Statue de Saint John of Beverley on the Minster, Beverley, East Riding of Yorkshire.
Saint Jean d'York
Évêque et archevêque d'York (✝ 721)
ou Jean de Beverley.
Moine de Withby, il eut pour pères spirituels saint Adrien et saint Hilde. Il était évêque d'York quand il éleva au sacerdoce Bède le Vénérable dont il avait remarqué la science des Saintes Écritures et sa connaissance de la théologie.
À Beverley, en Northumbrie d’Angleterre, l’an 721, le trépas de saint Jean, qui fut moine à Whitby, puis évêque d’Hexham, enfin d’York, joignant le soin pastoral à la prière solitaire. Après avoir déposé sa charge épiscopale, il se retira dans le monastère de Beverley, qu’il avait fondé, pour terminer ses jours comme simple moine.
Saint John de Beverley
John naquit au VIIe siècle dans le village de Harpham, province de Deirie qui comprenait les comtés d’York, de Lancastre et la partie du royaume de Northumbrie située au sud de la Tyne. Un désir ardent de se donner au service de Dieu l’attira tout jeune dans le royaume de Kent où il fit de rapides progrès dans la science et la piété, sous la direction de l’abbé Adrian de Cantorbury. Il retourna ensuite dans son pays, reçut l’habit monastique dans l’abbaye de Withby, alors gouvernée par sainte Hilda1 .
Au commencement du règne d’Alfred, à la mort d’Eata, John fut tiré de sa solitude pour être placé sur le siège de Hexham (687). Il continua néanmoins la vie qu’il menait dans le cloître et consacrait à la contemplation céleste les moments qui n’étaient pas occupés par l’exercice des fonctions épiscopales. Le lieu de sa retraite était une cellule située dans le cimetière de Saint-Michel, au-delà de la Tyne, à près de deux milles de Hagulstad : il y passait en particulier les quarante jours du Carême. Il y prenait pour compagnon quelque pauvre malade auquel il donnait ses soins : une année, il se chargea d’un pauvre muet dont la tête était couverte d’une dartre hideuse. Pendant qu’un médecin soignait ce mal, Jean donnait sa bénédiction aux remèdes qui eurent raison du mal ; de plus, il rendit au muet l’usage de la parole et lui apprit à lire.
Ce fut le même John, évêque de Hexham, qui donna le diaconat et la prêtrise au vénérable Bède2 , sur la présentation de l’abbé Céolfrid. C’est à Bède que nous devons divers témoignages sur la sainteté et les miracles de John.
John fonda un monastère, dans une forêt à vingt-sept milles d’York. Conformément à l’usage du temps, il y avait là un double monastère, l’un pour les hommes, placé sous la direction de Berchtun, son disciple, l’autre pour les femmes. Ce monastère est à l’origine de la ville de Beverley.
En 705, John fut promu au siège de York, qu’il gouverna pendant sept ans. Accablé par l’âge et les fatigues, John se donna un successeur dans la personne de saint Wilfrid, dit le Jeune, et se retira définitivement en 717 dans le monastère de Beverley. Il y passa les quatre dernières années de sa vie dans l’accomplissement exact de la règle monastique et mourut le 7 mai 721.
Le tombeau de John, illustré par ses miracles, devint un des principaux lieux de pèlerinage de l’Angleterre. En 1037, l’archevêque de York, Alfric, fit une translation des reliques de John et c’est alors que John fut officiellement canonisé. Les nombreux miracles de guérisons attribués à John le rendirent très célèbre durant tout le Moyen-Age et furent en même temps un facteur de grande prospérité pour la ville de Beverley.
Un siècle après, il est question de la “bannière de saint John”. Au treizième siècle, lorsqu’on devait lever des impôts dans le Yorkshire, il suffisait, pour la ville de Beverley, qu’un homme allât se présenter avec cette bannière.
A la fin du treizième siècle, le Chapitre de la cathédrale de Beverley commanda une châsse en or et en argent à un certain Roger, lequel s’engageait à n’entreprendre aucun autre travail avant l’achèvement de cette châsse.
