Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Kilwardby, Robert
KILWARDBY, ROBERT (d. 1279), archbishop of Canterbury and cardinal-bishop of Porto, was an Englishman by birth, though nothing is known of his family and origin, except that a namesake, Robert Kilwardby, resigned in 1283 the living of All Saints, Gracechurch Street, London (Peckham, Register, iii. 1018, Rolls Ser.) He studied at the university of Paris, and probably also at Oxford. At Paris he taught for several years as a master of arts, and became especially distinguished as a teacher and writer on grammar and logic (Trivet, p. 278, Engl. Hist. Soc.) It is to this portion of his life that his important grammatical and his thirty-nine philosophical treatises must be assigned. Kilwardby finally abandoned his secular career and entered the order of St. Dominic. He now devoted himself exclusively to theology, and especially to the study of the scriptures, St. Augustine, and others of the fathers. He was famous for dividing nearly all St. Augustine's works into chapters, and prefixing to each a short analysis of its contents (ib. p. 278). Among his pupils in theology was Thomas of Cantelupe [q. v.], the future bishop of Hereford (ib. p. 306).
In 1261 Kilwardby was chosen provincial prior of the Dominicans in England, and discharged the duties of that post with great success for eleven years. In 1271 he was present at the general chapter of his order at Montpellier, and was described as a ‘great master of theology.’ In 1272 the general chapter at Florence relieved him of his office, but in the same year the English province again appointed him prior.
The archbishopric of Canterbury had been vacant since the death of Boniface of Savoy in 1270, as the monks of Canterbury insisted on the election of their prior, Adam of Chillenden, and Edward, the king's son, was eager for the appointment of Robert Burnell [q. v.] Adam went to Rome to press his claims, but Gregory X at last persuaded him to resign them, and appointed of his own authority the provincial of the Dominicans. Kilwardby's appointment was on 11 Oct. 1272. He received the spiritualities of his see from Bishop Bronescombe of Exeter on 11 Dec., and the temporalities three days later (Winchester Annals in Annales Monastici, ii. 112–113). But he had already, on 21 Nov., joined with Gilbert of Gloucester and other magnates in recognising Edward I as king on the day after Henry III's funeral, and in appointing a regency to act until the new king's return from the East (Trivet, p. 283). He also successfully intervened in the strife between the Bishop of Norwich and his townsmen, and procured a relaxation of the interdict pronounced against that city (Cotton, p. 150). The pope having granted Kilwardby a license to be consecrated by any catholic bishop, he chose the saintly William Button II [q. v.], bishop of Bath and Wells, to perform that office. He was consecrated on 26 Feb. 1273 at Canterbury. Besides the Bishop of Bath, twelve other suffragans of Canterbury took part in the ceremony. Yet it was not until 8 May that Kilwardby received the pallium at Teynham (Winchester Annals, ii. 115), and his enthronement only took place in September. At the pope's request he compensated Adam Chillenden for his expenses incurred in his bootless journey to Rome (Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep. p. 429).
Kilwardby was the first Mendicant advanced to a great post in the English church. His interests remained exclusively theological and ecclesiastical, and he took little part in political affairs, remaining on good terms with Edward I, whom he crowned along with Queen Eleanor on 19 Aug. 1274. He joined with his suffragans in 1276 in exhorting Llewelyn of Wales to perform his feudal duties to Edward, sending his favourite clerk, William Middleton, archdeacon of Canterbury, on a special mission to the Lord of Snowdon (Fœdera, i. 535–6). On Llewelyn refusing to accept his mediation, Kilwardby excommunicated him in February 1277 (ib. i. 541).
