June 8 – Tevdore Kvelteli; William of York

Tevdore Kvelteli (d. 1609) (თევდორე კველთელი) was a Georgian priest during the Ottoman invasion (of Georgia) 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.

Though most of the citizenry of nearby Kvelta escaped into the woods, the best Tevdore could do was to lock himself in the church. Didn’t work; 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 (actually it was the abrupt stop at the end rather than the fall itself that killed them). When the Ottomans realized that they were being led astray, they beheaded Tevdore, but his ruse gave Luarsab time enough to rally and rout the hated invaders. No mention of relics, but Tevdore’s story has been preserved in folk legend. Now that’s memory eternal!

William of York (d. 1154), aka FitzHerbert, was nephew to 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[1] 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 (St.) Bernard of Clairvaux (Aug 20) 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 boys heard about William’s disgrace, they attacked Fountains, the Cistercian abbey, destroying a building or two or several. William was deposed, to be succeded by Murdac (abbot of Fountains). Now it gets fun, for Shakespearean values of “fun.” Stephen refused to let Murdac be seated, hoping to set up a quid pro quo to obtain succession rights for his son against Henry of Anjou. Then Henry up and died, making it moot. When Eugene III died, William went back to Rome, asking to have his case reheard. The new pope (Anastasius IV), not a Cistercian, gave William his job back. As his victory parade was crossing the Ouse Bridge in York, it collapsed, but 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.

Preservation from burning, sweet-smelling smells, and other miracles followed William’s death, 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. I could find no patronage.


[1] A sort of a cape-like thing signifying archbishopric rank, bestowed by the Pope in lieu of a certificate or certified letter or like that. Those were simpler times.