Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Thomas (d.1114)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

THOMAS (d. 1114), archbishop of York, was the son of Samson (d. 1112) [q. v.], afterwards bishop of Worcester, and the brother of Richard, bishop of Bayeux from 1108 to 1133, and so the nephew of Thomas (d. 1100) [q. v.], archbishop of York, who brought him up at York, where he was generally popular (Eadmer, Historia Novorum, col. 481; Richard of Hexham, col. 303; Gallia Christiana, xi. 360; Hugh the Chantor apud Historians of York, ii. 112). His uncle Thomas appointed him as the first provost of Beverley in 1092, and he was one of the king's chaplains. At Whitsuntide 1108 Henry I was about to appoint him to the bishopric of London, vacant by the death of Maurice (d. 1107) [q. v.] The archbishopric of York was also vacant by the death of Gerard in May, and the dean and some of the canons of York had come to London to elect; they persuaded the king to nominate Thomas to York instead of London; he was elected, and as archbishop-elect was present at the council that Anselm held at that season at London (Eadmer, col. 470; Flor. Wig. sub an.)

He then went to York, where he was heartily welcomed. He knew that Anselm would summon him to come to Canterbury to make his profession of obedience and receive consecration; and as his chapter urged him not to make the profession [see under Thomas, d. 1100], he set out to speak to the king on the matter (Hugh, pp. 112–14). At Winchester he was favourably received by the king, who appears to have told him not to make the profession at that time, but not to have spoken decidedly, intending probably to inquire further into the case. The assertion that Anselm sent Herbert de Losinga [q. v.], bishop of Norwich, to Thomas, offering to give up the profession if Thomas would recognise him as primate, and that Thomas refused (ib.), may be rejected so far as Anselm is concerned, though the bishop may have made the proposal on his own responsibility. Meanwhile Turgot [q. v.], bishop-elect of St. Andrews, was awaiting consecration, and Ranulf Flambard [q. v.], anxious to uphold the rights of the church of York, proposed to perform the rite at York with the assistance of suffragan bishops of the province, in the presence of the archbishop-elect. This would have been an infringement of the rights of Canterbury, and was forbidden by Anselm, who further wrote to Thomas requiring him to come to his ‘mother church’ at Canterbury on 6 Sept., and declaring that if he failed to do so he would himself perform episcopal functions in the province of York. Thomas wrote that he would have come but had spent all his money at Winchester; indeed, he said that he would have gone at once from Winchester to him, but the king had given him permission to send to Rome for his pall, and he was trying to raise money for the purpose. He also disclaimed any intention of consecrating Turgot. Anselm granted him an extension of time till Sunday, 27 Sept., and told him that it was no use sending for the pall before he was consecrated, and forbade him to do so. He also wrote to Paschal II, requesting him not to grant Thomas the pall until he had made profession and had been consecrated. Thomas then wrote that his chapter had forbidden him to make the profession, that he could not disobey them, and asked Anselm's advice. His letter was followed by one from the York chapter declaring that if Thomas made the profession they would disown him. Anselm replied to Thomas, repeating his command, and fixing 8 Nov. as the day for the profession and consecration. Thomas again wrote, saying that he could not act against the will of his chapter. After consulting with his suffragans, Anselm sent the bishops of London and Rochester to him to advise him on behalf of the bishops generally, either to desist from his rebellious conduct, or at least to go to Canterbury and state his case, promising that if he proved it he should receive consecration. They found him at Southwell. He told them that he had sent a messenger to the king, who was then in Normandy, and that he must wait for Henry's answer, and for further consultation with his clergy. The king's reply was that the question of the profession was to be put off until the following Easter, when, if he had then returned, he would settle it himself with the advice of his bishops and barons, and in any case would arrange it amicably. Anselm wrote to Thomas from his deathbed warning him not to perform any episcopal act before he had, like his predecessors Thomas and Gerard, made profession of obedience, and declaring excommunicate any bishop of the realm that should consecrate him or acknowledge him if consecrated by foreign bishops, and Thomas himself if he should ever receive consecration, unless he had made the profession. Anselm died on 21 April 1109.

