Nicholas Owen (Jesuit)

St. Nicholas Owen, Jesuit (* 1550, † 1606 ) was a lay brother (under the Superiors of the English Jesuits, Henry Garnet ). It is considered unlikely that Nicholas Owen has filed a regular novitiate in the English Jesuits, and not secured, to what extent he was actually inducted into the Order.

He was known primarily for his work as a designer and builder of artful priest holes in England during the reign of Elizabeth I.


Little is known about the early life of the saint. He was most likely born in Oxford in 1550 in a Catholic family.

He was a mason (in another representation: carpenter or joiner ) is designed. He used these skills to build priest holes during the persecution of Catholics in the homes of Catholic families and should thus many people have saved his life.

Under the code name Little John he should be going from house to house, and have demanded as payment for his work only the essentials.

Owen was ( with torture ) arrested in 1582 or 1583 and 1594 in connection with its effectiveness for English Catholics. He is said to have been instrumental in the liberation of John Gerard from the Tower of London (1597 ).

Imprisonment, torture and death

Owen was taken after the gunpowder plot ( 1605), in Hindlip Hall, Worcestershire, in turn, captured and tortured in the Tower on the rack in 1606 to death. Despite the severe torture he allegedly betrayed no secret.

He was in 1929 by Pope Pius X blessed and in 1970 by Pope Paul VI. canonized the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.

The exact date of his death is not known. To some extent, March 2, 1606, stated in other sources November 12, 1606.


Owens feast day is celebrated together with the other 39 martyrs on October 25.

Saint Nicholas Owen is the patron saint of the Catholic magician ( illusionist ) and escape artist.

His memory is celebrated on December 1.

Literary reference

Nicholas Owen is in the books by:

  • Robert Hugh Benson, Come Rack! Come Rope! (1912). German: Despite torture and knitting! ( 1926). In this novel he is called " Hugh Owen "
  • Catherine Aird, A Most Contagious Game, New York: Doubleday 1967, 1st edition,