Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Romanus, John
ROMANUS or LE ROMEYN, JOHN (d. 1296), archbishop of York, was son of John Romanus, subdean and treasurer of York. John Romanus (d. 1255) the elder is described by Matthew Paris as one of the first Romans to seek preferment in England, and is stated to have been a canon of York for nearly fifty years (v. 544). He was canon of York on 23 Oct. 1218, and on 1 March 1226 received a dispensation from Honorius III, removing the defect of his doubtful legitimacy, in consideration of his devotion to the Roman see (Cal. Papal Reg. i. 59, 100; Raine, Hist. of Church of York, iii. 125). He was a friend of Archbishop Gray, who made him first subdean of York in 1228, and was constantly employed by the papal see on various commissions in England (Matt. Paris, iii. 218, iv. 251; Cal. Papal Reg. i. 59, 76, 88, 160, 188, 193, 225). He was archdeacon of Richmond in 1241, but resigned that post before 15 July 1247, when he received a dispensation to hold the treasurership of York with his other benefices (ib. i. 225, 319; Le Neve, Fasti Eccl. Angl. iii. 104, 136, 159). He died before 2 Jan. 1256, when John Mansel [q. v.] became treasurer of York. Matthew Paris speaks of him as very rich and avaricious (v. 534, 544). He held quit-rents and other property in the city of London (Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. App. pp. 4, 5, 15, 26, 37–8). There are two letters addressed to him by Robert Grosseteste (Grosseteste, Epistolæ, 65, 203–4, Rolls Ser.). He built the north transept and central tower of York Cathedral. He also founded a chantry in the minster for the souls of the donor and his parents, John and Mary, and gave land to the vicars-choral to provide for his obit (Fasti Eboracenses, p. 328 n.; Hist. of Church of York, iii. 152). The archbishop was his son by a servant girl (Hemingburgh, ii. 70).
John Romanus, the future archbishop, received a dispensation from his illegitimacy, so far as regarded ordination and the holding of benefices, from Otho, cardinal of St. Nicholas in Carcere, presumably in 1237–8, when Otho was papal legate in England (Cal. Papal Reg. i. 484). A bull of Innocent IV, in which he is styled remembrancer of the papal penitentiary, specially forbade John to accept a bishopric without papal permission (Baluze, Misc. i. 211). John was, by his own account, educated at Oxford (cf. Wilkins, Concilia, ii. 214). He received the livings of Bolton-in-Lunesdale in 1253, and Wallop in Hampshire about 1254, and on 7 July 1256 had license of absence for five years while pursuing his studies (Cal. Papal Reg. i. 332, 484). Afterwards he received the living of Melling, by dispensation from Alexander IV; in 1258 he obtained the prebend of North Kelsey, Lincoln, and in 1275 became chancellor of Lincoln. On 9 Dec. 1276, when he is described as chaplain to Matthew de Ursinis, cardinal of St. Mary in Porticu, he had dispensation to retain the benefices which he held, and to accept a bishopric, having been appointed to a professorship of theology at Paris. He taught theology at Paris for several years (ib. i. 451, 484; see Denifle, Cartularium Univ. Paris, i. 599, for a reference to the house of Master John Romanus in 1282). In 1279 he exchanged the chancellorship and prebend of North Kelsey for the precentorship and prebend of Nassington, and on 7 Dec. 1279 was collated to the prebend of Warthill, York (Le Neve, ii. 83, 92, 191, 196, iii. 220). After the death of Archbishop Wickwane, he was elected archbishop of York on 29 Oct. 1285, and received the royal assent on 15 Nov. (Le Neve, iii. 104; Cal. Pat. Rolls, Edward I, 1281–92, p. 199). He at once went to Rome to receive papal confirmation. On 3 Feb. he obtained a renewed dispensation for his illegitimacy, and, the validity of his election being questioned, was re-elected under a papal mandate, and consecrated by the bishop of Ostia on 10 Feb. (Cal. Papal Reg. i. 483–4; Le Neve, iii. 104). He returned to England in March, and received the temporalities on 12 April. Archbishop Peckham made the usual protest against the bearing of the cross by Romanus in the southern province (Letters from Northern Registers, 82–4; Cal. Pat. Rolls, Edward I, 1281–92, pp. 198–9, 229–30).
