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Encyclopedia > John Peckham

John Peckham or Pecham (died 1292), was Archbishop of Canterbury in the years 1279-1292.


Peckham, probably a native of Sussex, received his early education from the Cluniac monks of Lewes. About 1250, he joined the Franciscan order and studied in their Oxford convent. Shortly afterwards he proceeded to the University of Paris, where he took his degree under St Bonaventura and became regent in theology. For years Peckham taught at Paris, coming into contact with the greatest scholars of the day, among others St Thomas Aquinas. About 1270, he returned to Oxford and taught there, being elected in 1275 provincial minister of the Franciscans in England, but he was soon afterwards called to Rome as lector sacri palatii, or theological lecturer in the schools of the papal palace. In 1279 he returned to England as Archbishop of Canterbury, being appointed by the pope on the rejection of Robert Burnell, Edward I's preferred candidate. Peckham was always a strenuous advocate of the papal power, especially at the council of Lyons in 1274. His enthronement in October 1279 was the beginning of an important epoch in the history of the English primacy.


Peckham's insistence on discipline offended contemporaries. His first act on arrival in England was to call a council at Reading, which met in July 1279. Its main object was ecclesiastical reform, but the provision that a copy of Magna Carta should be hung in all cathedral and collegiate churches seemed to the king a political action, and parliament declared void any action of this council touching on the royal power. Nevertheless Peckham's relations with the king were generally good, and Edward called on him for help in bringing order into conquered Wales, sending him on a diplomatic mission to Llywelyn the Last.


The crime of " plurality," the holding by one cleric of two or more benefices, was one of Peckham's targets, as were clerical absenteeism and laxity in the monastic life. His main instrument was a system of " visitation," which he used with an unprecedented frequency. Disputes resulted, and on some points Peckham gave way, but his powers as papal legate complicated matters, and he did much to strengthen the court of Canterbury at the expense of the lower courts. The famous quarrel with St Thomas of Cantilupe, Bishop of Hereford, arose from similar causes. The numerous manuscripts of Peckham's works to be found in the libraries of Italy, England and France, testify to his industry as a philosopher and commentator. In philosophy he represents the Franciscan school which attacked the teaching of St Thomas Aquinas on the "Unity of Form." He wrote in a quaint and elaborate style on scientific, scriptural and moral subjects and engaged in much controversy in defence of the Franciscan rule. He was "an excellent maker of songs," and his hymns are characterized by a lyrical tenderness which seems typically Franciscan. Printed examples of his work as commentator and hymn writer respectively may be found in the Fir amentum Irium ordinum (Paris, 1512), and his office for Trinity Sunday in the " unreformed " breviary.


The above text is updated from the public domain resource, 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica. It may contain inaccuracies and mistakes


 
 

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