Ex-Classics Home Page

Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 61. ROBERT GROSTHEAD


    After that we have thus long strayed in these foreign stories of Frederic, and in the tractation of other matters pertaining to other countries, now, after this sufficient digression, it is time that we return to our own country again. Wherein, following the continuation of time and course of the church, we will now adjoin to these good fathers and writers the history of the learned bishop of Lincoln, named Robert Grosthead, a man famously learned (as that time served) in the three tongues, both Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, also in all liberal sciences; whose works and sermons yet to this day are extant, which I have seen in the queen's Majesty's library at 'Westminster. Wherein is one special sermon written and exhibited in four sundry scrolls to the pope, and to other four cardinals, beginning Dominus noster Jesus Christus, &c. Nicolas Trivet, in his chronicle, writing of this bishop, affirmeth that he was born in Suffolk, in the diocess of Norfolk; who, giving him the praise to be a man of excellent wisdom, of profound doctrine, and an example of all virtue, witnesseth that he, being master of arts, wrote first a commentary In Librum Posteriorum of Aristotle. Also that he wrote tractations, De Sphæra, et de Arte Comput., and that he set forth divers books concerning philosophy. Afterward, being doctor in divinity, and expertly seen in all the three tongues, drew out sundry treatises out of the Hebrew glosses, also translated divers works out of the Greek, as namely, The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, and the books of Dionysius, commenting upon the new translation with his own gloss. Many other works and volumes besides were written by the said Grosthead, besides divers epistles, sermons, and invectives sent to the pope for his unmeasurable exactions, wherewith he overcharged and oppressed the Church of England.

    This godly and learned bishop, after divers conflicts and agonies sustained against the bishop of Rome, after the example of Frederic, Gallus, and others after named, at length after great labours and travails of life finished his course, and departed at Bugden in the month of October, A.D. 1253. Of his decease thus writeth Matth. Paris, p. 278: Out of the prison and banishment of this world (which he never loved) was taken the holy bishop of Lincoln, Robert, at his manor of Bugden, in the even of St. Dionysius; who was an open reprover of the pope and of the king, a rebuker of the prelates, a corrector of the monks, a director of the priests, an instructor of the clerks, a favourer of scholars, a preacher to the people, a persecutor of the incontinent, a diligent searcher of the Scriptures, a mall to the Romans, and a contemner of their doings. What a mall he was to the Romans in the sequel hereof (Christ willing) shall better appear. The story is this:

    It so befell among other daily and intolerable exactions, wherein Pope Innocent was grievous and injurious (manifold ways) to the realm of England, he had a certain cousin or nephew, (so popes were wont to call their sons,) named Frederic, being yet young and under years, whom the said Innocent the pope would needs prefer to be a canon or prebendary in the church of Lincoln, in this time of Robert, bishop of the said church; and upon the same directed down letters to certain his factors here in England for the execution thereof. The copy of which letter by chance, yet not by chance, but by the opportune sending of God, came to my hands, as I was penning this present story, written in the end of an old parchment book, and otherwise rare I suppose to be found; and it is this.

    "Unto our beloved sons, the archdeacon of Canterbury, and to Master Innocent, our scribe abiding in England, greeting and apostolical benediction. Forsomuch as our well-beloved son G. of S. Eustace, deacon cardinal, upon our special commandment hath given and granted to our well-beloved son Frederic de Lauavia, a clerk and our nephew, a canonship in the church of Lincoln, with full power and grant of the same; investing him also corporally and presently with his own ring in the said canonship, to be from henceforth canon of Lincoln, and to have full power of the said canon-ship in the church, and a prebend when any shall fall in the church of Lincoln; from that time since which our former letters of late, concerning this receiving and provision to be given to him in the said church, were presented and exhibited to our reverend brother the bishop of Lincoln, or else after the next avoiding the said prebendship to be reserved to the apostolical donation, and to be given to him, making it void and frustrate if the said prebendship shall be given to any other man beside, and also denouncing the sentence of excommunication against all them that shall rebel and gainsay the same, as in the letters of the said cardinal is more fully contained.

