Dozens of former students and friends of the English College in Valladolid join seminarians to celebrate founder Fr Robert Persons

Seminarians and old boys have marked the 400th anniversary of their college’s founder, who was once England’s most wanted “traitor”.

Dozens of former students and friends of the English College in Valladolid joined seminarians for a week of celebrations in memory of Fr Robert Persons.

The chapel was packed for a Mass on the feast day of the 23 college martyrs, which was followed by a Requiem Mass for Persons and college benefactors later in the week.

Mgr Michael Kujacz, college rector, said: “We had a great week. The Requiem Mass for Robert Persons and our benefactors was lovely. An exhibition in the city telling the story of Persons has proved to have been very popular. The celebrations culminated in an evening of wonderful music from England, Italy and Spain – which Robert Persons would have been familiar with.”

Persons was born in 1546 in Somerset and became a Jesuit priest in 1587. He also founded seminaries for the English mission in Seville, Madrid and Lisbon. Persons established the college in Valladolid in 1589, with the help of the Spanish royal family. He died in 1610.

Dr Victor Houliston, who is currently editing a series of Fr Persons’ writings, spoke about the Jesuit priest’s movements and his colourful relationships with staff and students. Dr Alison Shell, a University of Durham lecturer, looked at recusant life using poems from that period by Richard Verstegan. Dr Paul Quarrie, former senior specialist in the book department at Sotheby’s, took his audience on a whistlestop account of printing presses in the Church.