Archbishop Richard FitzRalph

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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FitzRalph, Richard, Archbishop of Armagh, one of the most eminent Irish churchmen of the middle ages, was born at Dundalk about the end of the 13th century, and was educated at Oxford. He commenced Doctor of Divinity, and became Chancellor of that University in 1333. He was collated Chancellor of the church of Lincoln in 1334, became Archdeacon of Chester in 1336, and was installed Dean of Lichfield in 1337. By Pope Clement VI. he was advanced to the see of Armagh, and was consecrated at Exeter, on 8th July 1347.

He espoused the cause of the secular clergy in their contests with the mendicant orders, whose abuses he discerned and exposed both by writings and preaching. The heads of the Irish Franciscans and Dominicans cited him to Avignon, where he appeared, and in presence of Pope Innocent VI. undauntedly maintained the conclusions he had arrived at. The examination of the matter was committed to the cardinals, who, after a long controversy, decided against him. FitzRalph was silenced, and the rights of the friars in relation to preaching, confession, and free sepulchre were maintained. FitzRalph died at Avignon, 16th November 1360. Ten years afterwards, in 1370, his bones are said to have been translated to Dundalk, by Stephen de Valle, Bishop of Meath.

Harris's Ware says: "Because he was an enemy to the mendicants, some have spoken but indifferently of him and his writings, and Bellarmine thinks they ought to be read with caution. Prateolus and others, although they allow him to have been possessed of great accomplishments, yet rank him among the heretics; but Wadding, though not favourable to his cause, yet clears him of this aspersion, . . and adds that he rather offended by the exuberance of his knowledge than by the perversity of his will."

He is said to have translated the Bible into Irish, and by some writers has been ranked amongst the earliest British reformers. Harris's Ware gives an extended list of his writings. Another will be found in Notes and Queries, 2nd Series, by a writer who, as also the author of a note in Cotton's Fasti, cites authorities to show FitzRalph's claim to be considered a native of Devon.


118. Ecclesiae Hiberniae Fasti: Rev. Henry Cotton: Indices by John R. Garstin, M.A. 5 vols. Dublin, 1851-'60.

254. Notes and Queries (2). London, 1850-'78.
O'Callaghan, John C., see No. 186.

339. Ware, Sir James, Works: Walter Harris. 2 vols. Dublin, 1764.

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