Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Adam de Marisco

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ADAM de Marisco (d. 1257?), a learned Franciscan, is said to have been a native of Somerset. After having been educated at Oxford, he held for three years the living of Wearmouth in Durham (Chron. de Lanercost, sub anno 1253). Adam was famous as a scholar, and his entry into the Franciscan order at Worcester (cir. 1237) formed an important addition to its ranks. The story runs that a companion of his, one Adam of Oxford, had made a vow to grant the first request preferred to him in the name of Mary. In his travels he went to visit the friars, and one of them said, ‘For the love of the mother of God enter our order and help our simplicity.’ Adam at once accepted the intimation as divine, and a vision warned Adam de Marisco to follow his friend's example (Eccleston, De Adventu Minorum, p. 16). Adam de Marisco was the first teacher in the school which they set up at Oxford. His influence was quickly felt not only as a teacher, but as the counsellor and friend of all the best men in England. His first friend was Robert Grosseteste, bishop of Lincoln, chancellor of the university of Oxford; whose respect for Adam's judgment became so great that he consulted him on many of the most important matters relating to his see. Adam was constantly summoned to help the Archbishop of Canterbury, Boniface of Savoy, whose wisdom was by no means equal to the duties of his office. He was consulted by the queen, the Earl of Cornwall, and many important persons. But his most noticeable friend was Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, who was largely guided by Adam's counsels.

From his connection with Grosseteste and Simon de Montfort, Adam may be regarded as the intellectual head of the reforming principles in church and state which prevailed in his day. He was also engaged in organising the teaching and discipline of the university of Oxford, and his fame as a scholar spread throughout Europe. In 1245 he accompanied Bishop Grosseteste to the council of Lyons, and on his return had to stay at Mantes to nurse a sick comrade. Grosseteste wrote at once to England for another friar to be sent out to take his place as nurse; he was afraid lest Adam should be tempted to join the university of Paris and so deprive Oxford of his services (Ep. 114). Adam's letters show us a life of varied usefulness. He seems to have possessed a singularly sound judgment, and to have impressed all earnest minds. It is noticeable that Adam exercised his influence to restrain the somewhat imperious and passionate nature which was the chief defect in Earl Simon's character (Ep. 135–140, 161).

The last years of Friar Adam were disturbed by an attempt to raise him to the bishopric of Ely. There was a disputed election; the king nominated one candidate, the monks elected another. The matter was referred to the pope, and Archbishop Boniface privately urged him to appoint Adam. This stirred the anger of the monastic orders, who mocked at the ambition of a friar. Adam's health was declining, and he died before the matter was settled, but he seems to have felt the reports which were spread against him (Ep. 245). The exact time of his death cannot be settled, but it was either late in 1257, or early in 1258.

Adam de Marisco bore in his own time the title of Doctor Illustris. Roger Bacon repeatedly speaks of him and Grosseteste as ‘perfect in all wisdom,’ ‘the greatest clerks in the world’ (Op. Tert. c. 22, 23, 25). There are attributed to him four books of commentaries upon the Master of the Sentences; a commentary upon the Song of Solomon; a paraphrase upon Dionysius Areopagita; an elucidation of Sacred Scripture; theological questions; and ‘Lectiones Ordinariæ.’ They have not been printed.

[Eccleston, De Adventu Minorum; Adæ de Marisco Epistolæ, in Brewer's Monumenta Franciscana; Roberti Grosseteste Epistolæ, ed. Luard; Chronicon de Lanercost, sub ann. 1253; Matthew Paris, sub ann. 1257; Wadding, Annales Minorum; Wood, Antiquitates Univ. Oxon. i. 72; Brewer's Preface to the Monumenta, lxxvii–ci.]

M. C.