    "We therefore, graciously inclined by the devout supplication of the said Frederic, ratifying and gratefully approving that which hath been done by the said cardinal in the premises, we thought good by the authority apostolical to confirm the same. Wherefore we give in commandment by our letters apostolical to your wisdoms, that you will see the said Frederic, or his proctor in his behalf, to be really and corporally possessed in the said canonship or prebend by our authority, and also defend the said party being therein possessed, denouncing sentence of excommunication against all such as shall withstand the same, all manner of customs or statutes to the contrary notwithstanding, corroborated either with oath, or confirmations of the see apostolic, or by what stay or let soever; or whether that the said Frederic be not present to take the oath accustomed to be given for observing the customs of the said church, or whether it be given and granted by the said see to the foresaid bishop, or to the chapter of the said church jointly and severally, or to what person or persons else, that no man by compulsion should have admission or provision for any person in their church whereby they cannot be interdicted, suspended, or excommunicate by the letters apostolical obtained, or to be obtained hereafter, under what form or words soever; yea, although the whole tenor of the said indulgence be inserted word for word in the said your letters, or by any other indulgences to what person or persons soever, of what estate, dignity, or place soever, under any manner or form of words, granted hereafter by the see apostolic, by the which indulgences the effect of the said provision may be by any manner of ways hindered or deferred; yet of our certain knowledge we will that they shall want their strength in the provision made or to be made for the said Frederic in the church of Lincoln. And if any, upon the premises, or any of them, shall allege against the foresaid Frederic, or his procurator, that you will cause them to be cited on our behalf; so that they, being cited peremptorily, shall within the space of two months of your citation personally appear before us there according to the law, to make answer to the said Frederic upon the premises, any privileges or indulgences whatsoever given and granted, either generally to the kingdom of England, or peculiarly to any other person, of what state, degree, and place soever, granted by the foresaid see, under whatsoever manner and form of words, for them not to be called up beyond the see, or out of their own city or diocess, by letters apostolical, under whatsoever form of words obtained, to the contrary in any wise notwithstanding. All which privileges and indulgences we will in no case shall stand in any force or effect to the said parties. Moreover, the day and form of the citation we will that ye faithfully do intimate unto us by your letters, containing the tenor thereof; and if both of you cannot be present at the execution hereof, yet we will notwithstanding that one of you do execute the same without fail. Dated the 7th kal. February, the tenth year of our popedom."

    As there is no man which hath any eyes to see, but may easily understand, in reading this letter of the pope, how unreasonable his request is, how impudently he commandeth, how proudly he threateneth, how wickedly he oppresseth and racketh the church of God, in placing boys and strangers in the ministry and cure of souls, and also in making them his provisoes, to ravin up the church goods; so is it no great marvel if this godly bishop Robert Grosthead was offended therewith; who in my mind deserveth herein a double commendation, not only that he so wisely did discern error from sincerity and truth, but also that he was so hardy and constant to stand to the defence thereof against the pope, according as in this his answer to the pope again may appear, as followeth.

The answer of Robert Grosthead.

