Faricius (DNB00)

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FARICIUS (d. 1117), abbot of Abingdon, a native of Arezzo in Tuscany, a skilful physician, and a man of letters, was in England in 1078, when he witnessed the translation of the relics of St. Aldhelm [q. v.], and was cellarer of Malmesbury Abbey when, in 1100, he was elected abbot of Abingdon. He owed his election to a vision. The abbey of Abingdon had fallen into decay; cloister, dormitory, and chapter-house were in ruins, the brethren scarcely had bread to eat, and the abbacy was vacant. A young monk had a vision of the Virgin, who bade him tell the prior and convent to elect her chaplain, the cellarer of Malmesbury, as their abbot. They applied to Henry I, and received license to elect Faricius, who was either already, or soon afterwards, the king's physician. He was consecrated on 1 Nov. by Robert, bishop of Lincoln, and the next year was received with much rejoicing by the brethren of his new house. It is said that as Archbishop Anselm was then in exile, Faricius laid his pastoral staff on the high altar. Anselm, however, returned to England on 23 Sept. 1100, and did not leave it again until 1103, so the story no doubt belongs to the period of the archbishop's second absence, and shows that Faricius belonged to the strict ecclesiastical party. He was learned and industrious, courteous in manners, and eloquent, though his foreign tongue was some disadvantage to him (Gesta Pontificum, p. 331). Moreover he was a man of quick understanding and great ability, and seems in all points to have been a good specimen of the scientific churchman of southern Europe. The restoration of the conventual buildings was his first care, and he further rebuilt a large part of the church, probably the whole of the eastern end, the transepts, and the central tower, placing his new building to the south of St. Æthelwold's church (Chronicon de Abingdon, ii. 286; Leland, Itinerary, ii. 13). He enriched the abbey by obtaining grants of land and by costly gifts of various kinds, caused several books, both of divinity and medicine, to be copied for the library, was liberal and kind to the monks, and raised their number from twenty-eight to eighty. The payments he received for his work as a physician enabled him to do all this, for many of the chief persons in the kingdom sought his advice. When Queen Matilda was expecting her first child the king sent her to stay in the immediate neighbourhood of Abingdon, and placed her under the care of Faricius and another Italian physician named Grimbald or Grimaldi, his intimate friend. The abbot interested the queen in the rebuilding of the church, and obtained through her intercession a grant from the king of the island of Andresey and all the buildings upon it. Another grant which he received for attending Geoffrey, son of Aubrey de Vere, was the parish church of Kensington along with certain lands there. When, after the see of Canterbury had remained vacant for five years, Henry held a council at Windsor on 26 April 1114 in order to fix on a successor to Anselm, he was anxious to procure the election of Faricius, in whom he placed entire confidence, and the monks of Christ Church, who were summoned to the council, were highly pleased at the prospect (Eadmer). The suffragan bishops, however, opposed the scheme, for they were afraid that Faricius as an Italian and a strict churchman would involve the church in fresh disputes. This feeling was not expressed openly, but the Bishops of Lincoln and Salisbury alleged that it would be unseemly that a physician who attended women should be made archbishop. The king gave up the point, and Ralph, bishop of Rochester, was elected. The historian of Abingdon seems to have been mistaken in asserting that Faricius was elected to the archbishopric. Faricius died at Abingdon on 23 Feb. 1115 (Chron. de Abingdon, ii. 290), or, more correctly, 1117 (ib. p. 158; A.-S. Chron.) On the 2nd of that month, it is said, he fell sick after eating some food prepared by one of the brethren, and at once declared that he should die. He wrote a ‘Life of St. Aldhelm,’ which is criticised by William of Malmesbury in his ‘Life’ of the saint. His work is without doubt the anonymous ‘Life’ in the contemporary Cotton MS. Faustina, B. iv., which is printed in the Bollandists' ‘Acta SS.’ May vi. 84, and by Dr. Giles in his edition of Aldhelm's works. He is also said to have written letters and a work proving that infants dying without baptism cannot be saved (Bale; Tanner). His anniversary was kept with much solemnity at Abingdon, and in one place in the ‘De Obedientiariis Abbendoniæ’ he is styled saint.

[Chron. de Abingdon, ii. passim (Rolls Ser.); William of Malmesbury, Gesta Pontificum, pp. 126, 192, 330–2; Eadmer's Historia Novorum, lib. v. col. 489; Leland's Itinerary, ed. 1711, ii. 13.]

W. H.