Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bere, Richard

BERE, RICHARD (d. 1524), abbot of Glastonbury, was installed in 1493, the election of Thomas Wasyn having been quashed by the Bishop of Bath and Wells. He was a great builder. Leland tells us that he built the greater part of King Edgar's chapel at the east end of his abbey church, that he 'arched on both sides the east end that began to cast out,' and made the vault of the steeple in the transept 'and under 2 arches like S. Andres Crosse els it had fallen.' By the east end of the church Leland evidently meant the east end of the nave and aisles, and not of the chancel. Bere also built a new set of chambers, in which he entertained Henry VII on his march into the west during the rebellion of Perkin Warbeck in the autumn of 1497. Hence these rooms were called the king's lodgings. He also added new lodgings for secular priests to the various buildings of the abbey. Almshouses for ten old women built by Abbot Bere still stand at Glastonbury, and a stone in the chapel exhibits his initials, surmounted by his cognisance, a cross between two beer-jugs. His initials and cognisance may also be seen on St. Benedict's church in Glastonbury, and his initials, surmounted by a mitre, on the Lepers' Hospital at Monkton, near Taunton; for both these buildings were repaired by him. The R. B. on the tower of St. Mary's at Taunton has long been taken to witness to Bere's work. These letters, however, more probably represent the name of a more famous architect, Sir Reginald Bray [q. v.] Among his various works Bere built the manor-house at Sharpham, before his time only a poor lodge, where Fielding was born. In 1503 the king sent Bere, with two other ambassadors, to Rome to congratulate Pius III on his elevation to the papacy. Their mission was in vain; for the pope died a few weeks after his election. On his return from Italy the abbot built chapels of Our Lady of Loretto and of the Holy Sepulchre in his church. In this year also he 'supplicated' the congregation of the university of Oxford for a degree in divinity, but with what success does not appear. In 1508 he was engaged in a controversy with Warham, archbishop of Canterbury, concerning the genuineness of the pretended relics of St. Dunstan at Glastonbury. Finding that the worshippers at the splendid shrine of the saint picked off its ornaments, the abbot had caused it to be raised out of reach. The monks of Canterbury, jealous of the crowds of pilgrims who flocked to Glastonbury, saw in this change in the position of the shrine an attempt to increase popular veneration. By order of the archbishop a search for the relics was made at Canterbury on 20 April, and Warham wrote to Abbot Bere telling him of the coffin and the bones which had been found, and bidding him attend on the feast of St. Thomas of Canterbury, and show cause why the Glastonbury monks should claim to have the genuine relics. Bere replied, upholding the claim of his convent, and asserting that if the Canterbury monks had such relics they belonged of right to Glastonbury. In this letter he describes the veneration displayed towards St. Dunstan by the Somerset folk. The archbishop replied in peremptory terms. In a few years the dispute was settled by the general pillage of the religious houses. Before that time, on 20 Jan. 1524, Abbot Bere died. A letter addressed to him ('R. Bero Glasconiensi Abbati') by Erasmus, 4 Sept. 1524, shows that he was a scholar of considerable eminence. Writing to him about his edition of S. Jerome, Erasmus expresses his entire concurrence in the abbot's opinion of his work. He speaks of his love of learning, and of the liberality he has shown to scholars, naming especially his own friend, Zacharias Frisius. This letter is of importance, both as representing Bere's attitude towards the new learning in England, and as throwing a special light on the life of his famous abbey in these its last days. Bere was buried under a plain slab of marble in the south aisle of the body of his church, near by the chapel of the Holy Sepulchre which he built.

[Leland's Itin. iii. 103; Hall, v. f. 59; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. i. 640; Memorials of St. Dunstan, 426-39; Erasmi Epp. ed. Leyden, 1706, i. f. 816, Ep. 700; Somerset Archæol. Soc.'s Proceedings, viii. ii. 135, xviii. ii. 112, xxvi. ii. 83, 100.]

W. H.