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St. Richard of Chichester
(Died 1253)

Bishop of Chichester
Died: 3rd April 1253


Richard De La Wych is said to have been born at Droitwich in Worcestershire, deriving his surname from the salt-springs there, locally called wyches. A late tradition even asserts that these wyches had been miraculously procured by his prayers. He had early assumed the black robe and white scapular of the Dominicans - the new Order which was gathering to itself the most ardent and energetic minds of Western Europe - and was educated at Oxford, Paris, and Bologna. Upon his return to England, he became Chancellor, first of the Archbishop of Canterbury and, afterwards, of the University of Oxford.

He succeeded to the Bishopric of Chichester in 1245. The canons of Chichester had elected Robert Passelew, a favourite of King Henry Ill, but his election was annulled by the Pope (the bull asserts on account of his want of learning) and Richard de la Wych, was consecrated in his stead. This took place at Lyons, by Pope Innocent IV himself, during the sitting of the Council there. At the same time, he consecrated Boniface of Savoy to the archbishopric of Canterbury and Roger of Weseham to the See of Lichfield. Henry III, incensed at the rejection of his favourite, seized the revenues of the see and, for two years, Bishop De la Wych was obliged to depend on the benevolence of others for the means of subsistence. The revenues were only restored after the King had been threatened with excommunication by Pope Innocent.

Bishop Richard was a stout Becketist and dedicated to Innocent IV a defence of the spiritual power against the regal, having especial reference to Henry Ill. His name has been connected with that of Becket in more than one part of his diocese. The orchard at West Tarring, adjoining an ancient palace of the Bishops of Chichester, is said to have been planted partly by Becket and partly by St. Richard.

In the work of his diocese, in preaching (the especial duty of his Order) and in visiting, Bishop De la Wych was indefatigable. He died on 3rd April 1253 in the Maison Dieu at Dover, where he had rested while preaching for the Crusade along the coast. His canonization, partly the result of the great influence and activity of the Order to which the Bishop belonged and partly due, no doubt, to the principles he maintained during his lifetime, was decreed by Pope Urban IV in 1261. Fifteen years later, his relics were removed from their first resting-place in Chichester Cathedral to the shrine in which they remained until the Reformation.

 

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