    "Salutem Pleaseth it your wisdom to understand, that I am not disobedient to any the apostolic precepts, but both devoutly and reverently with the natural affection of a son obey the same, and also am an utter enemy to all those that resist such apostolic precepts, as a child zealous of his father's honour. And truly I am no less than bound thereunto by the precept and commandment of God. For the apostolic precepts are none other, nor can be, than consonant and uniform to the doctrine of the apostles, and of our Saviour Christ, being the Master and Lord of all the apostles; whose type and person, specially in the consonant and uniform hierarchy of the church, the lord pope seemeth to bear the same our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, saying, 'Whosoever is not with me, the same is against me. Therefore, against him neither is nor can be the most divine sanctity of the see apostolical. The tenor then of your foresaid apostolical letter is not consonant to true sanctity, but utterly dissonant and disagreeing to the same. First, for that the clause of this your letter, and many such other letters like, which clause always ye so much do urge, (Non obstante,) induced and brought in upon no necessity of any natural law to be observed, doth swarm and flow with all inconstancy, boldness, pertinacy, impudency, lying, and deceiving, and is also a sea of mistrust in giving credit to no man. Which as it swarmeth with these, so in like manner with innumerable other vices, which hang and depend upon the same; moving and disturbing the purity of Christian religion and life agreeable to the same, as also the public tranquillity of men. Moreover, next after the sin of Lucifer, (which shall be in the latter time, to wit, of antichrist, the child of perdition, whom the Lord shall destroy with the breath of his mouth,) there is not, nor can be, any kind of sin so repugnant and contrary to the doctrine of the apostles and Holy Scripture, and to our Saviour Christ himself more hateful, detestable, and abominable, than to destroy and kill men's souls, by defrauding them of the mystery of the pastoral office, which by the ministry of the pastoral cure ought to save and quicken the same. Which sin, by most evident places of the Scripture, such men are discerned and known to commit, which, being in the authority of the pastoral dignity, do serve their own carnal desires and necessaries with the benefit of the milk and wool of the sheep and flock of Christ, and do not minister the same pastoral office and charge to the benefit and salvation of those their sheep. The same therefore by the testimony of the Scripture is not the administration of the pastoral ministry, but the killing and destruction of the sheep. And that these two kind of vices be most vile and wicked, (although after a different sort,) and far exceeding all other kind of wickedness, hereby it is manifest, for that the same are directly contrary to two virtues most chiefly good (although differing in themselves) and unlike together. For that is called most wicked which is contrary to a thing most good. So much then as lieth in the offenders, the one of their offences is directly against the Deity, which of himself is always essentially and supernaturally good; the other is against the deification and the image of God in man, which is not always, but by the participation of God's lightsome grace, essentially and naturally good. And forsomuch as in things being good the cause of good is better than the effect; and like as again in evil things, the cause of evil is worse than the effect of evil proceeding thereof; hereby it is manifest, that the inducers of such wicked destroyers of God's image and deification in the sheep of Christ (that is, the church of God) are worse than those chief destroyers, to wit, Lucifer and antichrist.

    "And as in these degrees of wickedness how much more excellent such be, who, having a great charge committed to them of God, (to edification, and not to destruction,) the more are they bound to keep away and exclude such wicked destroyers from the church of God; so much is it also off that this holy seat apostolical, to whom the Lord Jesus Christ hath given all manner of power, (to edification, as the apostle saith, and not to destruction,) can command, or will go about any such thing, urging unto so great wickedness, so odious, detestable, and abominable to our Lord Jesus Christ, and also so pernicious to mankind. For this should be a great defection, corruption, and abuse of the said seat and fulness of power, and an utter separation from the glorious throne of our Lord Jesus Christ, and a near neighbourhood unto the two most principal princes of darkness, sitting in the chair of pestilence, prepared to the pains of hell. Neither can any man, which is subject and faithful to the said see, and not cut away from the body of Christ, and from the said holy see, with sincere and unspotted conscience obey such manner of precepts and commandments, or whatsoever other attempts proceeding, yea, though from the high order of angels themselves; but rather ought of necessity with all their strength to withstand and rebel against the same. Wherefore, my reverend lord, I, like an obedient child, upon my bound duty of obedience and fidelity which I owe to both the parents of this holy apostolic see, and partly for love of unity in the body of Christ joined with the said see, do not obey, but withstand and utterly rebel against these things in the said letter contained, and especially which urge and tend to the foresaid wickedness, so abominable to the Lord Jesus Christ, so repugnant to the holiness of the holy apostolic see, and so contrary to the unity of the catholic faith. Neither for this cause can your discretion determine any extremity to me, because all my doing and gainsaying in this matter is no resistance nor rebellion, but a childly obedience to the Divine precept, and honour due both to Father and mother. Briefly, therefore, repeating my words, I say that this holy apostolic see cannot do any thing but to edification, and nothing at all to destruction; for this is the fulness of power, to be able to do all things to edification. But these which you call provisions be not to edification, but to manifest destruction. The holy apostolic see, therefore, neither can nor ought to attempt any such thing, because that flesh and blood, which cannot enter into the kingdom of God, hath revealed the same, and not the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ which is in heaven."

