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Thomas of Eccleston

Thirteenth-century Friar Minor and chronicler, dates of birth and death unknown

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Eccleston, THOMAS OF, thirteenth-century Friar Minor and chronicler, dates of birth and death unknown. He styles himself simply “Brother Thomas”, and Bale seems to have first given him the title “of Eccleston”. He appears to have entered the order about 1232-3 and to have been a student at Oxford between 1230 and 1240. After the latter year he was stationed at the convent in London, but he does not appear to have ever held any office in the order. He is chiefly famous for his chronicle “De Adventu Fratrum Minorum in Angliam”, which extends from the coming of the friars into England under Agnellus of Pisa, in 1224, up to about 1258, when the work was probably completed. Eccleston declares that he spent twenty-six years collecting material for his chronicle, most of the information it contains being derived from personal knowledge or verbal communication, although he seems to have had access to certain written documents now lost. His “De Adventu” is a collection of notes rather than a finished work. He describes with extreme simplicity and vividness what has been called the heroic period of the Franciscan movement in England. In spite of the absence of dates and of any chronological sequence and of its tendency to extol the English province above all others, his chronicle is very valuable and is accurate and reliable in all that concerns the establishment and spread of the Friars Minor in England. Incidentally it throws some light on the trend of early Franciscan events and thought in general. Four MSS. of the “De Adventu”, all of which go back to one lost archetype, are known to scholars. The chronicle has been often edited; in part by Brewer in the “Monumenta Franciscana” (Rolls Series, London, 1858); and by Howlett in the same series (1882); by the Friars Minor at Quaracchi (in Analecta Franciscana, I, 1885, 217-57); by Liebermann in the “Monumenta Germaniae” (XXVIII, Hanover, 1885, 560-69). A critical edition of the complete text is much needed. There is an English translation of Eccleston’s work by Father Cuthbert, O.S.F.C., “The Friars and how they came to England” (London, 1903).


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