Richard de Wyche (DNB00)

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RICHARD de Wyche (1197?–1253), bishop of Chichester and saint, derived his name from Droitwich in Worcestershire, where he was born about 1197 (Bocking in Acta SS. April, i. 307). He was a son of well-to-do parents, Richard and Alice, but his father died when he was young, and the family fell into poverty. Capgrave (Acta SS. April i. 279), his later biographer, writing in the fifteenth century, tells picturesque stories of how Richard laboured on his elder brother's land so zealously that he repaired the broken fortunes of the family. However that may be, it is certain that his brother offered to resign his estates to him, and proposed that he should marry a certain noble lady (Bocking, p. 286; Capgrave, p. 279). Richard refused both proposals and went to Oxford as a poor scholar. There he lived very simply. He and two companions had but one tunic and one hooded gown in common in which they attended lectures by turns (ib. p. 279). Logic he specially studied (Bocking, p. 286). As master of arts he taught with great success. Finally he became doctor of canon law, and by common consent of the university was made chancellor (ib. p. 287). Capgrave (p. 279) says that before he was made chancellor he went first to Paris to study logic, returned to Oxford to take the degree of M.A., and thence went to Bologna to work at canon law, wherein he won great reputation there. He tells also that when he was on the point of leaving Bologna his tutor offered him his daughter in marriage, but he shrank from the offer, for marriage had no place in his austere scheme of life. According to Capgrave, it was only now, on his return to England, that he was made chancellor of Oxford university. His fame as a scholar and saint was so great that both Edmund Rich [q. v.], now primate, and the learned Robert Grosseteste [q. v.], bishop of Lincoln, wished to secure him as chancellor of their respective dioceses (Capgrave, p. 279). Finally Richard became chancellor of Canterbury (Bocking, p. 287), and the faithful friend and follower of Edmund. Bocking compares the two holy men to ‘two cherubim in glory’ (p. 287). It was after consultation with Richard, if not actually at his suggestion, that Edmund made his stand against the king on the subject of vacant sees. When Edmund retired to Pontigny, Richard went with him, and, when Edmund's failing health compelled him to seek a warmer climate, they removed together to Soissy. There Edmund died. Richard always remained faithful to his memory, and supplied Matthew Paris with the material for his biography (Hist. Major, v. 369). In 1249 he attended St. Edmund's translation at Pontigny, and wrote an account of it in a letter published by Matthew Paris (ib. v. 76, 192, vi. 128). Richard had no heart to return to England, but went to Orleans and studied theology in a Dominican house (Bocking, p. 287). He was ordained priest there, and henceforth increased the rigour of his asceticism. He founded a chapel in Orleans in honour of St. Edmund. At last he returned to England, and became vicar of Deal and rector of Charing (Bliss, Cal. Papal Letters, i. 215). Boniface of Savoy, St. Edmund's successor, prevailed upon him, in 1245, once more to become chancellor of Canterbury (Capgrave, p. 279).

On the death of Bishop Ralph Neville in 1244, the canons of Chichester had elected to the vacant see Robert Passelewe [q. v.], archdeacon of Chichester, and an ardent supporter of the king. Boniface, already archbishop-elect, held a synod of his suffragans on 3 June 1244, and quashed the election. Richard de Wyche was now recommended to the chapter and immediately elected, Boniface urging his choice and confirming the election (Ann. Waverley, p. 333; Ann. Worcester, p. 436; Matt. Paris, Hist. Major, iv. 358, 401; Bocking, p. 288). Henry III was enraged, and refused to surrender the temporalities of the see. Richard had an interview with him, but, as it proved useless, he took his case to the pope, Innocent IV, who consecrated him at Lyons on 5 March 1245 (Ann. Worcester, p. 436; Ann. Waverley, p. 335).

