Lexinton, Stephen de

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Cistercian reformer, abbot, founder of the Cistercian College at the University of Paris; b. Lexinton, Nottinghamshire, England, between 1190 and 1196; d. Ourscamp Abbey, Oise, France, March 21, 1260. He came from a distinguished family: his father, Richard of Lexinton, had three other sons, Robert, a judge (d. 1250), John, a royal clerk and keeper of the great seal (d. 1257), and Henry, Bishop of Lincoln (d. 1258). Stephen was intended for the Church and was sent to study in Paris and then in Oxford under edmund of abingdon. In 1215 King John appointed him to a canonry in Southwell, Nottinghamshire, but in 1221 Stephen chose to become a cistercian monk at quarr, Isle of Wight. In 1223 he was made abbot of Stanley Abbey in Wiltshire, and in 1227 he was sent to reform the Cistercian abbeys in Ireland. Finding them in a disgraceful state, he was forced to use the drastic remedy of suppressing the whole filiation of mellifont, placing those abbeys under the visitation and supervision of a number of English houses, a system that lasted until 1274 when the filiation was restored. In 1229 he was appointed abbot of savigny, and in 1235 he played an important part in resolving the difficulties that had risen between the abbot of cÎteaux and the four abbots of clairvaux, la fertÉ, pontigny, and morimond. In 1241 he was summoned to Rome and narrowly escaped being captured with the other Cistercian abbots by Emperor frederick ii. When Abbot William of Clairvaux died in captivity, Stephen was elected to succeed him (1243). In 1245 he undertook his most controversial action, that of founding a Cistercian house of studies, the Collège St. Bernard, at the University of Paris. matthew paris says that Stephen was deposed because of this action by the abbot of Cîteaux in 1256. Paris's statement has been challenged, but C. H. Lawrence has recently proven that there can be no doubt but that Stephen was actually deposed, and furthermore, that despite the strong support of Pope alexander iv, who ordered that he should be restored to office and thought of promoting him to an English archbishopric (probably York), he retired to Clairvaux's daughter house of Ourscamp, where he died. A register book of his early letters up to 1241 has survived and is printed in Analecta Sacri Ordinis Cisterciensis 2 (1946): 1118; 8 (1952): 181378.

Bibliography: a. b. emden, A Biographical Register of the University of Oxford to a.d. 1500, 3 v. (195759) 2: 11401141. c. h. lawrence, "Stephen of Lexington and Cistercian University Studies in the Thirteenth Century," The Journal of Ecclesiastical History 11 (1960): 164179.

[d. l. bethell]