Edmund Rich

Edmund Rich

Infobox Archbishop of Canterbury
Full name= St Edmund of Abingdon

caption= Image of Edmund from the "Nuremberg Chronicle" (1493)
birth_name = Edmund Rich
consecration = 2 April 1234
term_end = 1240
predecessor = John Blund
successor = Boniface of Savoy
birth_date= 20 November c. 1175|birth_place=St Edmund's Lane, Abingdon, Berkshire (now Oxfordshire), England
death_date= death date|1240|11|16|df=y|death_place=Soisy-Bouy, Seine-et-Marne, France
tomb = Pontigny Abbey, Burgundy, France|
Infobox Saint Archbishop of Canterbury
feast_day= 16 November
venerated_in= Roman Catholic Church; Anglican Communion
canonized_by=Pope Innocent IV
attributes= archbishop making a vow before a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary; embracing the Child Jesus; placing a ring on the finger of a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary; receiving a lamb from the Blessed Virgin Mary; with Saint Richard of Chichester; with Saint Thomas of Canterbury
patronage=Abingdon, Oxfordshire; Roman Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth
major_shrine=Pontigny Abbey, Pontigny, Yonne, France

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.


Early life and career

He was born at Abingdon in Berkshire (now Oxfordshire), (7 miles south of Oxford, England), circa 1175.

'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. 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 winning distinction for his part in introducing the study of Aristotle. He is the first known Oxford Master of Arts and 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. Through the influence of a pious mother he had led from boyhood a life of self-denial and austerity; and it is not surprising that he tired of secular subjects and went over to 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 won fame as a lecturer on theology and as an extemporaneous preacher. After expounding the "Lord's Law" for a number of years, Edmund became disgusted with scholasticism and gave up his chair at Oxford. Ironically, after his death and canonisation, an academic Hall was founded in his name at the site where he taught. St Edmund Hall, Oxford, remains the last of the University's medieval Halls.

Some time between 1219 and 1222 he was appointed vicar of the parish of Calne in Wiltshire and treasurer of Salisbury Cathedral, and 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, and Edmund's name had been proposed as a compromise by Gregory, perhaps on account of his work for the crusade, and he was consecrated 2 April 1234.Fryde "Handbook of British Chronology" p. 233]

Before his consecration he allied himself in political life with those who emphasised independence from Rome, maintenance of the Great Charter and the exclusion of foreigners from civil and ecclesiastical office. 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 his sovereign with excommunication, if he refused to dismiss his councilors, particularly Peter des Roches, bishop of Winchester. This threat was sufficient. The objectionable favorites were dismissed, Hubert de Burgh (whom they had got imprisoned) was released and reconciled to the king, and soon the archbishop was sent to Wales to negotiate peace with Prince Llywelyn the Great.

In 1237, in order to destroy the authority of Edmund, Henry induced the pope to send Cardinal Otto as legate to England. Through numerous disputes with bishops and monks, not to speak of the rupture with the king, and the excommunication of Simon de Montfort and his bride, Edmund had already made his position a difficult one.

Conflict with Rome

As the champion of the national Church against the claims of Rome, Edmund now found himself arrayed against the pope. In December, 1237, he set out for Rome, hoping to enlist the pope on the side of ecclesiastical reform. From this futile mission he returned to England in August, 1238, to find himself reduced to a cipher. If he excommunicated his monks, they appealed to Rome and paid no attention to his interdict. Finding himself foiled at every turn he finally submitted to the papal demands; and early in 1240, hoping to win his cause against his monks, he paid to the pope's agents one fifth of his revenue, which had been levied for the pope's war against Emperor Frederick II. Other English prelates followed his example.

Then came the demand that 300 English benefices should be assigned to as many Romans. This attack upon the rights of the national Church was more than Edmund could endure. In the summer of 1240, broken in spirit, he retired to the Cistercian Pontigny Abbey, France, which had been the refuge of his predecessors, Saint Thomas Becket and Stephen Langton.

Death and canonization

A few months later he died, on 16 November 1240, at the house of Augustinian Canons at Soisy-Bouy (60 miles south-east of Paris), France. In less than a year after his death miracles were alleged to be wrought at his grave. However, he was not canonised until Henry III lifted his objections in 1247. His feast day is 16 November.Walsh "A New Dictionary of Saints" p. 169] A few years later the first chapel dedicated to him, St Edmund's Chapel, was consecrated in Dover by his friend Richard of Chichester (making it the only chapel dedicated to one English saint by another).

Character, life, and works

Edmund is one of the most attractive figures of medieval history. His life was one of self-sacrifice and devotion to others. From boyhood he practised asceticism; and throughout his life he wore sackcloth next his skin, pressed against his body by metal plates. After snatching a few hours' sleep without removing his clothing, he usually spent the rest of the night in prayer and meditation.


Besides his "Constitutions," issued in 1236 (printed in W. Lynwood's "Constitutiones Angliae", Oxford, 1679), he wrote "Speculum ecclesiae" (London, 1521; Eng. transl., 1527; reprinted in M. de la Bigne's "Bibliotheca veterum patrum", v., Paris, 1609).

Congregation of St Edmund

His life inspired the formation of the Society of St Edmund at Pontigny, France, in 1843 by Rev. Jean Baptiste Muard to keep Saint Edmund's memory and life alive through faithful service, for the work of popular missions. The members also devote themselves to parochial work, to the education of youth in seminaries and colleges, to the direction of pious associations, and to foreign missions. Members of the Society, based in Pontigny, fled to the United States in 1889 after widespread anticlericalism seized France. The Society of St Edmund settled in Winooski Park, Vermont, and established Saint Michael's College [http://www.smcvt.edu] in 1904 where the deeds and values of Saint Edmund's life continue through fulfillment of the College's mission. The original motherhouse is at Pontigny, but since the expulsion of the religious orders the superior general resided at Hitchin, England. In the early 20th century, the congregation has two houses in the United States: a missionary house and apostolic school at Swanton, Vermont, for the training of young men who wish to study for the priesthood and the religious life; and a college at Winooski, Vermont, with 12 fathers, 8 scholastics, and 100 pupils.



* [http://www.berkshirehistory.com/bios/erich.html Royal Berkshire History: St. Edmund of Abingdon]
* [http://www.seh.ox.ac.uk/index.cfm?do=viewHistoricalEvent&historyID=1 St. Edmund Hall, Oxford: Birth of St Edmund of Abingdon]
* [http://www.saintedmundsparish.org.uk/ Saint Edmund's Parish in Calne]
* [http://www.sse.org Society of St. Edmund, Roman Catholic Community of Priests and Brothers]
*cite book |author=Fryde, E. B. |coauthors=Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I. |title=Handbook of British Chronology|edition=Third Edition, revised |publisher=Cambridge University Press |location=Cambridge |year=1996 |isbn=0-521-56350-X
* Walsh, Michael "A New Dictionary of Saints: East and West" London: Burns & Oats 2007 ISBN 0-8601-2438-X
*Catholic|St. Edmund Rich

External links

* [http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=3048 St. Edmund Rich at Catholic Online]
* [http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/sainte24.htm St. Edmund Rich of Abingdon at Patrong Saints Index]

NAME=Rich, Edmund
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=Saint Edmund of Abingdon; Saint Edmund of Canterbury; Saint Eadmund of Canterbury
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Archbishop of Canterbury; Saint
DATE OF BIRTH=20 November, about 1175
PLACE OF BIRTH=Abingdon, Berkshire
DATE OF DEATH=16 November 1240
PLACE OF DEATH=Soisy-Bouy, France

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