    Then followeth it in the story both of Matth. Paris and of Florilegus, that when this epistle came to the knowledge of the pope, he, fuming and fretting with anger and indignation, answered with a fierce look and proud mind, saying, What old doting, frantic wretch is this, so boldly and rashly to judge of my doings? By sweet St. Peter and Paul, were it not but that upon our own clemency and good nature we are restrained, we should hurl him down to such confusion, that we would make him a fable, a gazingstock, an example and wonderment to all the world. For is not the king of England our vassal? and, to say more, our maniple or page, (to use the very words of mine author,) which may at our pleasure and beck both hamper him, imprison him, and put him to utter shame? This when the pope in his great fury and rage had uttered amongst his brethren the cardinals, who were scarce able to appease the furious violence of the pope, with mild moderation of words they said unto him, that it was not expedient for them to proceed against that bishop in such rigorous manner. For, said they, to confess the truth to your Holiness, it is but very truth that he affirmeth, neither can we condemn him therefore. He is a catholic man, yea, also a holy man, more holy and also religious than we ourselves, a man of excellent wit and excellent life, so as it is thought among all the prelates he hath not his better, nor yet his like. This is not unknown both to the French and English clergy universally, neither can our contradiction prevail against him. The truth of this his epistle perhaps is known now to many, and shall stir up many against us; for he hath the name to be a great philosopher, and singularly seen in all the tongues, both Greek, Latin, and Hebrew; zealous in justice, a reader of divinity in the schools, a preacher amongst the people, a lover of chastity, and a persecutor of simony. These words spake L. Giles, a Spanish cardinal, to the pope, and others more, moved by their conscience to speak. And this counsel they gave to the pope, that he should dissemble and wink at these things, as one not seeing or regarding them; lest otherwise, perhaps, some tumult might rise and spring thereof; especially seeing this is manifest and known to all men, that once must needs come a defection and parting from the Church of Rome.

    Not long after this, about the canicular days, this reverend and godly Robert, bishop of Lincoln, lying at his manor place in Bugden, fell grievously sick; and thereupon within few days departed. In the time of his sickness he called to him a certain friar of the Preaching order, named M. John Giles, a man expert and cunning both in physic and divinity, partly to receive of him some comfort of his body, and partly to confer with him in spiritual matters. Thus upon a certain day the said bishop, conferring with the foresaid M. John, and reciting to him the doings and proceedings of the pope, did grievously rebuke and reprehend his fellow brethren the Preaching friars, and the other order also of the Minorites; that forsomuch as their order being planted in wilful poverty of the spirit, to the intent they should more freely carp and reprove the vices of the mighty, and not to flatter or spare them, but sharply to rebuke and reprehend the same; the said friars, contrary to their profession, did not boldly enough cry out and inveigh against the abuses of their superiors and men of power; nor did uncover nor detect their faults and wickedness; and therefore, said the bishop, I judge them to be no better than manifest heretics. And he addeth moreover, (demanding of M. John,) what is heresy? and that he should give him the true definition thereof. Whereat when the friar did stay and pause, not remembering the solemn definition of that matter, the bishop thereupon inferreth, giving this definition in Latin by the true interpretation of the Greek word: Heresy is a sentence taken and chosen of man's own brain, contrary to Holy Scripture, openly maintained, and stiffly defended. And this definition given, consequently he inferred, sharply reprehending the prelates of the church, but especially the Romans, which commit the charge of souls unto their kinfolks, being both in age unworthy, and in learning insufficient. To give, saith he, the charge of souls unto a boy is a sentence of a prelate chosen and taken of man's own head, only for carnal and earthly respect, and also is contrary to Holy Scripture, the which forbiddeth any such to be made ministers or pastors which are not sufficient to drive away the wolves. And moreover it is also openly maintained, because it is manifestly borne abroad and commanded with charts imbulled both with wax and lead; and finally, it is stiffly defended. For if any man shall dare to presume to withstand the same, he is suspended and excommunicated, and open war cried out against him: therefore to whom the whole definition of a heretic doth agree, be is a very heretic. But every faithful Christian man ought to set himself against a heretic as much as he may. Wherefore, he that can resist him, and doth not, he sinneth, and seemeth to be a fautor thereof, according to the saying of Gregory, He lacketh not conscience of secret society which ceaseth to resist open impiety. But the friars, both Franciscans and Dominics, are most chiefly bound to withstand such, seeing both of them have the gift of preaching committed to them by their office, and be more apt to the said office by reason of their poverty; and therefore they do not only offend in not resisting such, but also are to be counted maintainers of the same, according to the sentence of the apostle to the Romans, saying, Not only they which commit such things, but also they that consent, are worthy of death. Wherefore it may be concluded, that as well the pope, unless he cease from that vice, as also the same friars, unless they show themselves more earnest and studious in repelling the same, are both worthy of death, that is, perpetual damnation. Item, saith the canon decretal, that upon this vice of heresy the pope both may and ought to be accused.

