Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Last Englishman Canonized Before the English Reformation

According to The Catholic Herald:

Thomas Cantelupe (1220-82), Bishop of Hereford from 1275 to his death, was a formidable medieval ecclesiastic and man of affairs, whose private virtues were widely acknowledged. This was a man horrified to be kissed by his own sister.

In his diocese he sought, and obtained, the highest standards. In matters of state he fiercely defended the the Church against lay encroachment. He proved equally vigilant, moreover, in confronting challenges to his own authority.

Born at Hambleden in Buckinghamshire, the third child in a family of seven, Thomas entered the world with every advantage. His father and grandfather had served in the royal household. His mother was the widow of Amaury de Montfort, Count of Evreux. His uncle Walter was Bishop of Worcester.

Thomas studied in Oxford, Paris and Orleans. In 1245 he attended the Council of Lyons, where he was appointed a papal chaplain by Innocent IV, and obtained a dispensation which allowed him to hold several benefices at the same time. This concession he would amply exploit.

In 1261 Cantelupe became Chancellor of Oxford. In a wider ambit, his de Montfort connections drew him to support the barons in their struggle against Henry III. After Simon de Montfort’s triumph at the Battle of Lewes (1264), Cantelupe was briefly Chancellor of England. . . .

Through conscientious visitations of his diocese Cantelupe rooted out corruption, being especially severe on priests guilty of simony, non-residence and pluralism. As to his own multiple benefices, it sufficed, obviously, that they had been sanctioned by the Pope. He was also influential in King Edward I’s counsels, being particularly hostile to the Jews, who would be expelled from England in 1290. . . .

He met his match, however, when John Peckham became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1279. Cantelupe resisted the archbishop’s jurisdictional claims so fiercely that in 1280 he fled to Normandy to avoid an interdict. When he returned to England in 1282 he was excommunicated by Peckham.

Cantelupe travelled to Italy to plead his cause before the Pope, only to die at Montefiascone on August 25 1282.

Richard Swinfield, his successor at Hereford, promoted his canonisation and by 1312 some 500 miracles had been attributed to Cantelupe’s intercession. And so, in 1320, this rigorous and daunting ecclesiastic became St Thomas Cantelupe.

As you might imagine, his shrine at Hereford Cathedral (full name: Cathedral Church of St. Mary the Virgin and St. Ethelbert the King) was a very popular pilgrimage site, but of course it was destroyed during the English Reformation. More on the saint here. Once I Was a Clever Boy provides some excellent detail here.

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