Richard (d.1139) (DNB00)

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RICHARD (d. 1139), first abbot of Fountains, was prior of the Benedictine abbey of St. Mary, York, when in 1132 he found that the sacristan Richard (d. 1143) [q. v.] and six other brethren of the house had entered into a bond that they would strive after a stricter life and, if possible, join the Cistercian order, which was then in high repute and had been established in England about three years before. Richard joined the new movement, and his union with them gave them strength, for he was wise, and was highly esteemed by Thurstan [q. v.], the archbishop of York, and other men in power. But difficulties soon arose with the anti-reform party. The abbot, Geoffrey, called in monks from Marmoutier, who appear to have been in York, and certain Cluniac monks and others, and denounced Richard and his friends. The archbishop visited the abbey with several of his chapter and other attendants on 9 Oct., and the abbot refusing to admit his attendants, who were secular clerks, a quarrel ensued, and Thurstan finally retired with Richard and the other twelve monks of his party, who left the abbey, taking nothing with them. On 26 Dec. he established the new community on the site of the present Fountains, near Ripon in Skeldale, and gave them the place and some land at Sutton in the neighbourhood. Richard was chosen abbot, and he and his monks built themselves huts round a great elm, and applied themselves to labour of various kinds. When the winter was over they sent a messenger to St. Bernard, abbot of Clairvaux, asking to be received into the Cistercian order. He sent them a monk from Clairvaux to instruct them in the rule, and wrote a letter to Richard warmly approving what had been done, and expressing a wish that he could visit the convent.

For two years after their settlement the monks endured great privations; their hopes of establishing themselves in England at last failed, and Richard went to Clairvaux and begged St. Bernard to find them a settlement in France. He assigned them Longué in Haute-Marne until some place could be found for them permanently. On Richard's return, however, he found that Hugh, the dean of York, had joined the convent and brought his great wealth to it. This relieved him from further anxiety and put an end to the idea of emigration. Soon afterwards two canons of York followed the dean's example, and the convent entered on a period of prosperity, both as regards numbers and possessions. Richard received a charter of confirmation from King Stephen in 1135, and the same year the convent appears to have been admitted into the number of Cistercian abbeys (English Historical Review, viii. 657). In 1137 Richard sent out a body of monks to colonise Newminster in Northumberland, founded by Ralph de Merlay, the first of the daughter houses of Fountains, and in the same year he received a gift of Haverholme, near Sleaford in Lincolnshire, from Alexander [q. v.], bishop of Lincoln, whither another colony from Fountains was sent. When the legate Alberic, bishop of Ostia, came to England in 1138, he sent for Richard to help him, and treated him with much honour and friendship. On the legate's departure Thurstan sent Richard with him to Rome, partly on the archbishop's business, and partly to attend the council to be held there the following year. Richard died at Rome on 30 April 1139.

[Hugh of Kirkstall's De origine domus Font., ap. Memorials of Fountains, ed. Walbran, with introduction (Surtees Soc.) (Hugh of Kirkstall's narrative is also in Monasticon, v. 293 sq.); St. Bernard's Works, Ep. 96, ed. Migne; Richard of Hexham, col. 329. ed. Twysden; John of Hexham, cc. 8, 9, ap. Symeon of Durham, ii. 296, 301 (Rolls Ser.); Engl. Hist. Review, 1893, viii. 655–9; Leland's Comment. de Scriptt. Brit. p. 186, ed. Hall, copied by Bale, cent. xii. c. 46, p. 37.]

W. H.