Edward Ier avait une réelle dévotion pour saint Jean de Beverley. Il alla plusieurs fois s’y recueillir, notamment pour aller combattre les Ecossais en 1300. Le roi s’estima redevable de sa victoire à l’intercession du saint évêque et fit bâtir sur l’emplacement de l’ancien monastère, détruit par les Danois, une riche collégiale sous le vocable de John. D’autres rois utilisèrent à leur tour cette sainte bannière dans leurs campagnes militaires. Quatre siècles plus tard, Henri V se déclara redevable de la victoire d’Azincourt à la protection de John de Beverley qu’il avait invoqué. En conséquence, il voulut que la fête fût chômée dans toute l’Angleterre (1416). La victoire avait eu lieu précisément au jour anniversaire de la translation de John, et ce jour-là on avait remarqué que la tombe faisait jaillir du sang et de l’huile.
En 1541, le roi Henri VIII ordonna la destruction de cette châsse. Mais en 1664, des artisans découvrirent sous le dallage de l’allée centrale de la cathédrale un caveau contenant diverses reliques avec une inscription attestant l’appartenance de ces reliques à saint John de Beverley. En 1738, lors de la réfection du dallage, les mêmes reliques furent remises en honneur par la construction d’une tombe recouverte d’une large plaque de marbre.
Encore récemment, lors de la fête du 7 mai, une procession a lieu entre Harpham et l’église, où les enfants déposent autour de la tombe de saint John des fleurs qu’ils ont cueillies dans les champs alentour.
La Bienheureuse Julienne de Norwich (1342-1416), mystique anglaise, était dévote de saint John de Beverley, ainsi que le saint chancelier John Fisher3 , lui-mÍme natif de Beverley.
Pour être complets sur ce grand saint anglais que nous ne connaissons guère, nous retiendrons ici les œuvres attribuées à saint John, recensées par J. Bale, et dont certaines ont malheureusement été perdues : une “Exposition sur saint Luc”, des “Homélies sur les Évangiles”, des Lettres à Herebaldum, Audena et Bertin, des Lettres à l’Abbesse Hyldant.
1 Sainte Hilda est fêtée le 17 novembre.
2 S.Bède le Vénérable est fêté le 25 mai.
3 Bse Julienne de Norwich (1342-1416), fêtée le 14 mai ; s. John Fisher (1469-1535), fêté le 22 juin.
Vitrail représentant Saint John de Beverley Beverley Minster,
St. John of Beverley
Bishop of Hexham and afterwards of York; b. at Harpham, in the East Riding of Yorkshire; d. at Beverley, 7 May, 721. In early life lie was under the care of Archbishop Theodore, at Canterbury, who supervised his education, and is reputed to have given him the name of John. He became a member of the Benedictine Order, and for a time was an inmate of St. Hilda's monastery at Streaneshaleh (Whitby). Afterwards he won renown as a preacher, displayed marked erudition in expounding Scripture, and taught amongst other subjects. On 25 August, 687 was consecrated Bishop of Hexham, a district with which he was not unfamiliar, as he had for a period led a life of retreat at Erneshowe (Herneshou), on the opposite bank of the Tyne. Here, too, he was afterwards wont to resort for seclusion, especially during Lent, when the cares of his episcopal ministration permitted of his so doing. John was present at the synod on the Nidd in 705, convened by Osred, King of Northumbria, to decide on Wilfrid's case. In the same year (703), on the death of Bosa, John was translated to York after eighteen years of labour in the See of Hexham, where he was succeeded by Wilfrid. Of his new activity little is known beyond that he was diligent in visitation, considerate towards the poor, and exceedingly attentive to the training of students whom he maintained under his personal charge. His little company of pupils is said to have included: Bede, whom he ordained; Berethume, afterwards Abbot of Beverley; Herebald, Abbot of Tynemouth; and Wilfrid "the Younger", John's successor (718) in the See of York. Having purchased a place called Inderawood, to which a later age has given the name of Beverley, John established a monastery there and also handsomely endowed the place, which became even in its founder's day an important ecclesiastical centre. To this monastery of Beverley, after resigning the See of York to his pupil Wilfrid, John retired and spent the remainder of his life with Abbot Berethune, a one time favourite scholar. In 1037 he was canonized by Benedict IX; His bones were translated by Ælfric, Archbishop of York, and placed in a costly shrine. A second translation took place in 1197. The remains were discovered in 1664 and again brought to light in 1736. (See BEVERLEY MINSTER.)
