Saint of the Day – 8 June – Saint William of York (Died 1154) Archbishop of York, Monk. Also known as William FitzHerbert, William FitzHerbert of York, William of Thwayt.
Born William FitzHerbert in York, William was the son of Herbert of Winchester, Chancellor and Treasurer of King Henry I. Thus born into a powerful family in 12th-century England, William seemed destined for great things. His uncle was next in line for the English throne—though a nasty dynastic struggle complicated things. William himself faced an internal Church feud.
He was elected as the Archbishop of York in 1140. His selection was challenged by reformers, especially a group of Cistercians and William was accused of simony, sexual misconduct and being unduly influenced by his connections to the Royal Court.
The Vatican investigated and Pope Innocent cleared him of all charges,and confirmed him as Archbishop on 26 September 1143, 3 years of his election. However, the charges resurfaced a few years later under Pope Eugene III, a Cistercian; Eugene suspended William from his See and in 1147 removed him as Archbishop, replacing him with the Cistercian Henry Murdac, Abbot of Fountains’ Abbey. Some of William’s supporters took to the streets to defend him and during a riot, they attacked and burned a section of the Monastery of Fountains’ Abbey. William, however, retired to Winchester and became a Monk, noted for his austerities and active prayer life.
In 1154, in the reign of Pope Anastasius IV, William was called from his seclusion and again became the Archbishop of York. When he entered the City that Spring after years of exile, he received an enthusiastic welcome. Within two months, however, he was dead, probably from poisoning believed to be in the sacramental wine. One of William’s Clerks accused Osbert de Bayeux, an Archdeacon of York and Osbert was summoned before the King to be tried at the Royal Court. But the King died before the trial could take place ad it seems to have never occurred.
William was buried at York Cathedral. A few months of his death, miracles were attributed to his intervention and a sweet smell came from his tomb when it was damaged during a fire. Nor was the body decayed or burnt in the fire. Pope Honorius III then ordered an investigation into the miracles. In 1226, he was Canonised in Rome by Pope Honorius III on 18 March 1226, just 73 years after his death.