Edmund Rich bigraphy, stories - Archbishop of Canterbury; Saint

Edmund Rich : biography

20 November, about 1175 - 16 November 1240

Edmund Rich (also known as Saint Edmund or Eadmund of Canterbury, and as Saint Edmund of Abingdon) (1175–1240) was a 13th-century Archbishop of Canterbury in England. Today he is remembered for his connection to St Edmund Hall, Oxford, St Edmund's College, Cambridge and St. Edmund's College, Ware.


Early life and career

Edmund of Canterbury was born on November 20, 1180 in Abingdon in Berkshire (now Oxfordshire), 7 miles south of Oxford, England, circa 1175. It was the feast of St. Edmund, King and Martyr, so thus he was given the name Edmund. He was the oldest of four children.

'Rich' was an epithet sometimes given to his wealthy merchant father. It was never applied to Edmund or his siblings in their lifetimes. Edmund may have been educated at the monastic school in Abingdon. His early studies were in England, but he completed his higher learning in France at the University of Paris. About 1195, in company with his brother Richard, he was sent to the schools of Paris. He studied at the universities of Oxford and Paris and became a teacher about 1200, or a little earlier. For six years he lectured on mathematics and dialectics, apparently dividing his time between Oxford and Paris, and helped introduce the study of Aristotle.

He became one of Oxford's first lecturers with a Master of Arts, and Oxford's first Doctor of Divinity. and must have been something of a character in the eyes of the students. Long hours at night spent in prayer had the result that he often 'nodded off' during his lectures. There is a long-established tradition that he utilised his lecture-fees to build the Lady Chapel of St Peter's in the East at Oxford. The site where he lived and taught was formed into a mediaeval academic hall in his name and eventually incorporated as the current college St Edmund Hall. His mother influenced him towards self-denial and austerity; and this led to his taking up the study of theology.

Though for some time he resisted the change, he finally entered upon his new career between 1205 and 1210. He received ordination, took a doctorate in divinity and soon became known as a lecturer on theology and as an extemporaneous preacher. Some time between 1219 and 1222 he was appointed vicar of the parish of Calne in Wiltshire and treasurer of Salisbury Cathedral. He held this position for eleven years, during which time he also engaged in preaching. In 1227 he preached the sixth crusade through a large part of England.

Archbishop of Canterbury

In 1233 came the news of his appointment, by Pope Gregory IX, to the Archbishopric of Canterbury. The chapter had already made three selections which the pope had declined to confirm. Edmund's name had been proposed as a compromise by Gregory, perhaps on account of his work for the crusade. He was consecrated on 2 April 1234.Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 233

Before his consecration he became known for supporting ecclesiastical independence from Rome, maintenance of the Great Charter and the exclusion of foreigners from civil and ecclesiastical office. Reluctant to accept appointment as Archbishop, Edmund was persuaded when it was pointed out that if he refused, the Pope might very well appoint a foreign ecclesiastic. He chose as his chancellor Master Richard of Wich, known to after ages as St Richard of Chichester.

In the name of his fellow bishops he admonished King Henry III of England at Westminster, on 2 February 1234, to heed the example of his father, King John. A week after his consecration he again appeared before the king with the barons and bishops, this time threatening Henry with excommunication if he refused to dismiss his councillors, particularly Peter des Roches, Bishop of Winchester. Henry yielded, and the favourites were dismissed, Hubert de Burgh (whom they had imprisoned) was released and reconciled to the king and soon the archbishop was sent to Wales to negotiate peace with Prince Llywelyn the Great. Edmund's success, however, turned the King against him.

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Living octopus

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