Acta SS. Bolland., II, 165 sqq.; Sanct. Dunelm. et Beverlac., edited by SURTEES SOCIETY, P. 98; DUGDALE, Monasticon, II, 127; WILKINS, Concilia, III, 379; RAINE in Dict. Christ. Biog., s.v. Joannes Beverlacensis, JOCHAM in Kirchenlex., s.v. Johannes von Beverley; HUNT in Dict. Nat. Biog., s.v.; BIHLMEYFR in BUCHBERGER, Kirchliches Handlex., s.v. J. v. Beverley. The authenticity of the works ascribed to John of Beverley in BALE, Script. Illustr. Brit. Catal., is doubtful.
MacAuley, Patrick. "St. John of Beverley." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 6 May 2015 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08469b.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Tom Burgoyne. In memory of Father Baker, founder of Our Lady of Victory Homes.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.
St. John of Beverley, Bishop and Confessor
THIS illustrious saint was born at Harpham, a village in the province of the Deiri, which comprised Yorkshire, Lancashire, and the rest of the kingdom of the Northumbers, on the south side of the Tyne; what lay beyond it being called Bernicia. An earnest desire of qualifying himself for the service of God, drew him young into Kent, where he made great progress in learning and piety, in the famous school of St. Theodorus, the archbishop, under the direction of the holy abbot Adrian. 1 Afterwards returning into his own country, he pursued the exercises of piety in the monastery of men under St. Hilda, at Whitby; till in the beginning of the reign of king Alfred, upon the death of Eata, he was made bishop of Hagulstad, or Hexam. What time he had to spare from his functions he consecrated to heavenly contemplation; retiring for that purpose into the church-yard of St. Michael’s, beyond the river Tyne, about a mile and a half from Hagulstad, especially during the forty days of Lent. He was accustomed to take with him some poor person, whom he served during that time. Once in the beginning of a Lent, he took with him a dumb youth, who never had been able to utter one word, and whose head was covered with hideous scabs and scales, without any hair. The saint caused a mansion to be built for this sick youth within his inclosure, and often admitted him into his own cell. On the second Sunday he made the sign of the cross upon his tongue, and loosed it. Then he taught him to say Gea, which signifies in Saxon Yea, or Yes; then the letters of the alphabet, A, B, C, and afterwards syllables and words. Thus the youth miraculously obtained his speech. Moreover, by the saint’s blessing the remedies prescribed by a physician whom he employed, his head was entirely healed, and became covered with hair. When St. Wilfrid returned from banishment, St. John yielded up to him the see of Hagulstad: but some time after, upon the death of Bosa, a man of great sanctity and humility, as Bede testifies, he was placed in the archiepiscopal chair of York. Venerable Bede, who received the holy orders of deacon and priest from his hands, gives ample testimony to his sanctity; and relates the instantaneous cure of the sick wife of a neighbouring thane or lord, by holy water, and several other miracles performed by him, from the testimony of Bercthun, abbot of Beverley, and Herebald, abbot of Tinmouth, who had been eye-witnesses to several of them. St. John made frequent retirement his delight, to renew thereby his spirit of devotion, lest the dissipation of exterior employs should extinguish it. He chose for his retreat a monastery, which he had built at Beverley, then a forest, now a market-town, twenty-seven miles from York. This monastery, according to the custom of those times, he erected for the use of both sexes, and put it under the government of his disciple, Bercthun, or Brithun, first abbot of Beverley, then called Endeirwood, or wood of the Deiri. In 717, being much broken with age and fatigues, he resigned his bishopric to his chaplain, St. Wilfrid the younger, and having ordained him bishop of York, he retired to Beverley, where he spent the remaining four years of his life in the punctual performance of all monastic duties. He died there the death of the just, on the 7th of May, 721. His successor governed the see of York fifteen years, was a great lover of the beauty of God’s house, and is named among the saints, April the 29th. The monastery of Beverley having been destroyed by the Danes, king Athelstan, who had obtained a great victory over the Scots, by the intercession of St. John, founded in his honour, in the same place, a rich collegiate church of canons. King Henry V. attributed to the intercession of this saint the glorious victory of Agincourt, on which occasion a synod, in 1416, ordered his festival to be solemnly kept over all England. 