Crossbows and Crucifixes: A Novel of the Priest Hunters and the Brave Young Men Who Fought Them

Crossbows and Crucifixes: A Novel of the Priest Hunters and the Brave Young Men Who Fought Them


England, 1585: Queen Elizabeth's spies lurk everywhere, searching out Catholics who refuse to attend the non-Catholic services of the State religion. Officers of the law hunt down and kill Catholic priests, and imprison those who shelter them. In these perilous times, fifteen-year-old Nicholas Thorpe discovers that his widowed mother has become Catholic, and he soon joins the Church she has come to love. Thus begin Nicholas's adventures in the Companions, a pious underground army of…


Crossbows & Crucifixes: A Novel of the Priest Hunters & the Brave Young Men Who Fought Them

Heritage is an important part of the Catholic faith and there’s no better way for kids to engage with their history than through a story. Henry Garratt brings to life the struggles of the Catholic people under the reign of Queen Elizabeth II of England in the 1500s. To set the scene, Protestantism was the state-ordered religion of the day and anyone found participating in Catholic Mass, or even known as a Catholic, could lose their reputation, home, livelihood … and even their life.

Amidst rumours of a plot to kill Queen Elizabeth and replace her with Mary Queen of Scots on the English throne, 15-year-old Nicholas Thorpe leaves his school days behind as he converts to Catholicism and embarks on the adventure of a lifetime. Through a new friend Tom Longbow, Nicholas and his friend Phillip become part of a clandestine group known as the Companions. Their purpose: to smuggle priests safely into England to preserve the ‘old faith’ across the nation. Facing constant danger, these brave men defy the law of the land and stay true to their beliefs in a time of grave moral peril as they elude the queen’s terrifying pursuivants.

This book is appropriate for readers aged 10 to 17 and would be enjoyable for both boys and girls. It strikes a great balance between educational history and bringing the story to life through fictional characters. In Garnett’s own words, ‘Nothing happens to Nicholas and his friends that did not, or could not, have happened to Catholics in sixteenth century England[1].’

Crossbows and Crucifixes would make a great confirmation, feast day or Christmas present for teens but is also an engaging educational resource to have in your school or parish library. If you enjoyed this book, check out Saint Ignatius of Loyola for another exciting faith-filled adventure.

  • Reviewed by: Lil van Wyngaard – Veritatis Publishing

[1] Quote from Author’s Note on p. ix of Crossbows & Crucifixes by Henry Garnett.

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