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Saint Richard of Wyche

Saint Richard of Wyche
  • Century: 12th & 13th Century
  • Patronage: Coachmen, Diocese of Chichester, Sussex, England
  • Feast Day: April 3rd

Richard was born in the town of Wyche, which is modern Droitwich, Worcestershire.  He was an orphan, and on the death of their parents, Richard’s elder brother was heir to the estates but he was not old enough to inherit.  The lands were subject to a wardship, and on coming of age his brother took possession of his lands but would have had to pay a medieval form of death duty that left him so impoverished, that he had to get Richard to work for him on the farm.  

Richard worked so well on the farm, that his brother made him heir to the estate.  Richard’s friends tried to arrange a match with a certain noble lady, but Richard turned down the offer of marriage, asking that his brother might marry her instead.  At that point, he even turned the estate back over to his brother, so he could pursue a life of study in the Church.  He became educated at Oxford and soon began to teach at the University.  He was so well distinguished, and proficient in canon law, that he traveled to Paris and then Bologna to teach.  On return to England in 1235, he was elected chancellor of Oxford University.  

Richards former tutor was Edmund of Abingdon, and he had become archbishop of Canterbury.  Richard shared Edmund’s ideals of clerical reform and the rights of the Pope over the King.  He decided to become a Priest and studied theology for two years with the Dominicans at Orleans.  When he returned to England, Archbishop Boniface of Savoy soon reappointed him chancellor of Canterbury, and in 1244 he was elected Bishop of Chichester.  Henry III refused to accept him, favoring Robert Passelewe instead.  St. Boniface refused to confirm the election of Passelewe and so both sides appealed to the Pope. King Henry III confiscated the property and revenues of the See, but Pope Innocent IV confirmed the election of Richard and consecrated him Bishop in 1245.  He returned to Chichester, but the Sees properties were not restored for two years and then only after the Pope had threatened the King with Excommunication.  

In his private life, Richard was said to have observed the most rigid frugality and temperance.  His diet was simple and he rigorously excluded meat, being a vegetarian from the early days of Oxford.  He died at the age of 56, at the Maison Dieu, Dover on April 3, 1253.  He was there by order of the Pope to preach a crusade.  His body was carried to Chichester where it was buried according to his wishes.  A new chapel was built in 1276, and remains today.  

Practical Take Away

St. Richard of Wyche was an orphan that helped his brother on the farm.  He eventually gave his inheritance to his brother, to pursue a life of study and the Church.  He was educated at Oxford, and eventually became elected Chancellor of Oxford.  He went on to study theology with the Dominicans in Orleans, and he was elected as Bishop of Chichester.  He was noted for defending the Pope in Papal rights, over that of the Kings.  He also is remembered for his simplicity and ability to preach.