On his return to England Richard found the temporalities of the see shamefully misused and wasted by the king's officials. A second interview with the king proved of no avail (Bocking, p. 289). Richard was homeless in his own diocese, ‘like a stranger in a foreign land’ (ib. p. 289). He was dependent on the hospitality of his clergy, especially on that of a poor priest of Tarring, Simon by name, who shared with Richard what little he possessed. After two years, in 1246, the king was induced by papal threats of excommunication to restore the temporalities (Ann. Worcester, p. 437). Richard continued to lead the life of a primitive apostle, spending little on his own needs and giving alms freely. He rigidly maintained ecclesiastical discipline. A body of statutes was compiled by him, with the aid of his chapter, with a view to removing abuses in the church; it throws much light on the general condition of the clergy. Clergy living in concubinage within his diocese were to be deprived of their benefices; all candidates for ordination were to take a vow of chastity; the unworthy were to be excluded from ordination; charity and hospitality were enjoined on rectors; tithes were to be paid regularly; detainers of tithes were to be severely punished (cf. Ann. Tewkesbury, pp. 148, 149); vicars were to be priests and hold only one cure; non-residence was condemned; deacons were forbidden to hear confessions, impose penances, or baptise, save in emergencies; confirmation was to follow one year after baptism. That Richard set much store on seemliness of form and beauty of ritual is evident from his regulations that priests were to celebrate mass in clean white robes; to use a chalice of silver or gold; the altar linen was to be spotless, the cross was to be held by the priest in front of the celebrant, the bread to be of the finest wheaten flour, the wine mixed with water. To the sick the elements were to be reverently carried. Clerical exactions were suppressed; archdeacons were to administer justice at fair fees, and were to visit the churches regularly; priests whose articulation was careless and hurried were to be suspended; the sale of church offices was forbidden; four times a year the names of excommunicated persons were to be read in the parish church. All incendiaries, usurers, sacrilegious obstructors to the execution of wills, and false informers were to be punished by excommunication. Jews were forbidden to erect new synagogues. A copy of these statutes was to be kept by every priest in the diocese, and be brought by him to the episcopal synod (Wilkins, Concilia, i. 688–93).

Richard was sensitive in all matters of church privilege. He compelled, for example, the violators of a church in Lewes, who had driven out and hanged a thief in sanctuary there, to take down the corpse when it was already decaying, and bury it within the church. In 1252 Richard agreed with Grosseteste in refusing the king's demand of a tenth (Matt. Paris, v. 326), and in the same year he joined Boniface in excommunicating the authors of an outrage on the archbishop's official, Eustace of Lynn (ib. p. 351). In his care for his cathedral, he instituted what was later known as ‘St. Richard's pence’—contributions offered each Easter day or Whitsunday by the parishioners of each church in the diocese. With the same object he induced the archbishop of Canterbury and various bishops to recommend pilgrimages and offerings to Chichester Cathedral, with relaxation of penance as reward. He was a great patron of the mendicant friars, especially the Dominicans, who largely expanded their work in Sussex during his episcopate. His confessor, Ralph Bocking [q. v.], who wrote his biography, was a Dominican.

Richard's activity was far from being confined to his own diocese. He meddled little in politics, and was reproached with loving the pope better than the king. He was an ardent advocate of crusades. In 1250 he was one of the collectors of the crusading subsidy (Bliss, Cal. Papal Letters, i. 263). In 1252 the king commanded him to exhort the people of London to take the cross. His preaching in this instance was attended with small success (Matt. Paris, v. 282; Fœdera, i. 288). But when St. Louis was compelled in 1253 to return to Europe, leaving eastern Christendom on the verge of dissolution, the pope had no more strenuous helper than Richard of Chichester in reviving the flagging enthusiasm in England. He preached a crusade (Matt. Paris, vi. 200, 201, 209) both in his own diocese and that of Canterbury (Bocking, p. 294). As he drew near to Dover, however, where he was to consecrate a church dedicated to St. Edmund, his strength failed. Reaching Dover, and lodging in the Hospitium Dei, he consecrated the church; but next morning (3 April 1253), during early mass in the chapel, he fell and soon after died (ib. p. 306; Matt. Paris, v. 369). His biographers (Bocking, p. 306; CAPGRAVE, p. 281) tell how the clergy who performed for him the last offices were deeply impressed on finding his body torn with macerations and clad in horsehair clasped with iron bands (cf. Matt. Paris, v. 380). Richard's remains, except the perishable parts, which were interred in the church of St. Edmund at Dover, were buried according to his wish in a humble grave in the nave of Chichester Cathedral, near the altar of St. Edmund, which he himself had constructed in memory of his revered master (Bocking, p. 307; Sussex Arch. Coll. i. 166). His will has been printed in Dallaway's ‘West Sussex’ (i. 47) and in ‘Testamenta Vetusta.’ It is printed with greater accuracy by Mr. W. H. Blaauw in ‘Sussex Archæological Collections’ (i. 164–192). Mr. Blaauw has appended a translation and notes. Richard left legacies to the church of Chichester, to many communities of Franciscan and Dominican friars, to various recluses, and to his servants and friends. The only bequest to his family was a marriage portion of twenty marks to the daughter of his sister. He was still crippled with debt, and ordered his executors to demand from the king the two years' profits from his bishopric which Henry had unjustly taken. Archbishop Boniface was his principal executor.

