Henry Murdac

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Cistercian monk, archbishop of York; d. Sherborne, England, Oct. 14, 1153. Henry, who first appears among the clergy of York, was invited to clairvaux by St. bernard, and there he embraced monastic life. In 1135 he was sent to Vauclair in the Diocese of Laon, France, with 12 monks to establish a monastery of which he became abbot. Before long he came into sharp conflict with the abbot of a neighboring Premonstratensian house, thus revealing the pugnacity and contentiousness that were to mar his later years. On the death of the abbot of fountains, in England, Bernard dispatched Henry there to advise on the filling of the office. Murdac was himself elected and, on Bernard's instructions, accepted. During his short term of office, Fountains reached a new peak of vigor and fruitfulness: five daughterhouses were founded (four in England and Lysekloster in Norway), greater conformity to the severe discipline of Clairvaux was imposed, and the prosperity of the abbey increased. Intervening vigorously in the disputes that divided the cathedral chapter and See of York, where the appointment of william fitzherbert as archbishop had aroused bitter conflict, Murdac found himself attacked by Fitzherbert's party, which sacked and burned his abbey church and reduced the monastery to ruins. Murdac at once set about rebuilding. Present at the council in Paris in 1147, when Pope Eugene III deprived Fitzherbert, Murdac crossed again to France when the chapter's vote proved indecisive. Favored for York by Bernard and the Cistercian pope, he was received with honor at Trier, consecrated on December 7, and presented with the pallium. Upon returning home he met with King stephen's resentment, the confiscation of his prebends, and the hostility of his clergy and the populace. He retired to ripon; and it was only after several years of fulmination and violence that the parties were reconciled and he was at last enthroned (January 1153). Before long another quarrel broke out, this time with durham. Riots at York drove the archbishop to flight, and though the quarrel was soon patched up, he never returned alive to York. He was buried in York Minster. Murdac was a man of high integrity, personal austerity, and noble ideals, but severe, unyielding, and intolerant. Yet he enjoyed the uninterrupted sympathy and support of St. Bernard and raised the Cistercians in England to new heights of influence and achievement.

See Also: cistercians.

Bibliography: Acta Sanctorum June 2 (1863) 136144. bernard of clairvaux, Epistolae 106, 206, 320, 321; Patrologia Latina, ed. j. p. migne (Paris 187890) v.182. w. h. dixon, Fasti Eboracenses, ed. j. raine (London 1863) 310320, 320333. The Dictionary of National Biography from the Earliest Times to 1900, 63 v. (London 18851900) 13:121820; 1908) 7:173176, summary of the conflict in York. d. knowles, The Monastic Order in England, 9431216 (2d ed. Cambridge, Eng. 1962) 255257.

[j. h. baxter]