Kilwardby devoted himself with some energy to the systematic visitation of his diocese and province. After holding a convocation in London, and making an agreement with the chapter of St. Paul's as to jurisdiction during the vacancies of the see of London (Wilkins, Concilia, ii. 26–7), he held in December 1273 a visitation at Worcester (Annals of Worcester in Ann. Mon. iv. 465). But in the summer of 1274 he attended the council of Lyons, upholding during its sessions the papal power in its strongest forms (cf. Baluze, Histoire de la Maison d'Auvergne, ii. 113–14). Returning to England Kilwardby again busied himself with visitations. In November 1274 he visited the diocese of Winchester, being received on 26 Nov. on his arrival by the bishop, Nicholas of Ely [q. v.], and subsequently holding visitations of the neighbouring monasteries. He kept Christmas at the bishop's manor of Bitterne, near Southampton (Winchester Annals in Ann. Mon. ii. 118). In 1276 he made a prolonged visitation of the vast diocese of Lincoln. His zeal for monastic rigour was shown by his expulsion of some disorderly monks from Bardney Abbey, Lincolnshire; but the canons of Osney, whom he visited on 7 March, bitterly complained that he exacted from them procurations amounting to over twenty-four marks, while his predecessor Boniface had been contented with four marks only (Ann. Osney in Ann. Mon. iv. 270). He now visited the university of Oxford, and, with the consent of the regent and non-regent masters, solemnly condemned various erroneous opinions in grammar, logic, and natural philosophy that were then current in the university. Among the grammatical heresies was the doctrine ‘quod ego currit, tu currit et curro eque sunt perfecte et congrue.’ But some of the other errors were of a more serious kind. Masters found guilty of these errors were to be deprived; bachelors were to be forbidden access to the mastership and expelled the university. Similar errors were condemned a little later at Paris, and the same doctrines at Oxford were again censured in 1284 by Archbishop Peckham. The list of errors condemned by Kilwardby has been several times printed (Paris, n.d.,? 1500, 4to; Basel, 1513 and 1528). Among the persons censured was one Richard Clapwell, a friar of Kilwardby's own order (Ann. Dunst. in Ann. Mon. iii. 325). In 1277 he again visited the diocese of Lincoln; and the monks of Dunstable spoke highly of his liberality and justice (ib. iii. 276).
On 16 June 1276 Kilwardby was present at the translation of the remains of St. Richard at Chichester (Wykes in Ann. Mon. iv. 268). When first provincial in England he had been one of the commission appointed to examine into Richard's claims to sanctity, and he afterwards encouraged the Dominican Ralph Bocking to write his life of the saintly bishop (Bollandist Acta Sanctorum, April, i. 283). He was always a good friend of his order. He bought a new and convenient site for the London house of the Dominicans near Castle Baynard, and contributed towards the building of the new church and monastery (Leland, Comm. de Scriptt. Brit. p. 287). He was conspicuous for his sanctity and care for the poor. He mediated between the citizens of Canterbury in their dispute with Christ Church, when the monks refused to take any share in providing soldiers for the Welsh war. He held frequent synods, those of 1273 and 1277 marking important developments in the representation of the lower clergy, which was finally systematically organised by his successor (Stubbs, Select Charters, pp. 444–5; Const. Hist. ii. 205).
On 12 March 1278 Pope Nicholas III, a great friend of the Mendicants, nominated Kilwardby, at his first creation of cardinals, to the cardinal-bishopric of Porto and Santa Rufina—an appointment which necessitated his resignation of the see of Canterbury and his residence at Rome. Kilwardby accepted the post, though the temporalities of the church of Porto were incomparably inferior to those of Canterbury. Some dissatisfaction with his work at Canterbury rather than a desire to do honour to Kilwardby probably inspired the pope to make the translation. As soon as the appointment was known doubts were raised as to the validity of his recent acts as archbishop (Peckham, Register, i. 48). On 25 July Kilwardby solemnly took his leave of his suffragans and departed for Italy. He sought to increase his lessened income by selling to the king the crops and rents of his estates for the year, and took away with him five thousand marks in money, precious vessels, church ornaments, and manuscripts, including a costly new bible, all of which belonged to the see (ib. i. 17, 277, 550). More important than all, he removed all the registers and judicial records of Canterbury. Peckham and his successor sought in vain to recover the property of their church, but never succeeded in getting any back. To this day the oldest records of Canterbury begin with Peckham's archbishopric. Yet Peckham continued to consult Kilwardby on English ecclesiastical matters, and believed that, if he had lived longer, he would have sent back the property.