From the moment of his death Richard received the honours of sanctity. Stories of miracles wrought at his tomb soon obtained universal belief (Matt. Paris, v. 380, 384, 419, 496, 497; Ann. Worcester, p. 442). The veneration in which his memory was held grew rapidly. In the episcopate of Stephen Berksted (1262–1287) Edward, the king's son, visited the tomb. In July 1256 a commission of Walter of Cantelupe, bishop of Worcester, Adam Marsh, and the provincial prior of the Dominicans, was appointed by Alexander IV to examine his life and miracles (Bliss, Cal. Papal Letters, i. 332). On 28 Jan. 1262 at Viterbo, in the church of the Franciscans, Urban IV, in the presence of a great assembly, declared Richard of Chichester formally canonised (Bliss, Cal. Papal Letters, i. 376–377; Wilkins, Concilia, i. 743). Papal license for the translation of the saint's relics to Chichester Cathedral was given on 20 Feb. together with promised relaxations of penance to pilgrims (Bliss, i. 377). The barons' wars probably stopped immediate action. It was not until 16 June 1276 that St. Richard's remains were translated to a silver-gilt shrine in Edward I's presence by Archbishop Kilwardby, assisted by several bishops (Ann. Winchester, p. 122; Ann. Waverley, p. 387; Ann. Osney, p. 268; Ann. Worcester, pp. 470, 471). The tomb of St. Richard, as it exists at present, in the south transept, is of later date and has suffered from ‘restoration’ (Willis, Architect. Hist. of Chichester). Till the time of Henry VIII it was a favourite place of pilgrimage. His festival, kept on 3 April, was an important feast in Sussex until the Reformation, and his name was retained among the black-letter saints of the reformed English prayer book.

[Richard's life was written about 1270, soon after his canonisation, by his confessor, Ralph Bocking, a Dominican, at the request of Archbishop Kilwardby, then provincial of the English Dominicans, and dedicated to Isabella, countess of Arundel. It is very prolix and written ‘rudi sed veraci stylo’ (Trivet, p. 242). It is printed in the Bollandist Acta Sanctorum, April i. 276–318. A shorter fifteenth-century life from Capgrave is also printed in the same volume, pp. 278–82. More modern lives include Vita di San Ricardo Vescovo di Cicestria, &c. (Milano, 1706), to which are appended some prayers to St. Richard, and Stephen's memoir in Memorials of the See of Chichester, pp. 83–98, which contains the best recent life. Besides Bocking, the chief original sources are Matthew Paris's Hist. Major, Annales Monastici, Flores Historiarum, Rishanger's Chron. (all these in Rolls Series); Wilkins's Concilia, vol. i., Trivet (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Rymer's Fœdera; Le Neve's Fasti Eccl. Angl. i. 240–1, ed. Hardy; Godwin, De Præsulibus, pp. 205–6 (1743); Bliss's Papal Registers and Letters, vol. i.]

M. T.