The Bell Tower
The Bell Tower is situated immediately adjoining the Queen’s House. The tower was constructed to reinforce the defensive wall of the inner bailey and was built during the late twelfth century, making it the second oldest tower after the Norman White Tower and may have been built on the orders of King Richard the Lionheart (1189-99).
The Bell Tower derives its name from the small wooden turret situated on top of the tower which contains the Tower’s ‘curfew bell’, used to inform prisoners given the liberty of the Tower that it was time to return to their quarters. Today it is sounded at 5.45pm each day, to warn visitors that the Tower is about to close.
Several famous prisoners were held in the Bell Tower during Tudor times, including Sir Thomas More, Bishop John Fisher and the Princess Elizabeth. More and Fisher were sent to the Tower by Henry VIII for their refusal to subscribe to the Act of Supremecy, which made the monarch Head of an English Church which was divorced from Rome. The situation had arisen through Henry’s desire to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon to enable him to marry Anne Boleyn. The Pope could not grant Henry the required annulment, as Catherine’s nephew, Charles V, the powerful Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain held him in his power.
Sir Thomas More
The brilliant Sir Thomas More (pictured), King Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor and the author of Utopia, spent a period of incarceration in the Bell Tower. The staunchly Catholic More refused to take the Oath of Supremacy and swear allegiance to the King as Supreme Head of the Church in England for which on 17th April 1534, he was imprisoned in the Tower.
At first, More’s imprisonment was not overly harsh. His family were allowed to bring drink and warm clothing, and his wife Alice and daughter, Margaret Roper, were allowed to visit him. However as More continued to refuse to be persuaded to sign the oath, the fire in his cell, then his food, warm clothing, books and writing implements were all removed. On 1st July 1535, More was tried at Westminster, charged with high treason and sentenced to death. More was executed on Tower Hill on 6th July, 1535. He is buried in the nearby tower chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula.
Imprisoned in the Tower on 16th April 1534, the Catholic martyr John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, is believed to have been lodged in the Upper Bell Tower, directly above More’s lodgings.
Fisher was the only English bishop who had refused to take the Oath of Supremacy, although captive in the same tower, they communicated by means of messages delivered by their servants. The Pope promised to create Fisher a cardinal, to which the enraged Henry famously declared that Fisher would have no head to wear his cardinal’s hat on. Bishop Fisher’s trial took place on 17th June, he was found guilty, and executed on 22nd June 1535.
Princess Elizabeth (the future Elizabeth I) also suffered a term of imprisonment in the Bell Tower at the age of 21, during the reign of her elder sister Mary I. Suspected of underhand involvement in the Wyatt Rebellion, Elizabeth was arrested and taken to the Tower of London by boat, landing at Traitors Gate, the princess angrily proclaimed that she was no traitor. During a heavy down pour of rain, Elizabeth had no choice but to enter the Tower. She passed under the arch of the Bloody Tower where she may have seen, across the inner ward, the scaffold left over from the execution of Lady Jane Grey, who was also implicated in Wyatt’s Rebellion.
In the spring of 1571, Baillie was about to leave Flanders with copies of a book by the bishop of Ross in defence of Queen Mary, which he had got printed at the Liège press, when Roberto di Ridolfi, the agent of Pope Pius V, entrusted him with letters in cipher for the queen, and also for the Spanish ambassador, the Duke of Norfolk, the Bishop of Ross, and Lord Lumley. They described a plan for a Spanish landing on Mary’s behalf in the eastern counties of England. As soon as Baillie set foot on shore at Dover, he was arrested and taken to the Marshalsea. The letters were, however, conveyed in secret by Lord Cobham to the bishop of Ross, who, with the help of the Spanish ambassador, composed other letters of a less incriminating nature to be laid before Lord Burghley, Queen Elizabeth’s chief advisor.
The scheme might have been successful had Burghley not made use of a traitor, named Thomas Herle, to gain Baillie’s confidence. Herle described Baillie as “fearful, full of words, glorious, and given to the cup, a man easily read”. Herle had also gained the confidence of the bishop, and a complete exposure of the whole plot was imminent when an indiscretion on Herle’s part convinced Baillie that he was betrayed. He endeavoured to warn the bishop by a letter, but it was intercepted, and Baillie was conveyed to the Tower of London, where he refused to read the cipher of the letters, and was put on the rack. The following inscription, still visible on the walls, records his reflections inspired by the situation: “L. H. S. 1571 die 10 Aprilis. Wise men ought to se what they do, to examine before they speake; to prove before they take in hand; to beware whose company they use; and, above all things, to whom they truste. |— Charles Bailly.”
One night, the figure of a man appeared at Baillie’s bedside. He claimed to be John Story, whom Baillie knew to be in the Tower awaiting execution. In reality the figure was that of a traitor of the name of Parker, but Baillie fell into the trap with the same facility as before. On Parker’s advice he endeavoured to gain credit with Burghley by deciphering the substituted letters of the bishop of Ross. He revealed also the story of the abstracted packet, and sought to persuade Burghley to grant him his liberty by offering to watch the correspondence of the bishop of Ross. That he gained nothing by following the advice of his second friendly counsellor is attested by an inscription in the Beauchamp Tower as follows: ‘Principium eapientie Timor Domini, I. H. S. X. P. S. Be friend to no one. Be enemye to none. Anno D. 1571, 10 Septr. The most unhappy man in the world is he that is not pacient in adversities; for men are not killed with the adversities they have, but with ye impacience which they suffer. Tout vient apoient, quy peult attendre. Gli sospiri ne son testimoni veri dell’ angolcia mia, aet. 29. Charles Bailly.’