2 Henschenius the Bollandist, in the second tome of May, has published four books of the miracles wrought at the relics of Saint John of Beverley, written by eye-witnesses. 3 His sacred bones were honourably translated into the church by Alfric, archbishop of York, in 1037: a feast in honour of which translation was kept at York on the 25th of October. On the 13th of September, (not the 24th as Mr. Stevens says,) in 1664, the sexton, digging a grave in the church of Beverley, discovered a vault of freestone, in which was a box of lead, containing several pieces of bones, with some dust, yielding a sweet smell; with inscriptions, by which it appeared that these were the mortal remains of St. John of Beverley, as we read in Dugdale’s History of the Collegiate Church of Beverley, who has transcribed them, p. 57. These relics had been hid in the beginning of the reign of king Edward VI. Dugdale and Stevens testify, that they were all reinterred in the middle-alley of the same church. Alcuin 4 had an extraordinary devotion to St. John of Beverley, and in his poem on the saints of York, published by Thomas Gale, gives a long history of the miracles wrought by him from verse 1085 to 1215. Rabanus Maurus has placed Alcuin in his Martyrology on the 19th of May, and Henschenius on that day gives his life, and mentions several private Martyrologies in which his name is found, though he has never been any where honoured in the office of the Church. 5 On St. John of Beverley, see Bede, Hist. l. 5. c. 2. &c. his life compiled by Folcard, monk of Canterbury, published by Henschenius, with other monuments, t. 2. Maij, p. 168. F. Edw. Maihew, &c.
Note 1. Bede, l. 5, c. 2, 6. See Britannia Sancta. [back]
Note 2. See Lynwoode, Provinciale, 104. [back]
Note 3. P. 173. [back]
Note 4. Alcuin, or Alcwine, that is, Allwin, (the same name in the original Saxon as Victor, and Vincentius in Latin; Nicetas and Nicephorus in Greek,) was a native of York, as he himself declares in his poem on the saints of that diocess. Foreigners not being accustomed to pronounce the w, he omitted it in his name; which he mollified into Albinus, prefixing to it in France the name of Flaccus. In his letters, he often styles himself Flaccus Albinus, never Albinus Flaccus, as many moderns falsely call him. Alcuin was nobly born, became a monk at York, and was made deacon of that church. He learned Latin, Greek, and the elements of the Hebrew language, and went through the sacred studies under Egbert and Elbert, who taught a great school in that city till they were successively placed in the archiepiscopal chair. When Elbert succeeded Egbert in that dignity, in 766, he committed to Alcuin the care of the school, and of the great library belonging to that church. Eanbald, succeeding his uncle Elbert, sent Alcuin to Rome, to bring over his pall, in 780. Charlemagne, king of France, afterwards emperor, meeting him at Parma, earnestly desired to detain him; but the canons obliged him to return to his own church. However, that prince prevailed with the King of Northumberland and the Archbishop of York to send him back into France. He appointed him to open a great school in his own palace, and generally assisted in person at his lessons, with the princes, his sons, and other lords. He also, by his advice, instituted an academy in his palace, consisting of many learned men, who met on certain days to discourse on points of sacred learning. In this academy, Alcuin took the name of Flaccus from Horace, the king that of David, Adelard of Corbie that of Augustine, &c. The king sent Alcuin, his ambassador to King Offa, in 790, to adjust certain differences; he honoured him exceedingly, and usually called him his master: by his advice he made several literary establishments, and consulted him in affairs of state. The ingenious Gaillard (Hist, de la Rivalité de France et l’Anglet. t. 1, p. 73,) says: The wise Alcuin disgusted Charlemagne from the passion for conquests, by discovering to him a new source of true greatness, far dearer to humanity. That prince, instructed by such a master, learned to set a just value on true knowledge: he placed his glory in protecting science, in perfecting the administration, and in extending, in every respect, the empire of reason. This it is that has principally rendered