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History Illustrations: Papal Commission in Hereford

Six more witnesses to the Swansea Miracle

The Pope commissioned an investigation into the various miracles recorded at the tomb of Thomas de Cantilupe, Bishop of Hereford. It began meeting in London, and then moved on to Hereford where most of the witnesses were.
Witnesses to the hangings
The witnesses were examined in St Katherine’s Chapel. For the case of William Crach’s hangings the witnesses were Crach himself, Thomas Marshall the priest, John de Baggeham the steward, Henry Skinner a man of private means, Adam de Loughor a servant and John ap Hywel a labourer. For more details on their statements, see my book Swansea Miracle, or visit the book page on this website.
Swansea Miracle cover
William Crach, the hanged man
Crach was interviewed on 6 November. He spoke neither Latin, English or French, but only Welsh, so the commissioners brought in two Franciscan Friars from Hereford, Maurice de Pencoyt and John Young (Ieuan Ifanc in Welsh), who could speak Welsh and translate everything. They swore on oath to translate truthfully and began by explaining to Crach the oath he had to take and taking him through it, while the Bishop of London swore in the other witnesses.
He said he was a free man about forty five years old, a poor man who lived with his friends because his lands had been taken away by his lord. He said he was accused of the murder of thirteen men, imprisoned in Swansea Castle for fifteen days and tried by the Lord. He said he did not confess to the murders as he had not committed them and there were no witnesses or evidence. He said the miracle had made him more serious and devout in his faith and others appeared to be so because they had made more frequent pilgrimages to the tomb than before.
Thomas Marshall, the priest
Thomas said he was thirty two years old and lived in Swansea but was not part of the Lord’s household. He had known Crach since he was a boy. He said he saw the men taken out to be hanged. Thomas watched the hangings from the town’s west gate and later saw Crach’s body at the house of Thomas Mathew.
John de Baggeham the steward
John said he was a free man about fifty years old and lived in Swansea. He also had known Crach for many years and had met him since the hanging. He had gathered nine other men to escort the hanging party and witnessed the hangings from beside the gallows. He then went to report to the lord that the men were dead and heard Lady Mary ask for Crach’s body and be granted it. She asked John to go back to the scaffold and have Crach taken down and carried to the town, which he did.
Henry Skinner, a man of private means
Henry was questioned on 8 November and said he was thirty four and made his living from property in Swansea. He didn’t know Crach but stood by the scaffold and witnessed the hangings.
Adam de Loughor, a servant
Adam was sworn in the next day and said he was a free man aged about thirty. He was a servant to William de Braose and had known Crach a couple of years before the hangings, but not well. He had watched the hangings from the wall of Swansea Town. He did not know he had revived until he saw him a week or two later. He was astonished.
John ap Hywel, the labourer
After John was sworn in he said he was a free man, forty years old, who made his living in the lordship of Gower as a hired labourer. He had known Crach for about twelve years before he was hanged. He was in Swansea Town, on a street near St Mary’s Church, with about a hundred other people watching the hangings. The next day he heard Crach had revived so he went to see him and described his face as ‘ghastly’. John said Crach was unable to walk for fifteen days, but a month later he had gone on pilgrimage to the tomb of St Thomas in Hereford Cathedral with the lord and lady. Since then he had turned his back on his life of crime.
This was the end of the investigation of William Crach’s miracle. The commission went on to interview witnesses for the other miracles.
Head shot Ann Marie ThomasAnn Marie Thomas is the author of five medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel, Intruders, Alien Secrets & Crisis of Conscience are out now Follow her at