(died 7 May 721) was an Angle bishop during the time of the kingdom of Northumbria. He was the Bishop of Hexham and then the Bishop of York which was the most important religious designation in the area. He went on to found the town of Beverley by building the first structure there, a monastery. John was associated with miracles during and after his lifetime, he has since been made a saint when he was canonised by the Church in 1037.
The earliest existing mention of the banner of St John is in 1138 when Thurstan incorporated it into the standard which gave its name to the Battle of the Standard. By 1266 it was accepted that when levies from were made in Yorkshire for the royal army, it was sufficient for Beverley to send one man with the banner of St John. In 1292 a new shrine was commissioned. An extant contract between Roger de Faringdon and the Cannons of Beverley Minster states:
For a silver-gilt shrine, made from gold and silver supplied by the Chapter, 5ft long, 1ft wide. Of proportionate height, beautiful, and adorned with plates and columns in architectural style with figures everywhere of size and number as the Chapter determine, and canopies and pinnacles before and behind, and other proper ornaments. Roger to remake any figure at the whim of The Chapter. The pay to be silver equal to the weight used before gilding. Roger may not undertake any other work before completion.
Edward I was a devotee of St John and furthered the cult. In 1295 Edward established a chantry in Beverley Minster in the saint's honour. In 1301, he gave 50 marks towards the building of the shrine and diverted half of a fine owed by the town to the same purpose and ceded the remaining half.
On 1307-10-25 John's relics were translated to the new tomb.
Edward I visited the Minster in 1296, 1297, and 1300 on his way north to fight with the Scottish and took the banner of John to aid him. Edward II, Edward III, and Henry IV also used the banner in military campaigns.
During the Middle Ages his name was also attached to the legend of a hermit who commits grave sins but nonetheless enjoys God's grace. This text survives in the Dutch chapbook Historie van Jan van Beverley, first printed by Thomas van der Noot in Brussels in 1543.
Henry V gave the credit for his victory at the Battle of Agincourt to the miraculous intervention of John, the battle having been fought on the anniversary of John's translation. On the day of the battle, blood and oil were seen running from the tomb. Henry made John one of the patrons of the royal household and ordered that his feast was to be celebrated throughout England. Henry and his Queen came to Beverley in 1420 to make offerings at the saint's shrine.
In 1541, the shrine was destroyed on the orders of Henry VIII as part of the English Reformation. Its contents disappeared from records. In 1664, workmen discovered a vault under the floor of the Minster's nave. Made of stone, it was 15ft long and 2ft wide at the head and 1ft wide at the base. Encased in lead, were found ashes, six beads, three great brass pins and four large iron nails. The lead had the following inscription:
In the year from the incarnation of our Lord, 1138, this church was burnt in the month of September, the night after the feast of St Matthew the Apostle and in the year 1197, the 6th of the ides of March, there was an inquisition made of the relics of the Blessed John in this place, and these bones were found in the east part of this sepulchre, and redeposited; dust mixed with mortar was found likewise and re-interred.
In 1738, when the present Minster floor was laid, the same relics were dug up and replaced in the same position with an arched brick vault over them. This was covered by a marble slab, similar to others in the nave. On the roof of the church, over the tomb, Reliquas beati Johanis Beverlacenic his undicat.
The inscription on the tomb now reads:
THE BODY OF SAINT JOHN OF BEVERLEY
FOUNDER OF THIS CHURCH
BISHOP OF HEXHAM AD 687-705
BISHOP OF YORK A.D. 705-718
HE WAS BORN AT HARPHAM
AND DIED AT BEVERLEY
In recent times, the feast of St John has been marked in Beverley in two ways. On the Thursday nearest 7 May the choir and members of the congregation of Beverley Minster go the church at Harpham and process to the well. The well is decorated (prior to the event) with flowers. After singing an anthem and praying, the procession returns to the church for choral evensong.
On the Sunday nearest 7 May the civic dignitaries process in full regalia with mace bearers to the Minster. The procession enters by the Great West Door. During the following service, children from Harpham present primroses gathered from the woods around the village. The flowers are placed around John's tomb.
Propers for St. John of Beverley - Monastic & Bishop
O God, who hast brought us near to an innumerable company of angels and to the spirits of just men made perfect: Grant us during our earthly pilgrimage to abide in their fellowship, and in our heavenly country to become partakers of their joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The Epistle - Philippians 4:4-9.
REJOICE in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice, Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
The Gospel - St. Luke 6:17-23.
JESUS came down and stood in the plain, with the company of his disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coasts of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases; and they that were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed. And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all. And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye still be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven.
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