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Roger De Pont L'Eveque
(Died 1181)

Archbishop of York
Died: 26th November 1181


Roger De Pont L'Eveque, the successor of St. William of York as Archbishop of that city, had been long in the "familia " of Archbishop Theobald of Canterbury. In 1148, he became Archdeacon of Canterbury. His election, in 1151, to the See of York seems to have been brought about by the influence of Archbishop Theobald.

During the struggle between King Henry II and Archbishop Becket, Roger took the King's side and was consequently described by Becket as " malorum. oninium incentor et caput," and even as " diabolus ille." In 1170, Roger, in conjunction with the Bishops of Durham, London, Salisbury and Rochester, crowned Prince Henry as King of England. This was the step against which Becket so violently protested, as an interference with his acknowledged right. At his request, the Pope suspended Archbishop Roger and his suffragan, the Bishop of Durham, and excommunicated the southern prelates. Roger crossed the Channel to visit King Henry, with the Bishops of London and Salisbury, and it was after his representations to the King that the latter uttered the famous speech which led to the murder of Becket. Roger, afterwards, swore that he was entirely innocent of that murder; but the partisans of Canterbury held that he was one of the chief causes of Becket's misfortunes. In 1176, at the Council of Westminster, they took special vengeance on him. The papal legate, Huguccio, was present at the Council and it was questioned as to which of the Archbishops was entitled to sit on his right hand. Richard of Canterbury had taken the place, when "York," entering, is said to have sat down in "Canterbury's" lap. The friends of Canterbury immediately seized Archbishop De Pont L'Eveque, threw him down, beat him and trampled on him, tore his cope and dismissed him, with cries of "Away! Away, betrayer of St. Thomas! His blood is still upon thy hands." Archbishop Roger obtained no redress.

Roger, who was one of the leading politicians of his time. He was a man of learning and ability, a friend of John of Salisbury, of Gilbert Foliot and of many other scholars. According to William of Newburgh, he was violently opposed to the monastic system, and especially to the Cistercians, saying that Archbishop Thurstan's greatest error had been the establishment of Fountains. For his own diocese, he did much. He rebuilt nearly all his archiepiscopal residences, including the Palace of York on the north side of the Cathedral. The choir of York Minster was also rebuilt by him and he began "de nova" the building of St. Wilfrid's "basilica" at Ripon. At the death of Archbishop Roger, in 1181, the King, Henry II, seized all of his money and plate, amounting in value to 11,000, on the grounds that he had died intestate. He was buried, by Hugh De Puiset, Bishop of Durham, in the choir of his own Cathedral. For ten years afterward, the See of York remained vacant, whilst the revenues passed into the Royal coffers.

Edited from Richard John King's "Handbook to the Cathedrals of England: Northern Division" (1903).

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