British Travellers to Rome in Tudor and Stuart Times
After the excommunication of Queen Elizabeth, writes M.L. Clarke, Rome became a centre of her enemies, and every English traveller was apt to be regarded with suspicion.
Throughout the middle ages there were constant visits to Rome from this country, by churchmen on ecclesiastical business and by pilgrims hoping to acquire merit by acts of devotion at the holy places of the city. All this came to an end with Henry VIII’s breach with Rome and the subsequent changes in the English Church. To visit the headquarters of the Roman Church was difficult and potentially dangerous for those not of the Roman faith.
The Pope had no desire to harbour heretics in his dominions, and the English authorities did not wish their subjects to be corrupted by the errors of Rome. After Pope Pius V’s Bull of 1570, excommunicating and deposing Queen Elizabeth and absolving her subjects from obedience to her, and, even more, after his successor Gregory XIII had authorised the assassination of the Queen, all Catholics were potential traitors in the eyes of the English authorities.
Rome was the centre of the Queen’s enemies, of Jesuits plotting the downfall of her government, the subjection of her realm to Spain, and the restoration of the persecuting regime of her predecessor.
Looked at from the other side, Rome was the centre of the true faith, from which missionaries would go forth to minister to the faithful and convert the heretics, to face danger and perhaps even martyrdom. The English hospice, which had been founded in the fourteenth century as a centre for pilgrims from this country, became a place of refuge for exiled Catholic clergy, and in the years 1576 to 1578 it was transformed into a college for the training of priests for the English mission. A Scots College to perform a similar function for Scotland was founded by the Pope in 1600.