Call to honour Scotland's only martyr - 20 March 2017". Archived from the original on 22 July 2019. Retrieved 22 July 2019.