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June 8 Saints of the Day – Tevdore Kvelteli and William of York

On this date in 1959, the US Navy fired the first (and last) “Missile Mail” at Mayport, Florida, from an official post office aboard the submarine USS Barbero. It was a dud.

Tevdore KvelteliTevdore Kvelteli (თევდორე კველთელი) (d. 1609) was a Georgian priest during the invasion of 1609. Things looked pretty grim for Georgia as Turkish troops tromped into Tblisi. The king, young Tsar Luarsab II, was staying at his summer palace some distance west of the city. The Ottomans marched thither, leaving a trail of desolation, desecration, and depopulation behind them, with the intent of laying siege to the castle and doing unfortunate things to the king. When they got to Manglisi, a dense fog came up and enshrouded the city, saving it, its people, and its Church of the Most Holy Theotokos.

Most of the citizenry of nearby Kvelta escaped into the woods, but the best the priest Tevdore could do was to lock himself in the church. This wasn’t good enough, alas, and he was taken captive. The enemy demanded he show them the way to the castle (which despite being named “Tskhireti” is not in the Great Castles of the World trading card series) on pain of death. Tevdore, being possessed of holiness, patriotism, wiliness, and a poker face, led them in the exact opposite direction, along a dangerous path from which many of the enemy soldiers fell to a gravity-induced death. When the Ottomans realized that they were being led astray (literally), they beheaded Tevdore, but his ruse gave Luarsab time enough to rally and rout the hated invaders. None of my sources mention relics, although they do say Tevdore’s story has been preserved in folk legend. Now that’s memory eternal!

William of YorkWilliam (FitzHerbert) of York (d. 1154) was a nephew of King Stephen (of England), which may have helped him become Archbishop of York. Immediately the (Cistercian) supporters of (Cistercian) Henry Murdac (who fancied the job himself) accused William of simony and sexual incontinence. Pope Innocent II agreed to grant the pallium if William would swear these allegations were false, which he did. Unfortunately the pallium persisted in not arriving, so William went to Rome himself to bring it back, but not before Innocent died. The new pope, Eugene III, was … (insert ominous organ chord here) … a Cistercian. When world-famous Ciscterican Bernard of Clairvaux also got involved, William’s battleship was sunk. He was suspended, pending an in-person deposition from the Bishop of Durham (for reasons unclear).

Back in York, when the boyz in the ’hood heard about William’s disgrace, they attacked Fountains, the Cistercian abbey in Yorkshire where Murdac was abbot, destroying a building or two or several. William was deposed, and Murdac became his successor. Now it gets fun, for Shakespearean values of “fun.” Stephen refused to let Murdac be seated, hoping to use the situation in a tit-for-tat to obtain succession rights for his son (against Henry of Anjou, drat him anyway). But Henry up and died, making it moot. When Pope Eugene died, William went back to Rome, asking to have his case reheard. The new pope (Anastasius IV) was not a Cistercian, and sure enough gave William his job back. As his victory parade was crossing the Ouse Bridge in York, it collapsed (the bridge, not the parade) (well, actually, much of the parade too). Miraculously no one was killed. Everyone thought this harbinged good things to come, but William died about a month later. One of his archdeacons was accused of poisoning him, and was sent to stand trial before the king, but the king died before he could hear the case. Exeunt omnes.

Within a few months of William’s death, his body was miraculously preserved from burning in a fire, and a sweet-smelling smell came sweetly from the tomb. Other miracles ensued, and after an investigation ordered by Pope Honorius III and carried out by, amazingly enough, the Cistercians, William was declared a saint. His remains, long thought lost, were rediscovered in 1960, and now reside safely in the crypt at York Minster.

William thus has the distinction (honor?) of being the only person to be Archbishop of York twice.

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

June 8 (Wikipedia)
Rocket mail (Wikipedia)
Hieromartyr Theodore of Kvelta (OCA) – Main source
Tewdore Kwelteli (German Wikipedia)
Tevdore Kvelteli (Free Dictionary)
William of York (Wikipedia) – Main source
William Fitzherbert (St. Patrick DC)
Saint William of York (SQPN)


About Your Intrepid Blogger

I live in the Tacoma area. When not writing things some people think are funny, I teach technology to 7th and 8th graders at a local middle school.

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