    After this, the vehemency of his disease more and more increasing, and because the nights were somewhat longer, the third night before his departure, the bishop, feeling his infirmity to grow upon, willed certain of his clergy to be called to him, thereby to be refreshed with some conference or communication. Unto whom the bishop mourning and lamenting in his mind for the loss of souls, through the avarice of the pope's court, said on this wise, as by certain aphorisms.

    1. Christ came into the world to save and win souls; therefore he that feareth not to destroy souls, may he not worthily be counted antichrist?

    2. The Lord created the whole world in six days, but in restoring of man he laboured more than thirty years. Wherefore he that is a destroyer of that about which the Lord so long laboured, is not he worthy to be counted the enemy of God, and antichrist?

    3. The pope shameth not impudently to annihilate and disannul the privileges of his holy predecessors of Roman bishops, by this obstacle, (Non obstante,) which is not done without the prejudice and manifest injury of them. For in so doing he doth reprove and destroy that which so many and so holy men have builded up before, and thus seemeth he to be, a contemner of the saints. Worthily therefore he that contemneth shall be contemned, according to the saying of Isaiah, Woe to thee that doth despise! for shalt not thou thyself be despised? And who shall keep his privileges, which so breaketh the privileges of others?

    4. The pope answering thereunto thus defendeth perhaps his error: He that is equal hath no superiority over his equal; therefore no pope hath power to bind me, being pope as well as he. To this answer again quoth the bishop, It seemeth to me that he that now presently is sailing in the dangerous seas of this world, and he that is safely arrived in the haven, having passed all jeopardies, are not both like and equal. Grant that some popes be saved (God forbid any should say contrary); then saith our Saviour, He that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John Baptist, a greater than whom did never rise amongst the children of men. Is not therefore some pope greater, being a giver and confirmer of privileges, than this that is alive? Truly, methinks, he is greater, therefore he hath dominion over his inferior.

    5. Doth not the pope thus say, speaking of all his predecessors for the most part, This our predecessor, and this our predecessor, of most worthy memory, &c.? And again, We (saith he) cleaving, or following the steps of our predecessors, &c. And why then do such popes as come after destroy these foundations which their predecessors have laid?

    6. Many apostolic men coming after have confirmed some privilege being granted by others before; and be not many bishops, being already saved by the grace of God, to be counted greater and better than one bishop, which hath not yet attained, but standeth in danger to obtain that which the other have got already?

