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Murdac, Henry (DNB00)


MURDAC, HENRY (d. 1153), archbishop of York, a member of a wealthy and important family of Yorkshire, was given a place among the clergy of the church of York by Archbishop Thurstan. Having received a letter from St. Bernard of Clairvaux, eloquently exhorting him to adopt the monastic life, he became a monk, and entered the Cistercian monastery of Clairvaux. From this letter it may be inferred that he was a learned man; in its address he is styled 'magister,' exhorted to become a member of the 'school of piety,' to take Jesus as his master, and to leave his books for the solitude of the woods, and the address ends with a postscript by two of the monks of Clairvaux, who appear to have been his pupils (S. Bernard, Ep. 106, ap. Opp. i. cols. 110, 111). After remaining at Clairvaux for some time he was sent by Bernard in 1135 with twelve companions to found a monastery at Vauclair, in the diocese of Laon, and was the first abbot of the new house. While there he was engaged in a sharp dispute with Luke, abbot of the neighbouring Præmonstratensian house at Cuissi (Gallia Christiana, ix. 633). On the death, at Clairvaux in 1143, of Richard, second abbot of Fountains, in Yorkshire, Bernard wrote to the prior and convent telling them that he was about to send Abbot Henry to them, and bidding them take his advice as to the election of abbot, and obey him in all things (Ep. 320, Opp. i. col. 299). At the same time he wrote to Murdac bidding him, if he should be elected abbot of Fountains, by no means to refuse, and promising in that case to watch over the interests of Vauclair (Ep. 321, Opp. i. col. 300). Murdac went to Fountains, was elected abbot, and accepted the office.

It was a time of extraordinary energy at Fountains, as many as five daughter houses, Woburn in Bedfordshire, Lisa in Norway, Kirkstall in Yorkshire, Vaudy in Lincolnshire, and Meaux in Yorkshire, being founded from it during Murdac's abbacy. He made reforms in his own house, and brought it into full accord with the severe life observed at Clairvaux; its possessions were increased under his rule (Dugdale, Monasticon, v. 301, 302). Relying on the help that he was certain to receive from Pope Eugenius III, the friend of Bernard, he took a prominent part in the opposition to William Fitzherbert [q. v.], archbishop of York (John of Hexham, ii. 318). In 1146 some of the knights of the archbishop's party, in revenge for his suspension by the pope, armed themselves and broke into Fountains. They sacked the house, and finding little spoil, set the buildings on fire. Meanwhile Murdac was stretched at the foot of the altar in the oratory. Part of the oratory was burnt, but the invaders did not see him. He escaped, and at once set about rebuilding, in a more comely style, his monastery, which they had reduced to a ruin (Monasticon, v. 302). Murdac attended the council of Paris held by the pope in the spring of 1147, and there Fitzherbert was deprived (Gervase, i. 134; Baronius, Annales, ed. Pagi, xix. 7,8; Norgate, Angevin Kings, i. 366). On 24 July the chapter of York, together with the suffragan bishops, William of Durham and Aldulf of Carlisle, met in St. Martin's Priory at Richmond to choose an archbishop in place of Fitzherbert. Robert of Gaunt, the dean of York, and Hugh of Puiset, the treasurer, King Stephen's nephew, both of them Fitzherbert's supporters, were in favour of Hilary [q. v.], afterwards bishop of Chichester, while the two bishops, the archdeacon, and others voted for Henry Murdac (John of Hexham, ii. 321); the election seems to have been referred to the pope for decision. Murdac crossed to France and paid a visit to Bernard, and then went to meet the pope at Trèves. Eugenius received him with honour, confirmed his election, consecrated him at Trèves on 7 Dec., and gave him the pall (ib.; William of Newburgh, i. 48).

