Bishop Philip Repyndon’s Generous Ritual Of Thirteens

Philip Repyndon (or Repindon) was the bishop of Lincoln from 1405 until 1419. He was an open-minded and caring individual, who showed sympathy to the Lollard heretics and made an effort to care for the poor in his bishopric. He also encouraged a burgeoning self-proclaimed prophetess and mystic named Margery Kempe. She came to speak with him about her religious visions and experiences around 1413, and also asked his opinion on some of her goals, including making a vow of chastity (even though she was married and a mother), as well as wearing a wardrobe of religiously-significant white garments. Bishop Philip, on these matters, gave his blessing to Margery Kempe—although he also directed her to see the Archbishop of Canterbury for a second opinion—and suggested that she should narrate her experiences and beliefs to a scribe. Many years later, she would take up his advice and hire someone to write down her narrated autobiography, The Book of Margery Kempe.

Philip Repyndon left an impression on Margery, and she mentioned him in her book. In particular, she was struck by the effort he took to aid those in need who lived in his bishopric. Bishop Philip reportedly had a charitable ceremony that he enacted before sitting down to eat his daily meals. Margery Kempe (who referred to herself as “this creature” in her autobiography) described witnessing Bishop Repyndon’s curious ritual:

“Another day this creature came to a meal at the Bishop’s request, and she saw him, before he sat down to his meal, give with his own hands to thirteen poor men thirteen pence and thirteen loaves, together with other food. And so he did every day. This creature was stirred to high devotion by this sight, and gave God praise and worship because he gave the Bishop grace to do these good deeds, with such abundant weeping that all the Bishop’s household wondered what was wrong with her” (The Book of Margery Kempe, Book I, chapter 15).

Despite this glowing review, Margery Kempe’s opinion of Bishop Philip soured a little as he continued to pressure her to consult with the Archbishop of Canterbury over issues such as whether or not she could wear white clothes without being an official nun or vowess. Although Philip Repyndon encouraged her endeavors privately, he was not willing to give her his full-fledged public support if it would put him at odds with his higher-ups in the church. After all, he had already come under scrutiny for his aforementioned sympathy for the Lollard heresy. Such hesitance caused friction between the bishop and the prospective holy woman, but Philip Repyndon tried to mend their relationship with money. According to Margery Kempe, “he gave her twenty-six shillings and eight pence to buy her clothes with, and to pray for him” (The Book of Margery Kempe, Book I, chapter 15).

Written by C. Keith Hansley

Picture Attribution: (Thomas of Villanova, Archbishop of Valencia, Distributing Alms to the Poor, by Pedro Orrente (1580–1645), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons).

 

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