    7. Also other former fathers and bishops of the apostolical see, in preferment of time, go before the others which in time come after. And those whom the estimation of ancient time doth advance, such are we bound to esteem and to have in more reverence. This did the holy man Benedict well consider, who in his rule preferreth such as came first in time, whatsoever men they were before them which (albeit being more ancient in years) came after them into the order, and commandeth them to be their superiors, and to have the pre-eminence. Which being so, (as it is true and certain,) how cometh then this injurious and rash presumption, which dare repeal and disannul the old privileges of many ancient holy bishops, in time and in reverence going before them?

    8. Moreover, and though many popes have been grievous to the church, yet this pope most specially hath brought it most into servitude, and manifold ways hath damnified the same. For these Caursini, these open usurers, whom our holy forefathers and doctors, whom we have seen, and namely, our learned master in France, preacher; also the abbot of Flay, a Cistercian, Master Jacobus de Veteri, and Master Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, in the time of his banishment, and also Master Robert Curcun, with his preaching banished out of France; for before that time these kind of usurers werenever known in England; the same Caursini, these wicked usurers, I say, were by this pope induced, supported, and maintained; so that if any do speak against them, he is miserably tossed and trounced for his labour, whereof partly Roger, bishop of London, hath some experience.

    9. The world doth know that usury is counted a detestable thing in both the Testaments, and is forbidden of God. But now the pope's usurers or exchangers, the very Jews crying out against them, being openly suffered in London to exercise their usury, to the great damage and detriment of all ecclesiastical persons, but especially houses of religion, compelling such as be in poverty to counterfeit and to put to their seals to forged writings, which is no less than to commit idolatry and to abrenounce the verity, which is God himself. As, for example, I borrow a hundred marks for a year instead of a hundred pounds; I am compelled to make my writing, and to seal the same, confessing that I have received and borrowed one hundred pounds, to be repaid again at the year's end to such a man, &c. And if it shall chance that your occupying be such, that within a month you bring again the principal to the pope's usurer, he will receive no less notwithstanding than his full hundred pounds; which condition of usury is much worse than that of the Jews. For to. the Jew what principal you bring, he will require no more than proportionally for the commensuration of so much time wherein his money hath been out of his hands.

    10. Moreover, we have seen and known the pope to have given in charge and commandment to the friars, Preachers and Minorites, to inquire diligently for such as lie sick and like to die; and so coming to them diligently to persuade them to make their wills and testaments favourably to the profit and subsidy of the Holy Land, and to take the cross upon them, that if they do amend, they may wring them in the law, and if they die, they may wrest the money from their executors.

    11. We have known likewise and seen men that have taken the vow and sign of the cross upon them to be sold unto laymen, as sheep and oxen were wont in time past to be sold in the temple.

    We have seen with our eyes the pope's letter, in which we have found this to be written; that they which bequeath any thing to the behoof or subsidy of the Holy Land shall receive so much indulgence as they have disbursed money.

    12. Over and besides all this, the pope, in divers and sundry his letters, hath willed and commanded prelates to receive into ecclesiastical benefices, and to provide some such living in their churches as shall be sufficient to such and such a stranger, (being both absent and also unworthy,) which have neither learning, nor yet the language of the country; whereby they are neither able to preach, nor to hear confessions, nor to keep residence for to refresh the poor and wayfarers.

    13. Item, we know and have seen ourselves that the pope hath written to the abbot of St. Albans, to provide for one called John de Camezana, whom we never saw, some competent benefice. Whereupon, in few days after, when provision was made for him in a certain church, worth forty marks by the year and more, the party being not therewith contented, complained to the pope; who then writing to the foresaid abbot, commanded him to provide for the foresaid M. John some better thing, reserving notwithstanding the gift of the former benefice to himself.

    14. Again, not long after came also to the house of the foresaid abbot two other persons, like begging vagabonds, bringing with them the pope's letters; in the tenor whereof the abbot was commanded, that, immediately upon the sight thereof, he should give and disburse to the said persons for the expedition and despatch of his affairs ten marks in hand, without any delay or sticking; the which persons uttering unto the abbot proud and threatening words, he was fain to agree with them and send them away.