On his return to England in 1148 to take possession of his see he found the king highly incensed against him, for both Stephen and Henry of Blois [q. v.], bishop of Winchester, upheld the cause of their nephew, Fitzherbert. The prebends of his church were confiscated and the tenants oppressed, the citizens of York refused to allow him to enter the city, and no one who went out to him was allowed to return. Murdac excommunicated Hugh of Puiset, the head of the opposition to him, and laid an interdict on York. In return Hugh excommunicated him and forced the clergy to perform the services as usual. Murdac took up his residence at Ripon, where he seems, though no longer abbot, to have continued to watch over the affairs of Fountains (S. Bernard, Ep. 206, Opp. i. 288). He visited the Bishop of Durham, and was received by him as his metropolitan, and also went to meet David of Scotland [q. v.] at Carlisle, and was honourably received by Bishop Adelulf. This visit to Carlisle very probably took place at Whitsuntide 1148, when David received Henry, duke of Normandy, afterwards Henry II [q. v.], there; for immediately afterwards Stephen went to York, and thence proceeded to Beverley, where he laid a fine upon the people for having received Murdac. After the king's departure Murdac's interdict was, at least to some extent, observed at York. On hearing this, Eustace, the king's son, compelled the clergy to conduct the services without omissions, and drove out of the city those who refused, the senior archdeacon being slain by Eustace's party. Whereupon Murdac wrote a pressing complaint to the pope. Stephen at last found that it was dangerous to provoke the pope further, and Eustace mediated between him and Murdac. Eustace was reconciled to Murdac, and succeeded in making peace between him and the king, both agreeing to forgive all causes of complaint, one against the other.

Murdac was magnificently received at York, and was enthroned on 25 Jan. 1151. He absolved Hugh of Puiset from excommunication, and having promised to use his influence with the pope on Stephen's behalf, and if possible secure the pope's recognition of Eustace as heir to the throne, he went to Rome and spent Easter there. A large part of the summer of 1152 he spent at Hexham, where he endeavoured to introduce a stricter manner of life among the canons. He made a complaint to David of Scotland that the king's men engaged in mining for silver wasted his forest there. In 1153 he substituted canons regular in the place of the prebendaries in the church of St. Oswald at Gloucester, and placed them under the rule of a monk from Lanthony. He designed to make a like change at Beverley, but was prevented by death. He was much displeased at the election of Hugh of Puiset to the see of Durham, and refused to recognise it both on the ground of Hugh's youth and character, and because he had not been consulted. He excommunicated the prior and archdeacons of Durham and the prior of Brinkburn. On Ash Wednesday they came to York to request that the sentence might be recalled, but as they maintained that the election was legal, he refused. The citizens of York took their part, rose against the archbishop, abused him, and called him a traitor to the king. He fled in haste, and did not return to York alive. He went to Beverley. There Eustace came to him, and on his own account and his father's prayed him to yield, but he would not. Finally Theobald, archbishop of Canterbury, persuaded him to absolve the offenders, but he did not do so until after they had appeared before him and had submitted to a scourging (Historiæ Dunelmensis Tres Scriptores, pp. 4, 5; John of Hexham, ii. 329; William of Newburgh, i. 70). Murdac died at Sherburn on 14 Oct. in that year, very shortly after the deaths of the other two great Cistercians, Pope Eugenius and St. Bernard, with whom he was closely allied in mutual affection. He was buried in York Minster. He loved righteousness, and was perhaps too unbending in his opposition to all that he disapproved. Working as he did in unison with St. Bernard, and being of like mind with him, he did much to bring the Cistercian order in England to its greatest height, and the chronicler of Fountains classes him with Eugenius and Bernard, speaking of the three as 'guardians of the Lord's flock, columns of the Lord's house, and lights of the world' (Monasticon, v. 303). He was austere in his own life, and continually wore a hair-shirt. In the story of 'The Nun of Watton' he is represented as appearing to the nun after his death and bringing her help (Ailred ap. Decem Scriptores, col. 419). The foundation of Watton in Yorkshire had been confirmed by him as archbishop (Monasticon, .vi. 955).

[Raine's Fasti Ebor. pp. 310-20, contains a life of Murdac, with copious references; S. Bernardi Epp. 106, 206, 320, 321, ap. Opp. i. cols. 110, 111, 288, 299, 300, ed. Mabillon; Symeon of Durham Cont. and John of Hexham ap. Symeon of Durham, i. 167, 169, ii. 317, 320-5, 331 (Rolls Ser.); Dugdale's Monasticon, v. 301-303, vi. 955; Hist. Dunelm. Tres Scriptt. pp. 4, 5 (Surtees Soc.); Gervase of Cant. i. 155, 157, ii. 386 (Rolls Ser.); William of Newburgh, i. 48, 70 (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Gallia Christiana, ix. 633; Norgate's Angevin Kings, i. 365-7, 378, 380.]

W. H.