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St William of York

St William of York

Christopher Norton
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 290
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  • Book Info
    St William of York
    Book Description:

    St William of York achieved the unique distinction of being elected archbishop of York twice and being canonised twice. Principally famous for his role in the York election dispute and the miracle of Ouse bridge, William emerges from this, the first full-length study devoted to him, as a significant figure in the life of the church in northern England and an interesting character in his own right. William's father, Herbert the Chamberlain, was a senior official in the royal treasury at Winchester who secured William's initial preferment at York; the importance of family connections, particularly after his cousin Stephen became king, forms a recurring theme. Dr Norton describes how he was early on involved in the primacy dispute with Canterbury, and after his father attempted to assassinate Henry I, he spent some years abroad with Archbishop Thurstan. William knew some of the earliest Yorkshire Cistercians, who were subsequently among his fiercest opponents during his first episcopate, which is here reconsidered in the light of new evidence: he emerges from the affair with much greater credit, St Bernard with correspondingly less. Retiring to Winchester after his deposition, he was elected archbishop a second time in 1153, but died the next year amid suspicions of murder. Miracles at his tomb in 1177 led to his veneration as a saint. The book concludes with the bull of canonisation issued by Pope Honorius III in 1226. CHRISTOPHER NORTON is Professor of the History of Art, University of York.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-507-9
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
    (pp. vi-vii)
    (pp. viii-viii)
    (pp. viii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
  8. [Illustrations]
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  9. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    St William of York is one of the more obscure saints of medieval England. Even in the city whose name he bears he is less well known than his younger contemporaries Aelred of Rievaulx and Thomas Becket. If he is remembered at all, it is as likely as not for the miracle of Ouse bridge – surely one of the least remarkable miracles in annals hagiography – or for the unedifying mystery surrounding his death. Outside York, few people have ever heard of St William – unless they be twelfth-century ecclesiastical historians, among whom he has achieved a certain notoriety as the man...

  10. CHAPTER ONE William fitzHerbert
    (pp. 5-26)

    William’s life revolved around the ancient cathedral cities of Winchester and York. He was brought up at Winchester, he was consecrated archbishop there, and it was to Winchester that he retreated for a number of years towards the end of his life. As a young man he moved to York, where he held the post of treasurer of the Minster for many years until he became arch-bishop, and it was to York that he ultimately returned to vindication and to death. Buried within the walls of the Minster, he was raised in due course the ranks of the saints, and...

  11. CHAPTER TWO William the Treasurer
    (pp. 27-75)

    William fitzHerbert’s early career has received little attention. Archdeacons and canons were seldom considered worthy of individual mention in contemporary accounts of ecclesiastical affairs. It was not until the election dispute propelled William onto the international arena that he came to prominence in twelfth-century chronicles, and modern historians, understandably enough, have focused almost exclusively on the biter and long-drawn-out controversies which surrounded his election to the archiepiscopate. However, the three decades which he spent as treasurer of York Minster and archdeacon of the East Riding, though sparsely documented, are by no means as obscure as has been supposed. Nor are...

  12. CHAPTER THREE Archbishop William: The First Archiepiscopate
    (pp. 76-123)

    William fitzHerbert was not the first choice to succeed Archbishop Thurstan in the see of York. Two or three other names had been put forward previously but had fallen by the wayside. It was an inauspicious start to an ill-fated archiepiscopate. The saga which unfolded over the following fourteen years was acted out by an international cast of characters which included no fewer than five successive popes, diverse archdeacons, bishops, cardinals and papal legates, Benedictines, Augustinians and Cistercians, and lay people of all ranks of society from the king downwards. Among them were several men who came to be revered...

  13. CHAPTER FOUR Archbishop William: The Second Archiepiscopate
    (pp. 124-148)

    William retired to Winchester, the city of his youth which he had left almost forty years before pursue his career at York. It was a natural choice of refuge. The principal estates of family were in Hampshire, and his brother Herbert held a number of properties in the city – albeit of considerably lesser value than those held by his father Herbert the Chamberlain c. 1110.¹ And it was at Winchester that he would find his closest ecclesiastical ally in the southern province, his cousin, Henry of Blois. Although no longer holding the pre-eminent position within the English church which he...

  14. CHAPTER FIVE Saint William
    (pp. 149-201)

    William fitzHerbert was formally canonised by Pope Honorius I on 18 March 1226. The text of the papal bull was carefully preserved at York.¹ Written in the verbose style of the papal bureaucracy, it declares, after a lengthy preamble, that the pope has entered William’s name in the list of the holy confessors, so his feast-day should be celebrated annually thereafter in solemn manner. The canonisation, it states, was proclaimed only after a careful investigation of the course of the most holy life of the saint and the many great miracles which the Lord had performed through him. Some of...

  15. Epilogue
    (pp. 202-202)

    The papal canonisation was the high point of William’s international reputation. The universal proclamation of his sanctity was greeted by an almost universal lack of interest. A few months later Francis of Assisi died. The rapid and international spread of his cult, like that of St Dominic, was assisted by the order which he founded and responded to the mood of the times. By contrast, William was a conventional figure from past with no popular appeal and no institutional support outside York. The generation of those who remembered him finally passed away around the time of his canonisation. The disputes...

  16. APPENDIX A. The Family and Estates of Herbert the Chamberlain
    (pp. 203-228)
  17. APPENDIX B. Paulinus of Leeds and the Family of Ralph Nowell
    (pp. 229-238)
  18. APPENDIX C. An Itinerary of William fitzHerbert
    (pp. 239-242)
    (pp. 243-256)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 257-271)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 272-275)