Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Archbishop Richard Fitzralph

I glean from posts by John Dillon and John Briggs on the Medieval Religion discussion group that today, 27 June, is, inter alia, the feast day, in the Church of Ireland, of Richard of Dundalk (d. 1360) - better known as Archbishop Richard Fitzralph of Armagh.

The life of him by Katherine Walsh from the Oxford DNB can be read here , and there is another online life here.

Born just before 1300 at Dundalk Richard Fitzralph) was educated in Oxford and in Paris and had a distinguished career as a theologian both at Oxford and in Papal Avignon. At the time of his provision to the see of Armagh in 1346 he was dean of Lichfield cathedral. Consecrated in 1347, Richard vigorously defended Armagh's primatial status against the claims of the see of Dublin, which received the support of the royal government based in that city, and as archbishop he instituted reform practices for the clergy of his province, gave socially pertinent sermons, continued his theological work, promoted the cult of St. Patrick, and became an opponant of the Franciscans and other mendicants, with whom he was still engaged in legal proceedings in Avignon at the time of his death there in 1360.

Richard's remains were returned to Ireland about a decade later and were laid to rest in Dundalk's church of St. Nicholas. A cult developed and petitions were made for his canonization. In England, Lollards who favoured some of Richard's theological positions also called him Saint. By the early sixteenth century Richard's cause had not made much headway in Rome - not least because he was deemed suspect as a precursor of later heretics such as Wyclif and Hus.

However in 1545, after the formal break with the Papacy, he was canonized by the then Archbishop of Armagh. George Dowdall, the Anglican Archbishop -there was already a split between rival Catholic and Anglican holders of the See  - summoned a Provincial Synod to Drogheda on 20 June 1545. There, after a procession to the High Cross and back, he canonised Richard. This is an interesting example of episcopal assertion of the claim to recognise sanctity in a time of religious upheaval and uncertainty.


Archbishop Richard FitzRalph

Image: The FitzRalph Society

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