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The Cistercians in Yorkshire title graphic

Scholars of note: some interesting Cistercians who have left their mark


A tribute
Here lies William of Rymington, professor of the Sacred Page and prior of this house, and onetime chancellor of Oxford. God have mercy on his soul.

[From William’s tomb at Sawley, Yorkshire, where he was buried.]

Perhaps the most celebrated Cistercian to pass through the Oxford studium is William Rymington. William is remembered for presiding, briefly, as Chancellor of Oxford, (1372-73), for his talents as a preacher and theologian, and also for his opposition to John Wyclif. In a carefully-constructed argument, supported by references from the Bible, the Church Fathers and Canon Law, Rymington set out the errors and heresies of Wyclif in forty-five points. This provoked a vicious repsonse from Wyclif, who declared Rymington ‘an idiot … garrulous after his long claustral silence …. (who) insipidly stammers his foolishness’; he dismissed William’s arguments as ‘putrid’. Wyclif died soon after (December 1384), but Rymington penned his reply in the form of a dialogue, which has recently been described as ‘striking, definite and to the point.’(30) William is also celebrated for his spiritual achievement. His composition of three meditations to a hermit makes him the only Cistercian in England during this period to attempt a purely spiritual work. Whilst William was by no means a second Aelred – his work has been described as ‘derivative’ – he was unique for his time.(31)


James Anglicus/James the Palmer
I James … whose surname I wish to be kept hidden from others
for a reason, have compiled the present work with great labour
and with unwavering mental striving.

[From the preface to the Omne Bonum] (i)

A rather unique contribution is the vast encyclopaedic work, the ‘Omne Bonum’, compiled by a Jacobus Anglicus (James the Englishman), which he rather ironically describes as his ‘Opusculum’ [‘little work’]. This is incomplete yet occupies over 1000 folios and about one million seven hundred words.(ii) It has traditionally been held that James, who does not reveal his surname, was a Cistercian scholar writing c. 1326/1347, and the only White Monk of his age to step beyond the confines of theology and history and engage with the sciences / related sciences.(iii) This hypothesis has recently been challenged, and it has been argued that the compiler of the Opusculum should in fact be identified as James the Palmer, a cleric of the Royal Exchequer who was probably not educated in Oxford or Cambridge, but in London, and was writing in the late fourteenth century – and was dead by May 1375.(iv)
The ‘Opusculum’ reflects a great breadth of learning and covers a wide spectrum of subject matter; the focus, however, is on canon law. It is also the first work of its kind to be organised alphabetically, rather than thematically, ‘that the various matters of the book may be understood more easily’.(v) It includes a number of illustrations and illuminations which are probably the work of two artists, who worked closely with the scribe.
[Read more about the Opusculum and view pages from this work]


Richard Dove
Richard Dove was probably relatively unknown in the Middle Ages, but the survival of his notebook from his days at Oxford has preserved his memory. His book, which is now in the British Library [Sloane 513], provides a fascinating insight to the range and nature of studies at this time, the interests of individual monks and the scrupulous care taken in the compilation of these works.
[Read more about Richard and view pages from his notebook]

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