    15. Item, of men which are both holy and well learned, which have left the world for the following of God in such order as they ought not to turn back again, the pope maketh his collectors and bankers to get in his money; the which charge they are compelled against their wills to take upon them, lest they should seem to be disobedient, and so of spiritual men are made more secular than the most secular. And so the baseness of their gowns or robes which they wear doth prove them to be liars, whilst under the habit of poverty and humiliation there lurketh the spirit of pride and elation. And because no legate may be sent into England, but being first required of the king, the pope sendeth sophistical legates, and such as be disguised and counterfeit in apparel, and are guarded with great might and power, neither is it hard to bring forth examples thereof; for so many such daily do come into the realm, that, to hear the names of them recited, it would be tedious for any man to hear.

    16. Furthermore, (as we have seen ourselves,) the pope granteth for secular favour, that a man may have a bishopric, and yet be no bishop consecrated, elect for ever. Which is as much to signify to have the milk and the wool of the sheep, and not to keep the wolves away from the sheep; to retain the rents of a bishop, and not to discharge the function of a bishop.

    Afterwards he went about more to prosecute how the foresaid court, like a gulf never satisfied, and ever gaping so wide, that the flood of Jordan might run into his mouth, aspired how to usurp the goods of them that die intestate, and of legacies bequeathed without form of law; and whereby, more licentiously to bring this to pass, they used to join the king to be fellow and partaker with them in their spoils, extortions, and robbing. Neither, saith he, shall the church be delivered from the servitude of Egypt but by violence and force, and with the bloody sword. And albeit, saith he, these be yet but light matters, yet shortly more great and grievous things than these shall be seen.

    And in the end of this his prophesying, which he scarcely could utter without sighing, sobbing, and weeping, his tongue and breath began to fail; and so, the organ of his voice being stopped, he made an end both of his speech and life.

    And forsomuch as mention hath been made before of the insatiable avarice of the pope's court by his inordinate provisions and reservations, it is testified by the said author, Matth. Paris, that the foresaid Robert Grosthead, being bishop of Lincoln, caused to be viewed and considered diligently of his clerks, what the revenues of foreigners and strangers within England, sent in by the pope, came to by the year; and it was found and evidently tried, that this pope now present, Innocentius the Fourth, did impoverish the universal church throughout Christendom more than all his predecessors from the time the pope first began. So that the revenues of foreigners and clerks, placed by him here in England, mounted unto the sum of threescore and ten thousand marks and above; whereas the mere revenues of the crown came not to thirty thousand.

