LIVES OF THE BISHOPS OF EXETER
BARTHOLOMEW, the ornament and pride of Exeter, and "the luminary of the English Church," for so he was designated by Pope Alexander III., was of humble origin in this city; but a rare felicity of genius recommended and enhanced by modest merit, commanded public attention. Embracing the ecclesiastical state, honours and preferments courted his acceptance: from Canon and Archdeacon of Exeter he was selected to become its bishop. The Primate Theobald, then dangerously ill, gave directions to his own brother Walter, Bishop of Rochester, to perform in his stead the office of consecrating the elect; but before he could proceed to do so, the archbishop died on the 18th April, 1161; and a new commission was therefore issued by Gilbert, the Prior of Christ Church, Canterbury, to enable the said Walter to perform the ceremony.
All the contemporaries of Bartholomew extol him for his wisdom and learning. His dialogue against the Jews was pronounced in later times by Leland as "acuminis et nervorum plenissimum," and in his work 'De Scriptoribus Brit.' p. 225, he enumerates the Prelate's treatises " de Prædestinatione, de libero arbitrio et de Poenitentia," to which Pitseus adds "de obitu S. Thomæ, Cantuariensis, Contra falsitatis errorem, De mundo et corporibus coelestibus; and his Epistolæ. In the catalogue of our cathedral library, taken in 1506, we meet also with his "Sermones et Summa."
Of his acts within the diocese we glean but slender details; but we know that St. German's Priory regarded him as her second founder, and, until its dissolution, distributed yearly 4l. on Maundy Thursday amongst the poor, in grateful remembrance of his bounty; and that Plympton Priory and St. Mary Magdalene's Hospital, Exeter, venerated him, as a special benefactor. To the infant nunnery of Polslo, near this city, he assigned a pension from the episcopal domain at Ashburton. To his chapter he appropriated the Church of Colebrooke, but with the reserved pension of ten shillings to the brethren of St. John's Hospital of Jerusalem in London. And he must ever be intitled to commendation for his generous patronage of scholars, especially of Baldwin, his poor townsman, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, to whom he proved himself a Mecænas, and more than a father. His grand title to panegyric, however, in the view of modem writers, is fierce opposition to his primate St. Thomas of Canterbury. "He was a great adversary of Archbishop Becket," say the editors of the late edition of the 'Monasticon Anglicanum' (vol. ii. p. 515). Of the merits of that controversy no one can be competent to form a correct judgment, who does not transfer himself to the middle of the twelfth century, and take his stand by the then established constitution of England, without reference to subsequent or present usages and statutes. That King Henry II. had solemnly confirmed at his coronation, to God and the English Church, all the rights which the clergy had possessed in the reign of his royal grandfather, the first Henry, is undeniable; and that he had pledged his faith to renounce and abolish all the bad customs and innovations, which the former monarch had renounced and abolished, is equally unquestionable (Wilkins' 'Conc.' vol. ii. p. 426). It is also a recorded fact that a general feeling of alarm pervaded the nation at the accession of Henry II., from the notoriety of his capricious, despotic, and vindictive character. And perhaps no man was better qualified to arrive at a sounder opinion on the subject by his previous intimate acquaintance with the king's feelings and habits, and by his knowledge of the laws, than Thomas, " who fulfilled all the functions of chancellor most satisfactorily, and was celebrated for his impartiality" (Campbell's 'Lives of the Lord Chancellors,' vol. i. pp. 97-100) It cannot be denied, that in the early part of the controversy our bishop did side with the majority of the prelates against the primate, and was even employed by the king as ambassador to Pope Alexander III. at Sens to prefer charges against him. But it is not less true and certain that both Bartholomew and Roger, Bishop of Worcester, saw sufficient cause to 'alter their minds on the merits of the question - that they sought a reconciliation with the exiled archbishop - that Bishop Bartholomew proposed to remain with him in voluntary banishment, and was only prevented from doing so by the primate's persuasion. Our venerable bishop submitted to this counsel; but employed his influence at home in protecting the friends and kindred of Thomas from the vexatious prosecution of the court officials; and he occasionally conveyed to him pecuniary succour - a service of considerable difficulty and peril ('Angl. Sacra,' vol. ii. p. 429), and when at last the cathedral church of Canterbury, desecrated by the effusion of the primate's blood, was to be reconciled, who was selected by his fellow bishops to preach on the occasion but our Bartholomew? He took for his text the words of the Psalmist, xciii. 19 of the Vulgate,- "Secundum multitudinem dolorum meorum in corde meo, consolationes tuæ lætificaverunt animam meam" (Ralph, 'De Diceto,' Mat. Paris, &c.). Through him we suspect were obtained some of the relics of the saint for this cathedral. In the catalogue of them, written in the characters of the 12th century, we read "De capite et sanguine S. Thomæ Martyris, et pars magma cilicii ipsius, et maxima pars ejus Camisiæ intincta sanguine ipsius." The last public act of our Prelate is his witnessing in 1177 the award of his sovereign in the dispute between Alphonsus king of Castille, and Sanctius king of Navarre (Rymer's 'Foedera,' tom. v. 48).
Closing a lengthened life by a pious death, on 14th December, 1184, he was buried in his cathedral. "Senio molestatus obiit, in sua Ecclesia sepultus," says Bale ('Cent.' p.224. Basle ed. 1557). He is the first of our Bishops whose effigies is decorated with a mitre; on the reverse of his seal are introduced a male and female figure with hands joined, with this motto
Arms: - According to Izacke, Party per pale gules and sable, six dolphins naiant, argent. According to Westcote, Per pale sable and argent, six dolphins transmuted.
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