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Richard Fleming

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Bishop of Lincoln and founder of Lincoln College, Oxford; b. of a good Yorkshire family about 1360, Croston being sometimes mentioned, though without clear authority, as his birthplace; d. at Sleaford, 25 Jan., 1431.

[He was actually born about 1385; in 1403 he received a papal dispensation on reaching the age of 18 to hold a benefice with cure. Crofton is a village about ten miles north of the Fleming family's manor of Wath-on-Dearne, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, but the family also held a farm at Croston in Lancashire — Ed.]

He studied at University College, Oxford, and became junior proctor in 1407. In 1409 he was chosen by convocation as one of the twelve commissioners appointed to examine the writings of Wyclif, though at this time he was suspected of sympathy with the new movement and is mentioned by name in a mandate which Archbishop Arundel addressed to the chancellor in 1409 in order to suppress this tendency in the university. If the archbishop's description is correct the date usually assigned for Fleming's birth must be far too early, for a man close on fifty could not be mentioned as one of a company of beardless boys who had scarcely put away the playthings of youth (Wilkins, Conc. Magn. Brit., III, 322). [See the note on his birth date above. --Ed.] If he ever had any sympathy with Wyclif it did not extend to Wyclif's heretical doctrines, for his own orthodoxy was beyond suspicion and it subsequently became his duty as bishop to burn the exhumed body of Wyclif in 1428. [This was well into his episcopate and over a decade after it had been mandated by the Council of Constance; Fleming was not a zealous prosecutor of heresy. --Ed.] He held successively the prebends of South Newbald (22 Aug., 1406) and Langtoft (21 Aug. 1415), both in York Diocese, and subsequently was rector of Boston. He became bachelor in divinity some time before 1413.

[Fleming actually became rector of Boston on 27 Nov. 1408 and took possession of the temporalities of that parish on 8 Jan. 1409, after being ordained on 18 Dec. 1408. On 3 March 1413, Bp. Repyngdon of Lincoln commissioned Fleming, along with the future chancellor of Oxford, William Barrow, to act as his representatives in examining candidates presenting themselves and issuing preaching licenses to suitable preachers at Oxford. Contrary to the statement that he became bachelor in divinity before 1413, the earliest mention of Fleming as a bachelor of theology is dated March 1414. After that, he attended the Council of Constance, probably arriving in the early Autumn of 1416, and delivered at least five sermons there between January and October 1417, in which clerical reform was the consistent theme; these include several eulogies, one of which was for Bishop Robert Hallum of Salisbury and another for Francesco Zabarella, Bishop of Florence. --Ed.]

Finally he was elected Bishop of Lincoln, 20 Nov., 1419, in succession to Philip Repyngdon, and was consecrated at Florence [by Martin V], 28 April, 1420. In 1422 he was in Germany at the head of an embassy, and in June 1423 he acted as president of the English representatives at the Council of Pavia which was transferred to Siena and finally developed into the Council of Basle. More than once he preached before the council, but as he supported the rights of the pope against the assembled Fathers his views were disapproved of. The pope, however, showed him favour by appointing him as his chamberlain and naming him Archbishop of York in 1424. [He was appointed chamberlain on 31 Jan. 1418, near the conclusion of the Council of Constance, not after Pavia-Siena. --Ed.]

Difficulties, however, arose with the king's ministers, and the appointment was set aside [as a violation of the Statute of Provisors]. On returning to Lincoln, the bishop began the foundation of Lincoln College, which he intended to be a collegiolum of theologians connected with the three parish churches of St. Mildred, St. Michael, and Allhallows, Oxford. The preface which he wrote to the statutes is printed in the "Statutes of Lincoln College" (Oxford 1853). He proved a vigorous administrator of his diocese, and added to his cathedral a chantry in which he was subsequently buried. One work now lost, "Super Angliae Etymologia", is attributed to him by Bale.

[Although his sermons at Pavia-Siena are apparently lost, a number from Constance do survive: five sermons that are firmly attributed to him, and one that is less certain (the eulogy for Zabarella), as well as an anonymous eulogy for Richard Dereham, Chancellor of Cambridge, that was very likely delivered by Fleming. --Ed.]

[New Advent thanks Dr. Chris L. Nighman, an expert on Richard Fleming, for providing the 2004 supplementary notes to this article.]


[SUPPLEMENTAL REFERENCE: BLISS & TREMLOW, Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers relating to Great Britain, 5. p. 528]

About this page

APA citation. Burton, E. (1909). Richard Fleming. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Burton, Edwin. "Richard Fleming." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Joseph P. Thomas.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. September 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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