the name of that great prince immortal in the eyes of true judges. This great man assisted at the council of Francfort, in 794, and at that of Aix-la-Chapelle, in 799, in which latter he confuted Felix of Urgel, who was present. Felix and Elipandus, another Spanish bishop, revived the Demi-Nestorian error, maintaining that Christ, as man, was only the adoptive, not the natural Son of God. Whence it would follow, that he assumed not only the human nature, but also a human person: which was the heresy of Nestorius. Elipandus reproached Alcuin for his riches, and the number of his vassals. Alcuin discovers his disinterestedness and spirit of poverty in several letters, as in that to the priest Eata, and in others. Writing to the Bishop of Lyons, he justifies himself, saying: “Elipandus objects to me my riches, servants, and vassals, which amount to the number of twenty thousand, not reflecting that the possession of riches is vicious only from the attachment of the heart. It is one thing to possess the world, and another to be possessed by the world. Some possess riches, though perfectly disengaged from them in their hearts: others, though they enjoy none, yet love and covet them.” These vassals belonged to the several abbeys of which the king compelled him to undertake the administration, purely that he might establish in them regular discipline, and employ the surplus of the revenues in alms, according to the intentions of such foundations, as Lupus, abbot of Ferriers, (ep. 11,) and the anonymous life of St. Aldericus, archbishop of Sens, assure us: for the king had made him his general almoner to relieve the distressed, and appointed him a house for the reception of strangers. How tedious the hurry of a court is to a lover of learning or solitude, any one may judge who has read the genuine description of a court life, in the time of our King Henry II. in Peter of Blois, or John of Salisbury. Alcuin never ceased to complain of its yoke and the dissipation attending it, and to solicit the king for leave to retire into some monastery, till at length he obtained his request. He petitioned to go to that of Fulda, but the king would by no means consent that he should withdraw to so great a distance from court: at length he suffered him to retire to that of St. Martin’s at Tours, of which he had nominated him abbot in 796. He was still obliged often to wait on the king; and settled the reformation of St. Benedict of Anian in the houses which were subject to him. He had long alleged his age and feebleness, that he might be permitted to resign the government of the several great abbeys which had been committed to his care. At length his tears and entreaties prevailed, and, according to his earnest desire, he was reduced to the condition of a private monk, (others say regular canon, for he had secularized St. Martin’s abbey at Tours, and established canons in it,) some time before his happy death, which happened at Tours, on the 19th of May, 804, on Whitsunday, as he had begged of God. See his life in Mabillon, Act. Bened. t. 4, p. 146; also in his Annals of that Order, b. 25, 27. Ceillier, t. 18, p. 278. Biogr. Britann. &c.
The best edition of the works of Alcuin was given us by the learned Andrew Duchesne, in three tomes, in 1617. His comments on the scripture consist in extracts from the ancient fathers. He has left us the lives of St. Vedast, St. Martin, St. Riquier, and St. Willibrord. His letters, of which we have one hundred and fifteen published by Duchesne, sixty-seven by Canisius, several others by Usher, Baluze, and Mabillon, are curious, and are addressed to several kings, queens, prelates, and other great men. His moral works breathe a sincere piety: the dogmatic are solid and close. His doctrine, in all points of faith, is most pure, and he lets slip no opportunity of exerting his zeal in its defence. We are promised a new, complete, and accurate edition of the works of this great man, by a monk of the congregation of St. Vanne. [back]
Note 5. Henschenius, t. 4, Maij. p. 334. [back]
Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume V: May. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
St. John of Beverley was the Bishop of Hexham, and later of York. He was born in Harpham, Yorkshire, and died in Beverley on May 7, 721.
As a youth, John manifested a strong desire to devote his life to God, and eventually left his native Yorkshire and traveled Kent where he studied at the famous ecclesiastical school of St. Theodore, archbishop of Canterbury.
