The Catholic Historical Review 89.3 (2003) 550-551
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The Register of William Melton, Archbishop of York, 1317-1340, Volume V. Edited by T. C. B. Timmins. [The Canterbury and York Society, Vol. XCIII.] (Rochester, New York: The Boydell Press. 2002. Pp. x, 241. $50.00.)
This fifth volume (Capitula) of Melton's register has not quite reached the halfway point of the total work (595 folios). Unfortunately, none of the five volumes contains more than a cursory introduction. This volume (folios LXVI to CXXII) "covers the cathedral chapter, the chapters of the collegiate churches ofBeverley, Howden... Ripon, and Southwell, and the collegiate chapel of StMary & Holy Angels.. ." (p. vii). Some of the 526 documents aretranscribedin full in Latin; more are calendared in English. Most of the documents record routine administration, for example, visitations provisions,excommunications, conflicts with the dean and chapter of York, grantingof indulgences, permissions to preach and hear confessions, licenses for non-residence, and controversies over prebends. As with other sources of this kind, several documents throw interesting sidelights on medieval times. For example, a chapel yard wasdedicated at Haxby because of problems of distance and terrain; atleast one corpse had fallen into the Foss River while being transported. Thereareseveral commissions for penitentiaries to hear confessions even in reservedcases "except poaching in [the] archbishop's parks and raping or havingsexual intercourse with nuns" (#223). The editor has added two indices;hisalmost one thousand footnotes attest to his careful scholarship. A word processor would have helped construct a more thorough subject index sincesome specific examples are missing, for example, a number of references to excommunication, and several entire topics, including preaching, poaching, and rape.
In two appendices the editor provides an example of what careful analysis can glean from documents like the Capitula. First Timmins lists fifty-eight papalprovisions and provisory faculties to the churches of York, Southwell, Beverley, and Ripon that are not recorded in the Capitula or in the Sede Vacante Register of 1315-1317; then, adding the material from the Capitula, heanalyzes papal provisions to those four churches between 1316 and 1340.The "unprecedented growth in the number of [papal] provisions" between 1316 and 1334, the pontificate of John XXII "resulted," Timmins concludes, "in a massive erosion of archiepiscopal patronage" (p. 187). Provisory faculties, which enabled an archbishop to nominate to benefices with almost certain assurance of success, also declined sharply. Yet the interests of the English crown were not necessarily harmed; for the court, meaning the ruler, his family, and his officials, served as the patrons for almost half of all provisors,while about a quarter enjoyed the support of officials at the papal court;less than ten per cent of provisions came from the archbishop. Timmins,however, also demonstrates that less than half of all provisors were actually successful in gaining a benefice. About a third of provisors in Beverley, Ripon,and Southwell were natives of the diocese of York, and foreign provisorswere a small minority, receiving only 17 per cent of all provisions. But in [End Page 550] York Minster foreigners dominated, comprising half of provisors, although a quarter of these owed their provision to the patronage of king and queen.
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