Niger, Roger (DNB00)

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NIGER or LE NOIR, ROGER (d. 1241), bishop of London, was perhaps a native of Bileigh, at Little Maldon, Essex, for in the copies of his statutes at Cambridge he is called Roger Niger de Bileye. His father and mother were called Ralph and Margery. He founded a chantry for them at St. Paul's. There seems to be no evidence as to whether he was connected with Ralph Niger [q. v.] the historian. Roger is first mentioned as prebendary of Ealdland, St. Paul's, in 1192, and in 1218 he occurs as archdeacon of Colchester. In the latter capacity he issued a collection of statutes for the rectors and priests of his archdeaconry, a copy of which is preserved in the university library at Cambridge—MS. Gg. iv. 32, ff. 108–16. In 1228 he was elected bishop of London, and was consecrated 10 June 1229, at Canterbury, by Henry, bishop of Rochester (Matt. Paris, iii. 190). On 25 Jan. 1230 St. Paul's Cathedral was struck by lightning, while Roger was celebrating mass. All but one deacon fled in terror; the bishop, however, remained unmoved, and finished the service. In June 1231 he was summoned to meet the king at Oxford to consult on the affairs of Wales (Shirley, Royal and Hist. Letters, i. 400). When in 1232 Hubert de Burgh [q. v.] was dragged from the Boisars Chapel, near Brentwood, Roger went to the king, and, declaring that unless Hubert was sent back he would excommunicate all concerned in the matter, obtained his restoration. This same year the bishop had excommunicated those who had been guilty of violence to Roman clerks. He was nevertheless accused of consenting to the pillage of the Romans, and summoned to Rome, where he purged himself at great expense. On his way thither he was robbed of his jewels and money at Parma, but recovered a portion with some difficulty. At a later date the men of Parma, when their city was besieged by Frederick II in 1247, ascribed their sufferings to Roger's well-deserved curse for their ill-treatment of him (Matt. Paris, iv. 637).

On Roger's return in the autumn of 1233, he arrived at Dover just at the time of the arrest of Walter Mauclerk [q. v.], bishop of Carlisle. He at once excommunicated the offenders, and going to the king at Hereford, remonstrated with him for having ordered the arrest. Roger officiated at the consecration of Edmund as archbishop of Canterbury on 2 April 1234. In 1235 he endeavoured to expel the Caursines from his diocese, on account of their practice of usury. But the Caursines, through their influence with the papal see, procured Roger's summons to Rome, and the bishop, unable through ill-health to obey, was compelled to yield. Roger was a witness to the reissue of Magna Charta in 1236, and quarrelled with Archbishop Edmund (Rich) [q. v.] as to his right of episcopal visitation in 1239 (Ann. Mon. i. 103, iii. 151). His episcopate was marked by much progress in the building of St. Paul's, and the choir was dedicated by him on 1 Oct. 1240.

He died at Stepney on 29 Sept. 1241, and was buried in St. Paul's between the north aisle and the choir. An engraving of his tomb as it existed before the great fire is given in Dugdale's ‘St. Paul's,’ p. 58, together with four lines of verse and a prose epitaph that were inscribed on it. The latter describes Roger as ‘a man of profound learning, of honourable character, and in all things praiseworthy; a lover and strenuous defender of the Christian religion.’ This epitaph is paraphrased by Matthew Paris (iii. 164), who further speaks of him as ‘free from all manner of pride.’ After his death Roger was honoured as a saint, and miracles were alleged to have been wrought at his tomb (ib. v. 13; Cont. Gervase, ii. 130, 202). In 1252 Hugh de Northwold [q. v.], bishop of Ely, in granting an indulgence of thirty days to all who visited his tomb, describes him as ‘beatus Rogerus episcopus et confessor.’ A similar indulgence was granted by John le Breton, bishop of Hereford, in 1269.

A treatise, ‘De contemptu mundi sive de bono paupertatis,’ has been ascribed to Bishop Roger without sufficient reason; it was edited under his name by Andreas Schott (Cologne, 1619), and re-edited in 1873 by Monsignor J. B. Malon, who showed the incorrectness of the ascription. A translation into French by l'Abbé Picherit appeared under Roger's name in 1865 (Backer, Bibl. des Ecrivains de la Comp. de Jésus). Pits (Appendix, p. 406) wrongly identifies the bishop with Roger Black or Nigellus, a Benedictine monk of Westminster, who was the author of some sermons beginning ‘Sapientiâ vincit malitiam Christus.’

[Matthew Paris, Annales Monastici, Continuation of Gervase of Canterbury (all in Rolls Ser.); Tanner's Bibl. Brit.-Hib. pp. 102–3; Newcourt's Repertorium, i. 13–14; Le Neve's Fasti Eccl. Angl. ii. 284, 338, 382; Dugdale's St. Paul's, ed. Ellis, pp. 8, 58; Documents illustrating the History of St. Paul's (Camden Soc.); Wharton's De Episcopis Londiniensibus, pp. 83–8.]

C. L. K.