When Queen Mary I died in 1558, England lost her last Roman Catholic monarch. She was succeeded by Elizabeth I, who quickly broke all ties with the Pope. This caused great apprehension among Catholics. They had seen how Protestants had been persecuted during the reign of Queen Mary; now they were concerned that the tables might be turned under Queen Elizabeth. As a result, a good number of Catholic clergy chose to leave England for the sake of their safety.

Among the towns in which they congregated was Douay in France. It was there that an English-speaking Catholic College was founded. And it was also there that the first English Catholic Bible was translated.

The only Bible actually recognized by the Catholic Church at this time was the Vulgate. Gregory Martin, who had studied at Oxford in England, created an English version of the Latin Vulgate. In 1582 his translation of the New Testament was released. At that time the College was in the city of Rheims, having moved there from its original city of Douay. His Old Testament translation was not released until 27 years later — 1609; by then the College had moved back to Douay. So this Bible became known as the Rheims-Douay Bible.

This Bible was not particularly popular and did not make much of an impact in England. There were several reasons for this. Some sections of the Rheims-Douay Bible were poorly translated. But more importantly, most Catholics in England didn't really want an English Bible. They were quite satisfied having the clergy translate their Latin Vulgate Bible for them. So, although it enjoyed limited success, the Rheims-Douay Bible never really obtained the status of the Geneva Translation and other Protestant versions.

Use the Menu on the left to read the full story, or to view actual pages from a Rheims-Douay Bible.