Meanwhile Henry had sent to Paschal for a legate to help him to settle the dispute. Paschal sent him a cardinal named Ulric, who landed in England shortly before the king's return. Ulric was dismayed at hearing of Anselm's death, for he brought a pall from Thomas, but was not to present it to him without Anselm's consent. When Henry held his court at London at Whitsuntide the matter was discussed. The bishops resolved to be faithful to what Anselm had commanded in his last letter to Thomas, which was read before the council, and sent to Bishop Samson, the father of Thomas, to know his mind. He declared himself strongly on the same side, and so they laid their determination before the king, who, in spite of the opposition of the Count of Meulan [see Beaumont, Robert de, d. 1118], decided against Thomas, and bade him either make profession to Canterbury or resign his archbishopric. The royal message was brought to him at York by the Count of Meulan. Thomas sent to the king, praying that the case might be tried before him and the legate and be decided canonically, but Henry would not consent. The father, brother, and other relatives of Thomas urged him to submit, and he accordingly went to London, and on Sunday, 11 June, the day fixed for his consecration, appeared at St. Paul's, where the bishop of London and six other bishops were gathered for the rite, made a written profession of obedience to the see of Canterbury, and was consecrated by them. During the ceremony the bishops of London and Durham stated by the king's order that Thomas was acting by the king's command, not in consequence of a legal decision, so that, according to sealed letters from the king, his profession was not, in case of any future suit, to be held a legal precedent. The York clergy, while they did not blame him for yielding, were deeply grieved, and it was believed that if he had not been so fat and consequently unfitted to bear exile and worry, he would never have given way (Eadmer, cols. 474–82; Hugh, pp. 112–26). Thomas returned to York in company with the legate, who publicly invested him with the pall. He then, on 1 Aug., consecrated Turgot, who made profession to him, and accompanied the legate, after a visit of three days, on his southward journey as far as the Trent. The York historians assert that on taking leave of the archbishop, the legate summoned him to answer at Rome for having made the profession, but withdrew the summons, as the archbishop declared that the king's command left him no choice. The York claim to equality was based on the decree of Gregory the Great; it was pre-eminently a matter to be decided by the Roman see, and Rome had not yet spoken authoritatively; this summons, then, must be regarded as a form to safeguard the freedom of Rome to judge the question in the future. Thomas consecrated and received the profession of three other bishops to the sees of Glasgow, Man, and Orkney. While provost of Beverley he had suffered from a painful disorder, and his physicians declared that he could not recover except by violating his chastity. He indignantly silenced the friends who would have had him take that course, increased his alms, and invoked the help of St. John of Beverley [q. v.] He recovered, but the disease returned later, and he died at Beverley, while still young, on 24 Feb. 1114, and was buried in York Minster, near the grave of his uncle (Richard of Hexham, cols. 303–4; Will. Newb. i. c. 1; Hugh).

Thomas was enormously fat, probably a result of disease, and the inertness which the York historians blame in him arose no doubt from the same cause. Left to himself, he would never have carried on the strife about the profession; it was forced on him by his clergy, and they would have preferred that he should go into exile rather than yield. He was religious, cheerful, benign, and liberal, well furnished with learning, eloquent, and generally liked. He founded two new prebends at York, and obtained from the king a grant of privileges for the canons of Southwell, whose lands and churches he freed from episcopal dues. At Hexham, where the church seems at that time to have belonged to his see and was administered by a provost, he introduced Augustinian canons, whom he endowed by various grants, giving them also books and ornaments for their use in the church (ib.; Richard of Hexham, u.s.). It is said that he designed to remove the body of Bishop Eata [q. v.] from Hexham to York, but was deterred by a vision of the saint, who appeared to him when he was at Hexham, rebuked him, and gave him two blows on the shoulder (Biographica Miscellanea, p. 124). Bale says that, like his uncle, he was fond of music, and that he composed hymns and an officiarium for the church of York, but he evidently confuses him and his uncle ({{sc|Bale}, cent. xiii. 132; Tanner, p. 709).

[Raine's Fasti Ebor.; Hugh the Chantor and T. Stubbs ap. Hist. of York, vol. ii., Will. of Malmesbury, Gesta Pontiff. (both Rolls Ser.); Anselmi Opp. ed. Migne; Flor. Wig., Will. Newb. (both Engl. Hist. Soc.); Biogr. Misc., Hexham Priory (both Surtees Soc.).]

W. H.