The Abbey Church houses the relics of St Oliver Plunkett, an Irish martyr, who entrusted his body to the care of a Benedictine monk of the English Benedictine Congregation. St Oliver Plunkett was prosecuted by the English in Ireland for treason. Lawful courts failed to convict him but a kangaroo court condemned hime. He was hanged, drawn and quartered (the penalty for high treason in medieval England), at Tyburn on 1 July 1681. He became the last Roman Catholic martyr to die in England.
His head is not here but in Drogheda in the Saint Peter's Church at the east coast of Ireland. His body was initially buried in two tin boxes. The remains were exhumed in 1683 and moved to the Benedictine monastery at Lamspringe, near Hildesheim in Germany. The head was brought to Rome, and from there to Armagh and eventually to Drogheda. Most of the rest of the body was brought here to Downside Abbey.
St Oliver Plunkett was consecrated on November 30 at Ghent, Belgium, by the Bishop of Ghent.
Stratton on the Fosse