A Lincoln academic has written to the Vatican asking the Pope to canonise Robert Grosseteste, the 13th-century Bishop of Lincoln.
Dr Jack Cunningham, a theology lecturer at Bishop Grosseteste University College Lincoln, says Grosseteste was a philosopher and intellectual who deserves to be made a saint – but for political reasons his reputation was unfairly damaged and he was never canonised.
Dr Cunningham’s book – Robert Grosseteste: His Thought and Its Impact – will be launched this weekend, and the author aims to use the event to rally support for his cause.
“It’s a really interesting story, and it’s a mystery why this influential mediaeval thinker was never made a saint,” Dr Cunningham explained.
“The story goes that after his death he appeared as a ghost to Pope Innocent IV and hit him in the side with his bishop’s staff as punishment for the pontiff’s waywardness and corruption.
“In fact this is a legend which has no basis in truth, but it was recorded by the Benedictine chronicler Matthew Paris, and as a result Robert Grosseteste went down in history as an English hero who stood up to the Pope.
“His reputation was scuppered. Clearly he should have been canonised but he became associated with an anti-Papist movement which ultimately led to the formation of the Church of England.”
Dr Cunningham wrote to the Vatican in the New Year and is still awaiting a reply –
but he has had an encouraging response from the Roman Catholic Bishop of Nottingham.
“Before we can make any headway on this we need to provide evidence of local devotion and prove that he has performed two present-day miracles,” said Dr Cunningham.
Robert Grosseteste: His Thought and Its Impact is a collection of essays by some of the world’s finest mediaeval historians and philosophers. It will be launched with a lecture by Dr Cunningham at Bishop Grosseteste University College on Saturday 5th May as part of BG’s One Big Reunion event.
“There’s a lot of academic interest in Robert Grosseteste but not so much religious interest, and I think he deserves it now,” said Dr Cunningham.
“He was a scientist and a theologian – that was unusual in mediaeval times and even now science and religion are meeting head-on, with creationists on one side and people like Richard Dawkins on the other.
“Robert Grosseteste is a good example of someone who argues that you could be both. He even came up with a theory of creation which seems to anticipate the Big Bang Theory seven centuries later.”
Dr Cunningham’s aim is to raise Robert Grosseteste’s profile and gather support for his canonisation. “People don’t know much about him but he’s a fascinating character, on a par with Thomas Aquinas. He was a deep thinker but also a good bishop who travelled around his huge diocese in a horse and carriage visiting all his parishes.
“To have him canonised would be a massive event for Lincoln’s most famous historical figure. In my opinion he should be made the patron saint of quantum physics.”