Relics, writing, and memory in the English Counter Reformation: Thomas Maxfield and his afterlives

18 May 2018

This article explores the multiple and competing afterlives of the Jacobean martyr, Thomas Maxfield, who was executed at Tyburn in July 1616. It traces the evolution of his cult between the seventeenth and twenty-first centuries by exploring the migration of his relics alongside the movements of the written and printed texts recounting his life and death. It investigates the domestic and international politics in which these textual and material remains circulated and illuminates the making and metamorphosis of social memory in the English Counter Reformation. It sheds fresh light on how Maxfield’s relics served both to bind this imagined community together and to divide and fragment it. Highlighting the interweaving of devotion and scholarship, antiquarianism and piety, it also argues that relic collecting must be recognised as part of the wider contemporary enterprises of religious record-keeping and writing sacred history.