Never Forget: Recalling the Death of Bonhoeffer
The great preacher, writer, theologian and witness to the faith, Dietrich Bonhoeffer,was executed on April 9, 1945, just days before the Nazi camp where he was held, Flossenbürg, was liberated. He was 39.
Here’s what happened:
On 4 April 1945, the diaries of Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of the Abwehr, were discovered, and in a rage upon reading them, Hitler ordered that the Abwehr conspirators [those who had plotted for Hitler’s assassination] be destroyed.
Bonhoeffer was led away just as he concluded his final Sunday service and asked an English prisoner, Payne Best, to remember him to Bishop George Bell of Chichester if he should ever reach his home: “This is the end—for me the beginning of life.”
Bonhoeffer was condemned to death on 8 April 1945 by SS judge Otto Thorbeck at a drumhead court-martial without witnesses, records of proceedings or a defense in Flossenbürg concentration camp. He was executed there by hanging at dawn on 9 April 1945, just two weeks before soldiers from the United States 90th and 97th Infantry Divisions liberated the camp, three weeks before the Soviet capture of Berlin and a month before the surrender of Nazi Germany.
Bonhoeffer was stripped of his clothing and led naked into the execution yard where he was hanged, along with fellow conspirators Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, Canaris’s deputy General Hans Oster, military jurist General Karl Sack, General Friedrich von Rabenau, businessman Theodor Strünck, and German resistance fighter Ludwig Gehre.
Eberhard Bethge, a student and friend of Bonhoeffer’s, writes of a man who saw the execution: “I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer… kneeling on the floor praying fervently to God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer…In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”
His legacy has been profound:
Bonhoeffer’s life as a pastor and theologian of great intellect and spirituality who lived as he preached—and his being killed because of his opposition to Nazism—exerted great influence and inspiration for Christians across broad denominations and ideologies, such as Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, the anti-communist democratic movement in Eastern Europe during the Cold War, and the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa.
Bonhoeffer is commemorated in the liturgical calendars of several Christian denominations on the anniversary of his death, 9 April. This includes many parts of the Anglican Communion, where he is sometimes identified as a martyr.
In our own troubled time, Bonhoeffer’s courage in the face of evil, and his suffering in the face of persecution, stand as a testament to true Christian witness — the very essence of what it means to be a “martyr.”
His likeness is preserved in Westminster Abbey, alongside other martyrs, including St. Oscar Romero and Martin Luther King, Jr.
He continues to teach and inspire Christians today.
“The first service one owes to others in a community involves listening to them,” he wrote. “Just as our love for God begins with listening to God’s Word, the beginning of love for others is learning to listen to them. God’s love for us is shown by the fact that God not only gives God’s Word but also lends us God’s ear. . . . We do God’s work for our brothers and sisters when we learn to listen to them.”
He also urged us to be open to God’s will in our lives, whatever that may be.
“We must be ready,” he said, “to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pray for us.
March 23 2019 – “Poland – Decline and fall – A famed priest’s statue is toppled amid a widening clerical abuse crisis” – Catholic Herald – Jonathan Luxmoore – March 22 2019 – Page 14
Officials in Gdansk have ordered the removal of a monument to a Catholic priest linked to the Solidarity movement amid accusations that he was a paedophile, as the country’s bishops take new steps to combat clerical abuse.
“We’ll probably never know the truth, since this key figure is no longer alive,” explained Aleksandra Dulkiewicz, Gdansk’s newly elected mayor.
“While I value the presumption of innocence principle, there can only be one decision, given the current level of emotions.”
The mayor spoke as the city council voted to demolish the statue of Fr Henryk Jankowski (1936-2010), an associate of Lech Walesa and other Solidarity leaders, who was rector of Gdansk’s St Brygida parish during the 1980’s strikes at the nearby shipyards.
The vote, also stripping the priest of his honorary citizenship, was boycotted by officials from Poland’s governing Law and Justice party (PiS) and criticised by Solidarity members, who said the accusations against Fr Jankowski were unproven.
Besides celebrating shipyard Masses during the Solidarity protests, Fr Jankowski organised aid for families of imprisoned union activists, but provoked complaints from Jewish organisations for controversial sermons after the 1989 collapse of communist rule.
He was finally dismissed as St Brygida’s rector by Archbishop Tadeusz Goclowski, who told clergy in a 2004 letter that Fr Jankowski had created “an unChristian climate”, while stoking “alarming media suspicions” by “receiving boys in his presbytery”
However, the priest told supporters he would not give in to “lies, hypocrisy and infamy”, and continued living in his parish house until his diabetes-related death aged 74.
The statue of Fr Jankowski, erected in a square named after him by a civic committee in 2012 [he died in 2010 – Ed], was toppled overnight in late February by a group complaining that it represented “a presence of evil in the public sphere”. This took place two months after abuse accusations were detailed against Fr Jankowski in the Gazeta Wyborcza.
Although the statue was restored to its plinth under Solidarity protection, Gdansk council noted during its meeting that legal investigations into the priest’s alleged crimes would be impossible in the current atmosphere, and ordered its removal and the renaming of the square.
The move came as Poland’s 157-member bishops’ conference launched an abuse report at its plenary assembly, attended by the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and bishops from 11 other countries.
The report listed 382 cases of sexual abuse between 1990 and 2018, and said canonical procedures had been followed by the Church in 95% of instances, with three-quarters brought to completion.
However, it conceded that there had been “a certain ignorance” of Church rules on abuse, and there were “differences of reliability” between Polish dioceses and orders, in responding to enquiries.
THE TABLET – LETTERS – MARCH 16 2019 – “PIUS XII WAS NO FRIEND TO HITLER”
In his article “Unsealing the secrets of the wartime pope” (9 March), John Cornwell writes: “The central accusation is undeniable: that … Pius neither condemned Hitler and the Nazis by name, nor mentioned the victims – the Jews – by name.”