He returned toYorkshire upon the completion of his studies, and joined a Benedictine monastery where he devoted himself to contemplation. He was called out of his monastic seclusion to be consecrated as bishop of Hexham in 687, a see he occupied for 18 years while still managing to devote time to contemplation and the study of Scripture.
With the death of St. Bosa, archbishop of York, John was transferred to York and served there until his retirement from ill health in 717. He spent his last four years in a monastery that he built at Beverley.
John was renowned for the miracles that he performed, both during his life and those that took place after his death. Most famously, he cured a young man who was dumb and had reportedly never spoken a word in his life, and obtained from him the ability to speak. He took the young man under his wing and patiently taught him the alphabet and the fundaments of the language.
After his death in 721, owing to the many miracles that occurred through his intercession, his burial site at Beverley became one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in England. He was canonized by Pope Benedict IX in 1037.
The renowned English mystic, Julian of Norwich, and the martyred bishop, St. John Fisher, who was from Beverley, had a great devotion to St. John.
St. John of Beverley, Bishop of York
(Died AD 721)
John, better known as St. John of Beverley, studied at Canterbury under St. Adrian and was later one of St. Hilda's pupils at Whitby. "A circumstance," says Fuller, " which soundeth something to her honour and nothing to his disgrace, seeing eloquent Apollo himself learned the primar of his Christianity partly from Priscilla."
St. John, whose foundation at Beverley became one of the three centres of Christianity in Deira (the others were York and Ripon), was born of noble parents at Harpham in the East Riding. At an early age, he began to preach to the still half-heathen people, arresting their attention by his powerful eloquence. The Venerable Bede was one of St. John's pupils and was ordained by him. In August AD 687, John, who had for some time been living in a hermitage at Harneshow, on the left bank of the Tyne opposite Hexham, was consecrated Bishop of Hexham, the see which had been established in AD 681. Here, he remained for eighteen years, during which we know little of his labours or his life. He was translated to York in AD 705, where he became a favourite with King Osred and was present at a synod in which many enactments were made for the better regulation of the Northumbrian Church. He was most diligent in watching over his monasteries and in attending to the poor and to the company of pupils always gathered about him. Whilst holding the see of York, John became the owner of Inderawood, a village on the site of the present town of Beverley, in his native district. There was already, at Inderawood, a small church dedicated to St. John the Evangelist. This, the bishop enlarged and established as a monastery for both sexes (as was then the custom). Numerous gifts were made to the new foundation and many churches were built in the surrounding district, then thickly covered with forest. St. John resigned the See of York, in AD 714, and retired to his monastery at Beverley, where he died on 7th May AD 721. He was canonised, in 1037, by Pope Benedict IX and, in the same year, his relies were translated by Archbishop Alfric and deposited in a shrine of gold. At the Reformation, they were interred in a case of lead which has been twice exposed to the light - in 1664 and in 1736.
The reputation of St. John of Beverley was greater than that of any northern saint, apart from St. Cuthbert. Athelstan, on his way into Scotland in AD 934, visited the shrine and carried off the holy banner of the saint as a protection to his host, promising that, if he returned victorious, he would bestow many privileges on the church. He did so accordingly, giving to it its famous right of sanctuary, and founding a college of secular canons. The traditional words in which the grant of sanctuary is recorded
"Als fre make I the
As hert may thenk
Or eghe may see"
are certainly very ancient and are mentioned in a confirmation of the privileges of the church made by King Henry IV.
The Conqueror and Stephen were prevented, by miraculous interference, as it was alleged, from ravaging the territory of St. John. The banner of Beverley was one of those which floated over the host of the English at the Battle of the Standard (1138). Archbishop Edward, like Athelstan, carried it with him into Scotland. Henry V and his Queen visited the shrine of St. John after the victory of Agincourt on the festival of his translation; and although St. Crispin and Crispinian shared the honours of the day, the King attributed the victory greatly to the intercession of St. John of Beverley.
Edited from Richard John King's "Handbook to the Cathedrals of England: Northern Division" (1903).
