Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/John of Beverley (d.721)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
1231745Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 29 — John of Beverley (d.721)1892William Hunt

JOHN (d. 721), Saint, called of Beverley, bishop of York, said to have been born of noble parentage at Harpham in the East Riding of Yorkshire, was educated at Canterbury by Archbishop Theodore, who perhaps gave him the name of John (T. Stubbs). The assertion that he was a master of arts at Oxford is of course a fable (Caius, De Antiquitate Univ. Cantabr. i. 106, repeated by later writers, see Fuller, Worthies, ii. 497). He was for some time an inmate of the monastery of Streonshalch (Whitby), under the abbess Hilda. Having left the monastery, and being eloquent, learned, and holy, he preached to his fellow-countrymen, and became a teacher of high repute. Bede is said to have been one of his pupils; but this assertion is perhaps simply founded on the fact that Bede was ordained by him. On 25 Aug. 687 he was consecrated bishop of Hexham. When opportunity offered, and specially during Lent, he used to retire to a place called Ernshowe, near Hexham, on the north side of the Tyne, where there was a cemetery dedicated to St, Michael, and spend some time in prayer and reading in company with a few disciples. On one of these occasions he ordered that some man oppressed by poverty or serious sickness should be brought to stay with him, that he might relieve his wants. Bede relates, on the authority of Berethun, the bishop's deacon, and later abbot of Beverley, how a dumb man was brought and was miraculously healed. The narrative shows that John taught the man to talk. He was on friendly terms with Osred, king of Northumbria, was present at the synod held on the Nidd in 705, and evidently opposed the restoration of Wilfrid [q. v.] On the death of Bosa [q. v.], bishop of York, in the same year John was appointed to succeed him, and Hexham was given to Wilfrid. To this period belong three miracles told to Bede by Berethun, the cure of a sick nun at Vetadun, probably Watton, and of the wife of a noble named Puch, probably at South Barton, both in Yorkshire, and of the servant of another noble. In the two last cases the bishop had come to consecrate a church built by the lord of the village. Herebald, another of the bishop's disciples, afterwards abbot of Tynemouth, also told Bede that he attributed his recovery from a serious accident to John's prayers. The story shows that when the bishop travelled about he was accompanied by a number of young disciples, laymen as well as clerks, over whom he exercised control. At York he lived close by the church of St. Michael, 'probably the church of St. Michael-le-Belfry, contiguous to the minster' (Raine), and there performed his private devotions. Having bought a place called Inderawood, and later named Beverley, from the beavers in the Hull, John built a choir to the church, and established a convent of nuns close beside it. In 718 he consecrated his priest Wilfrid to succeed him at York, and retired from his bishopric to his monastery at Beverley, where he died on 7 May 721, and was buried in the church of the monastery. He was canonised in 1037, and his bones were translated by Ælfric [q. v.], archbishop of York, and placed in a costly shrine. A second translation took place in 1197. The remains were discovered in 1664, and reburied in the nave of the minster; they were again brought to light in 1736. John placed seven priests and seven clerks in his church at Beverley; it was refounded as a collegiate church by Athelstan [q. v.] The college was dissolved in the reign of Edward VI. John of Beverley was one of the most famous saints of the north, and frequent notices will be found of the reverence paid to him by kings and others. Henry V ascribed his victory at Agincourt to the intercession of St. John, for it was won on 25 Oct., the day of his translation. Accordingly in 1416 Archbishop Chicheley ordered the perpetual celebration of that day, which had probably not been observed in the southern province.

Bale ascribes to John an Exposition of St. Luke, homilies, and epistles. Of these nothing is known.

[Raine's Fasti Ebor. pp. 84–92. an exhaustive account, with copious references; Butler's Lives of the Saints, v. 107 sqq.; Wright's Bibl. Lit. i. 231; Bede tells all that can be known certainly about St. John's life in Hist. Eccl v. cc. 2-6, 24, sec. 454 (Engl. Hist. Soc); Life by Folcard [q. v.], based on Bede, with some additional miracles and Book of Miracles by Ketell, with three appendices, lectiones, and short lives, are in Raine's Hist. of Church of York. i. 239–347 (Rolls Ser.), where also see Alcuin's Carmen de Pontiff. II. 1083–1214; Folcard's Life, with some additions and annotations, is also in Acta SS. Bolland ii. May. vii. ii. 165 sqq.; Ric. of Hexham (Twysden), cols. 291, 292, 298; T. Stubbs Act. Pontiff. (Twysden), col. 1692; Leland's Collect, iv. 100–1; Sanct. Dunelm. et Beverlac, p. 98 (Surtees Soc.); Dugdale's Visitation of Yorkshire, p. 22 (Surtees Soc.); Dugdale's Monasticon, ii. 127, vi. 1307 sqq).; Poulson's Beverlac. pp. 666, 681; Lyndwood's Provinciale, p. 104; Wilkins's Concilia, iii. 379.]

W. H.