Kilwardby was already an old man and in poor health. Soon after joining the papal curia at Viterbo he fell sick. He was, however, employed by the pope to write letters to the ‘king of the Tartars’ urging his conversion to Christianity (Ciacconius, Vitæ Pontificum, ii. 224). But he died on 11 Sept. 1279, and was buried at the Dominican convent at Viterbo. There was some suspicion of poison (Cotton, p. 371).
Kilwardby was a very voluminous writer on grammatical, philosophical, and theological subjects. Trivet (p. 278) regards his chief works to be these: ‘De Tempore,’ ‘De Universali,’ ‘De Relatione,’ and ‘De Ortu Scientiarum,’ and describes the last as ‘a curious and useful book.’ It may be regarded as the most important of Kilwardby's writings, and is identical with the treatise ‘De Divisione Scientiarum,’ which is sometimes considered as an independent work. The large number of surviving manuscripts shows that it was widely studied. Two are in the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris, and two in the Bodleian Library. It is a commentary on Avicenna's work with the same title. M. Hauréau considers it worth printing, and speaks of its clearness and accuracy. In all thirty-nine philosophical works by Kilwardby are enumerated in Quétif and Echard's ‘Scriptores Ordinis Predicatorum,’ i. 376–80. They are mainly commentaries on Aristotle's ‘Logic,’ with a few treatises on Aristotle's ‘Psychology,’ ‘Physics,’ and ‘Metaphysics.’ His commentaries on various parts of the ‘Organon’ show, says Hauréau, that he was a scrupulous and minute logician, and he was one of the most important teachers of the time in developing the doctrine of the syllogism. Hauréau (ii. 2, 30–2) gives a long extract from his ‘De Ortu’ as a specimen of his power of abridging Aristotle clearly and faithfully. He says that he was a disciple of Thomas Aquinas, but never seems to have attempted any real investigation of his writings.
Kilwardby's treatises on grammar were frequently cited as an authority during the fourteenth century. There are manuscripts of his ‘In Priscianum de Constructione Commentarius’ at Merton and Corpus Christi Colleges, Oxford. Large extracts are given in Quétif and Echard (pp. 377–8) from his ‘Commentary on the Sentences,’ of which there is also a manuscript at Merton College. He also wrote commentaries on scripture, ‘De Passione Christi’ and ‘De Sacramento Altaris.’
[Leland's Commentarii de Scriptoribus Britannicis, pp. 286–8; Quétif and Echard's Scriptores Ordinis Predicatorum, i. 374–80; Bale's Scriptt. Brit. Catal. Cent. Quart. p. xlvi (Basel); Tanner's Bibl. Brit.-Hib. pp. 455–7; Hook's Lives of the Archbishops of Canterbury, iii. 304–26; Turon's Histoire des hommes illustres de l'ordre de Saint-Dominique, i. 397–404; Hauréau's Histoire de la Philosophie Scolastique, II. ii. 28–33; Stöckl's Geschichte der Philosophie des Mittelalters, ii. 735–6; Catalogus Librorum MSS. Angliæ et Hib. (1697); Notices des Manuscrits de la Bibliothèque Nationale, XXII. ii. 39, 95, 97; Coxe's Cat. Cod. MSS. in Coll. et Aul. Oxon.; Trivet (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Peckham's Register, Annales Monastici, Cotton, Chron. of Edward I and Edward II (the last four in Rolls Ser.); Rymer's Fœdera, vol. i.; Prynne's Records.]