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Ushaw College

DH7 7DW

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Saving Catholic Grosseteste: Fr Philip Perry’s Lost Biography

Ushaw Lecture by Dr Jack Cunningham (Bishop Grosseteste University)

A summary of the lecture summary can be found below.

This lecture is free of charge and is open to the public (but please book a place, by clicking on "Register" above).

Programme for the evening (all at Ushaw)

  • 17.30 Drinks reception in the Refectory
  • 18.00 Lecture in the Exhibition Hall
  • 19.15 Close

Getting there

There will be a minibus transporting people to the lecture from Durham City - for those who don't have their own transport. To book a place on the minibus, please register by 10am on Thursday 15 February by clicking on 'Register' above as normal and selecting the 'with transport' option.

  • Outward journey: Depart Elvet Riverside (New Elvet, Durham City, roughly opposite the police station) at 5.05pm
  • Return journey: Depart from main entrance of Ushaw at 7.30pm, returning to Elvet Riverside with a stop at North Road

If you need help with transport from a different location, please contact us.

For directions, please see the Ushaw website.

Lecture summary

The great medieval scholar and bishop of Lincoln, Robert Grosseteste (c. 1168-1253) was the very epitome of the polymath. A scientist, philosopher, translator, theologian and poet; his learning, imagination and his vast wisdom are little short of awe-inspiring. He was also bishop of the largest diocese in England and in this role he came into conflict with the papacy. In particular, he strongly opposed the policy of giving English benefices to absentee Italians, an opposition he was not afraid to voice in the strongest possible terms. For this reason he was much vaunted in later centuries by Church reformers. John Wyclif admired him greatly and by the time we get to the English Reformation writers such as John Foxe were keen to claim Grosseteste as a type of proto-Protestant.

In the eighteenth century Fr Philip Perry, the Rector of St Alban’s English seminary in Valladolid, decided to challenge this image by writing a biography of Grosseteste that would restore his reputation as a solid Roman Catholic. However, Perry’s timing could not have been less auspicious. In 1760s English Catholics were close to achieving emancipation, the Vicar Apostolic, Richard Challoner suppressed the polemical text and to this day it remains in handwritten manuscript form. This is a considerable pity because Perry’s work has many qualities and it offers us a fascinating glimpse into both the life of one of England’s greatest ecclesiastics and also into the precarious politics of the eighteenth-century English Catholic Church. This text has been recently prepared for publication by Jack Cunningham and it will provide the topic for his lecture.

Speaker biography

Dr Jack Cunningham FRHistS is Reader in Ecclesiastical History and Programme Leader for Theology at Bishop Grosseteste University. He is also been a member of the Ordered Universe Project at Durham University. This project brings together scientists, theologians, historians and mathematicians to work on the writings of Robert Grosseteste. His publications include: Robert Grosseteste; His Thought and its Impact and Robert Grosseteste and the pursuit of Religious and Scientific Learning in the Middle-Ages.

The Ushaw Lecture Series

The Ushaw Lecture Series celebrates the cultural and research significance of the remarkable bibliographical, archival and material-cultural collections at Ushaw, and the wider history of which they are expressions. The lectures cover music, art, drama, poetry and literature, architecture, material-culture, politics, science and theology.



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