Romanus was enthroned at York on Trinity Sunday, 9 June 1286. He was chiefly concerned with the government of his diocese, and took little part in public affairs. He was with the king in Gascony in the summer of 1288. In 1291 he was summoned to render military service against Scotland, and was also occasionally summoned to parliament (Fœdera, i. 753, 762, 802, 808–10, 832; Parl. Writs, i. 25, 30–2, 261). In August 1295 he was summoned to meet the cardinals at London (Cont. Gervase, ii. 213). In his diocese Romanus had disputes with the dean of York, Robert de Scarburgh, and the chapter of Durham (Hist. Church of York, iii. 212). Of more importance was a dispute with Anthony Bek [see Bek, Anthony I], bishop of Durham, as to the relations of the see of Durham to that of York. The king in vain endeavoured to arrange the dispute when the bishops were present at the funeral of Queen Eleanor in December 1290. An attempt at arbitration in the following July failed, and in November 1291 Romanus obtained leave to plead his cause at Rome (Cal. Papal Reg. i. 443, 450). He was abroad as late as September 1292 (ib. i. 497, 508), but his suit does not seem to have been successful. During his absence Bek imprisoned two of the archbishop's officials, and in consequence Romanus ordered Bek to be excommunicated in a letter from Viterbo on 8 April 1292 (Letters from Northern Registers, p. 97). Edward took the matter up, and contended that the excommunication was an infringement of his prerogative, since Bek was, as palatine, a temporal as well as a spiritual dignitary. Romanus was for a time imprisoned in the Tower, but obtained his release and restoration to royal favour on payment of a fine of four thousand marks, at Easter 1293 (Chron. Lanercost, p. 138; Hist. Dunelm. Script. Tres, pp. 73, 93; Ann. Mon. iii. 376; Rot. Parl. i. 102–5). At York itself Romanus continued the building of the minster. In 1289 he had obtained a papal indult to apply the first-fruits to this purpose, and on 6 April 1291 he laid the foundation-stone of the nave (Cal. Papal Reg. i. 496; Hist. of the Church of York, ii. 409). He likewise founded the prebend of Bilton at York, and obtained leave from the pope to divide the prebends of Langtoft and Masham, but the scheme was vetoed by the king (Cal. Papal Reg. i. 496, 500). Romanus was also a benefactor of the church of Southwell, where he founded several stalls (Dugdale, Monast. Angl. vi. 1314–15). He died at Burton, near Beverley, on 11 March 1296, and was buried in York Minster on 17 March.
Romanus was engaged in constant quarrels, and was probably hot-headed and indiscreet. Hemingburgh describes him as a great theologian and very learned man, but maddened, as it were, with avarice (ii. 70–1). The York historian, however, says that he was hospitable and munificent beyond all his predecessors. He kept up a great retinue, and was always zealous for the welfare of his church (Hist. of the Church of York, ii. 409). Romanus preserved his interest in learning. In 1295 we find him writing on behalf of the university of Oxford (Wilkins, Concilia, ii. 214), and he encouraged the attendance of clergy studying theology in the chancellor's school at York (Hist. of the Church of York, iii. 220). A number of letters from Romanus's register are printed in Raine's ‘Letters from the Northern Registers’ (pp. 84–105, 108) and ‘Historians of the Church of York’ (iii. 212–20). A letter from Romanus, refusing to sanction the papal appropriation of the prebend of Fenton in the church of York, is printed in ‘Fasti Eboracenses,’ pp. 342–4. Some of the principal contents of the ‘Register’ are summarised in the same work, pp. 330–40. Hemingburgh says that, owing to his early death, Romanus left little wealth, and his executors were unwilling to act, so that the cost of his funeral was defrayed by others (ii. 71). He, however, bequeathed a mill and fifteen acres of land to the vicars-choral of the church of St. Peter, York (Cal. Pat. Rolls, Edward I, 1292–1301, pp. 352, 382).[Raine's Letters from the Northern Registers; Historians of the Church of York and its Archbishops (both in Rolls Ser.); Chron. de Melsa (ib.); Chron. de Lanercost (Bannatyne Club); Trivet's Annals, and Walter de Hemingburgh (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Bliss's Cal. of Papal Registers; Cal. Pat. Rolls, Edward I; Dixon and Raine's Fasti Eboracenses, pp. 327–49; Le Neve's Fasti Eccl. Anglicanæ, ed. Hardy; other authorities quoted.]