Continuing the series on monastic saints, compiled by Jason John Edwards, Obl.S.B.
Philip Powel (or Powell) was the son of Roger and Catherine Powel and was brought up to the law by David Baker, afterwards Dom Augustine Baker, O.S.B. At the age of sixteen he became a student in the Temple, London, but went to Douai three or four years later, where he received the Benedictine habit in the monastery of St. Gregory (now Downside Abbey, Bath).
In 1618 he was ordained priest and in 1622 left Douai for the English mission. About 1624 he went to reside with Mr. Poyntz of Leighland, Somersetshire, but, when the Civil War broke out, in 1645, retired to Devonshire, where he stayed for a few months with Mr. John Trevelyan of Yarnscombe and then with Mr. John Coffin of Parkham. He afterwards served for six months as chaplain to the Catholic soldiers in General Goring’s army in Cornwall, and, when that force was disbanded, took ship for South Wales.
The vessel was captured on 22 February 1646. Father Powel was recognized and denounced as a priest. On 11 May he was ordered to London by the Earl of Warwick, and confined in St. Catherine’s Gaol, Southwark, where the harsh treatment he received brought on a severe attack of pleurisy. His trial, which had been fixed for 30 May, did not take place till 9 June, at Westminster Hall. He was found guilty and was hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn.
It is recorded that when informed of his death sentence, Powell exclaimed “Oh what am I that God thus honours me and will have me to die for his sake?” and called for a glass of sack (or sherry).
At the instance of the Common Council of London the head and quarters were not exposed but were buried in the old churchyard at Moorfields.
The martyr’s crucifix, which had formerly belonged to Feckenham, last Abbot of Westminster, is preserved at Downside, with some of his hair and a cloth stained with his blood.
He was beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929.