5 October 2017

A great English Bishop

Mass this morning of S Thomas de Cantelupe, Bishop of Hereford, a Buckinghamshire man who became Chancellor of this University. His sanctity manifested itself in a rigorously ascetic lifestyle combined with enormous generosity towards the poor and a pastoral regimen which was so demanding as to destroy his health. He had a soundly antagonistic attitude towards the great both in Church and State, so much so that he was excommunicated by Archbishop Pecham and died in Italy while awaiting papal judgement upon his appeal. His skull, I believe, is preserved at Downside.

In the Counter-Reformation period, so one gets the impression, a lot of those canonised were the founders of religious orders sponsored for official sanctity by their orders. But in the Middle Ages, there is a consistent theme of the canonisation of bishops who stood up to the mighty, were benefactors of the poor, and whose cult, after their deaths, sprang up spontaneously in their Cathedral Churches. Such a one was S Thomas de Cantelupe. However, he was not formally canonised until 1320. One suspects that a collateral descendent, a young curial offical called John de Grandisson, may have had a hand in this through his influence with the great Avignon pope John XXII. In his bull of canonisation the pope carefully related, surely with one eye on that embarrassing excommunication, that Cantelupe had received the full last rites of the Church before his death.

Young Grandisson later became Bishop of Exeter, and a very fine one too. Like his great-great uncle, he had no truck with Archbishops of Canterbury. When the primate approached Exeter on Metropolitical Visitation, Grandisson repelled him with military force.

S Thomas de Cantelupe was regarded, with Becket, as one of the two great and saintly Thomases of the Middle Ages and is sometimes pared with him iconographically.


Albrecht von Brandenburg said...

The saintly skull is indeed at Downside. It gives of heatwaves - no joke! I've held my hand in front if it and felt them. And, I don't think Archbishop John Pecham was such a bad metropolitan, was he??

Michael Gormally said...

Pared? Did the poor man suffer torture over and above the indignity of incipient excommunication?

Ttony said...

You might enjoy Robert Bartlett's The Hanged Man which looks at the process which examined whether or not prayers to St Thomas had brought a hanged man back to life miraculously (and would allow St Thomas's canonisation), and opens a window into how people lived and thought in the early fourteenth century.

Anonymous said...

I think I have found a new patron. He will probably think of me as incredibly weak and lukewarm, but I need friends like that in heaven. It's interesting that there have been two Lord Chancellors of England who are canonised saints; and both called Thomas. We need their prayers for our country and for the Church on earth.