Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lewis, Owen

LEWIS, OWEN, also known as Lewis Owen (1532–1594), bishop of Cassano, born on 28 Dec. 1532 in the hamlet of Bodeon, Llangadwaladr, Anglesey, was the son of a freeholder. He became a scholar of Winchester College in 1547, and a perpetual fellow of New College, Oxford, in 1554, and was admitted to the degree of B.C.L. 21 Feb. 1558–9 (Kirby, Winchester Scholars, p. 127; Oxford Univ. Reg. ed. Boase, i. 239). Being opposed to the innovations in religion, he left the university about 1561 and proceeded to Douay, where he completed his degrees both in law and divinity, and was appointed regius professor of law. He was also made a canon of the rich cathedral of Cambray, official of the chapter, and archdeacon of Hainault. A lawsuit in which the chapter of Cambrai was involved occasioned his going to Rome, where his learning and judgment were highly appreciated. Both Sixtus V and Gregory XIII made him referendary of both signatures, and secretary to the several congregations and consultations concerning the clergy and regulars. Cardinal Charles Borromeo, archbishop of Milan, appointed Lewis one of the vicars-general of his diocese, at the same time taking him into his family. Lewis was thus an eye-witness of the edifying life of the saint, who not long afterwards died in his arms.

By the joint consent of Sixtus V and Philip II, king of Spain, he was promoted to the bishopric of Cassano, in the kingdom of Naples, and was consecrated at Rome 3 Feb. (N.S.) 1587–8. At the time of the Spanish Armada his friends wished him to be made archbishop of York in the event of the enterprise succeeding, but Allen disapproved the suggestion; and he was also proposed for the bishopric of St. Davids, or Hereford, or Worcester (Records of the English Catholics, ii. 303, 304). He continued to reside at Rome, and the pope appointed him one of the apostolic visitors of that city and sent him as nuncio to Switzerland, to ‘disentangle a very intricate affair.’ From the time of their early acquaintance at Oxford he preserved a lifelong friendship with Cardinal Allen, and it was owing to their joint efforts that the English colleges at Douay and Rome were established. Little reliance can be placed on the story quoted by Wood from ‘The State of the English Fugitives,’ 1596, 4to, to the effect that Lewis, as a strenuous foe of the jesuits, headed a faction against Allen in the college at Rome, or that Lewis and Allen were rival candidates for the cardinalate which fell to the latter. Dodd describes Lewis as ‘one of the best civilians of his time and a zealous promoter of church discipline,’ and adds that ‘as to his private life he was strictly religious, adding many supernumerary practises to the common duties of a Christian and to those peculiar to his character.’ He died at Rome on 14 Oct. (N.S.) 1594, and was buried in the chapel of the English College, where a monument was erected to his memory, with a curious Latin epitaph. Lewis's old schoolfellow, Thomas Stapleton [q. v.], dedicated to him his ‘Promptuarium Catholicum,’ Paris, 1595.

[Dodd's Church Hist. ii. 43; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), ii. 837, Fasti, i. 154; Records of the English Catholics, vol. i. Introd. p. xxx and p. 430, ii. 469; Williams's Eminent Welshmen, s.v. ‘Owen.’]

T. C.