    Of this Robert Grosthead writeth Cestrensis, in his seventh book of his history, that partly for that it grieved him to see the intolerable exactions of the pope in this realm, and partly because he refused to admit a certain young nephew of the pope to be canon of his church, (as hath been before recited,) he therefore, writing unto the pope, and signifying that he could not admit any such persons into his church, which neither knew themselves nor the tongue of the people, nor the charges committed unto them, was called up to Rome, and there excommunicated, but then appealing from the pope, he shortly after departed, which was in the year of our Lord 1253. It chanced within two years after his decease, the said Pope Innocent, being asleep, a certain bishop, appareled bishop-like, appeared unto him, and striking him with his staff on the left side, said, Surge miser, veni in judicium that is, Rise, wretch, and come to thy judgment. The next day after the pope was found amazed, as a man stricken on the side with the stroke of a staff. This Robert, though he was greatly commended for his sanctimony, and, as Cestrens saith, for his miracles; yet was he not permitted in the court of Rome to be inscribed in the catalogue of saints. And thus much out of Cestrensis concerning this matter. But Matthew Paris and the author of Flores Historiarum, prosecuting this story more at large, addeth this more unto it, and saith that Pope Innocent the next year following, which was A.D. 1254, being passing angry, contrary to the mind of his brethren the cardinals, would have the bones of the foresaid bishop of Lincoln cast out of the church, and purposed to bring him into such spite and hatred of the people, that he should be counted an ethnic, a rebel, and disobedient person through the whole world. And thereupon caused his letters to be written and sent down to the king of England, knowing that the king would gladly serve him therein, to have the spoil of the bishop and of his church. But in the night following the said bishop of Lincoln appeared unto him as coming in his pontificalibus, and with a severe countenance, stern look, and terrible voice speaking unto him being in his rest, and smiting him on the side with a vehement stroke with the end of his cross staff, thus said: O thou scurvy, lazy, old, bald, wretched, doting pope, hast thou purposed to cast my bones out of the church to the shame and slander of me? How cometh this rash wilfulness in thy head? It were more meet for thee, being thus advanced by God and honoured, to make much of the zealous servants of God, although departed. The Lord will not suffer thee henceforth to have any more power over me. I have written unto thee in the spirit of humility and love, that thou shouldst correct thy manifold errors; but thou with a proud eye and disdainful heart hast despised my wholesome admonitions. Woe to thee that despisest! shalt not thou also be despised? And so the bishop departing from the pope, stricken, as is said, on the side, left him for half dead, and so lying in sorrow and lamentation. Whereupon his chamberlains being amazed, hearing these things, came running to the pope to know what him ailed. To whom the pope, much troubled and vexed, in spirit, said that great terrors in his sleep vehemently disturbed and molested him, in such sort that he thought he should never recover it, nor be restored to himself again. Oh (saith he) how sore is my side, and how eagerly it vexeth me, as being run through with a spear! Neither did the pope eat or drink all that day, but, feigning himself to be sick of a burning ague, kept in. And yet the indignation of the ireful hand of God (saith the story) so left him not.

    For after these wholesome admonitions given to him by the servant of God, the pope, not regarding them, but all set upon war, suppression of his enemies, and secular affairs, gave his mind wholly unto them; and yet all his labours, counsels, and expenses bestowed upon them could never prosper after that day in that he went about. For the pope, the same time having war with the Apulians, all his army, fighting under the pope's nephew their captain, were slain and confounded to the number of many thousands; whose lamentable slaughter all the country of the Romans, did much bewail. The pope, not yet quiet in his mind, directeth his journey towards Naples, although sore vexed in his side, like a man sick of a pleurisy, or smitten rather with a spear, neither could any physic of his cardinals help him. For Robert of Lincoln (saith the story) did not spare him; and he that would not hear him gently correcting him being alive, his stripes did he feel when he was dead; so that he never after that enjoyed any lucky or prosperous day till the time of his death, nor yet any prosperous or quiet night until the morning. And so continued he unto his death, which shortly after ensued, at Naples, A.D. 1255. And thus have ye the whole discourse between Robert Grosthead and Pope Innocent.

    In the which story is to be noted, gentle reader, that although in the story of Cestrensis, of Matthew Paris, and of Flores Historiarum, it is expressly testified and reported, that the pope was smitten with the staff of Robert, the foresaid bishop of Lincoln; yet thou must wisely understand, that howsoever God's hand dealeth here in this world in punishing his enemies, or howsoever the image of things not seen, but fantasied, offer themselves to the secret cogitation of man, his senses being asleep, by the operation or permission of God, working after some spiritual influence in our imaginations, certain it is that no dead man materially can ever rise again or appear before the judgment day to any man, with his staff or without his staff, to work any feat, after he have once departed this life.

    After the death of this Robert Grosthead, bishop of Lincoln, great dissension fell between the archbishop of Canterbury, Boniface, and the canons of the said church of Lincoln, about the right of giving prebendships, and about the revenues of the said church, in time of the bishop's see being now vacant. Which right and power the archbishop claimed to himself, but the canons of that church, maintaining the contrary side) stood against him, and for the same were excommunicated of the archbishop. Among whom one Master Woolfe, resisting the archbishop to the face, in the name of all the other canons, made up his appeal to Rome, where much money on both sides was spent. At length after this Grosthead was elected Henry Lexinton in the see of Lincoln.

Previous Next