- John of York
Studied at Canterbury under Saint Adrian and Saint Theodore. Benedictine monk at Whitby. Bishop of Hexham, England in 687. Metropolitan of York, England in 705. Founded a monastery at Inderawood (later Beverley), which became an important ecclesiastical center. Ordained the Venerable Bede who wrote of him, and recorded miracles worked by him. John always preferred the contemplative life and retired to the Inderawood Abbey in 717. King Henry V’s victory at Agincourt was attributed to the aid of Saint John and Saint John of Bridlington.
- at Harpham, Yorkshire, England
- 7 May 721 at Inderawood Abbey, England of natural causes
- relics in the Beverley cathedral
- his tomb was a popular pilgrimage point for centuries
John of Beverley, OSB B (RM)
Born in Harpham (Humberside), Yorkshire, England; died at Beverley, England, May 7, 721; canonized in 1037; feast of translation, October 25. Saint John trained for the priesthood and monastic life in Kent under the direction of SS. Adrian and Theodore, but returned to Yorkshire upon completing his studies to become a monk at Whitby Abbey, which was then under the rule of Saint Hilda.
John founded a monastery in Humberside, England, on the site of a small church dedicated to Saint John the Evangelist, where he asked to be buried. In 687, after the death of Saint Eata, John he was consecrated bishop of Hexham. He is said to have shown special care for the poor and the handicapped. Whatever time he could spare from his episcopal duties he spent in contemplation. At regular seasons, especially during Lent, he retired to pray in a cell by the church of Saint Michael beyond the Tyne, near Hexham. He would take with him some poor person, whom he would serve during his retirement.
He was transferred York as archbishop upon the death of Saint Bosa in 705, and Saint Wilfrid succeeded him at Hexham as part of the final settlement of the latter's long dispute with the Northumbrian kings. He continued his practice of periodic retirement for spiritual refreshment. His chosen retreat was an abbey that he had built at Beverley, then a forest. Not until old age had worn him out did he resign his office to Saint Wilfrid the Younger in order to spend the last four years of his life in the peace of his beloved abbey at Beverley.
According to the Venerable Bede in Ecclesiastical History, who was ordained both deacon and priest by John when he was bishop of Hexham, John of Beverley possessed the gift of healing. He cured a youth of dumbness, even though the boy had never utter a single word. (The boy was apparently bald from a terrible scalp disease also.) On the second Sunday of Lent, John made the sign of the cross upon the youth's tongue, and loosed it. Bede tells of how the saint patiently taught the boy the alphabet. He taught him to say "gea," which signifies in Saxon "Yea"; then the letters of the alphabet, and afterwards syllables. Thus the youth miraculously obtained his speech. Moreover, by the saint's blessing and the remedies prescribed by a physician whom he employed, his head was entirely healed, and became covered with hair.
Bede also records that John cured a noblewoman of a pain so grievous that she had been unable to move for three weeks. Several people who seemed in immediate danger of death were saved by his prayers. In addition to his own eye-witness accounts, Bede tells us of cures witnessed by Abbot Bercthun of Beverley and Abbot Herebald of Tinmouth.
After the saint's death, such miracles continued around his shrine, which became a famous pilgrimage site. The Bollandist Henschenius devoted four books to the miracles wrought at the holy bishop's shrine. So many were drawn there that the magnificent Beverley Minster was built, which rivals some of England's great cathedral churches. Alcuin also records miracles worked at John's intercession. For example, King Athelstan invoked John's intercession for victory against the Scots. In 1307, his relics were translated--the occasion of a vita written by Folcard. Some of the sweet-smelling relics were discovered in September 1664, when a grave was being dug, in a lead box within a vault of freestone. These relics had been hidden in the beginning of the reign of king Edward VI.
It was not just miracles that led to John's canonization. He led a life of remarkable holiness. Other devotees include Blessed Julian of Norwich, King Henry V (who attributed the victory of Agincourt to his intercession), and Saint John Fisher, who was born at Beverley (Benedictines, Bentley, Farmer, Gill, Husenbeth, Walsh).