SAINT JOHN OF BEVERLEY AND THE BATTLE OF AGINCOURT 1415
John, Bishop of York, founded a monastery in 8th century Saxon England on the site which would later become Beverley Minster
He retired to the monastery and spent his last days ‘in a manner pleasing to God’* until his death in May 721. He was buried in the monastery chapel.
Famed for his miraculous works of healing, he also had the reputation of granting victory in battle. This was because King Athelstan, in 937, on his way north to fight the Scots, left his army and came to visit the tomb of Bishop John to ask for his prayers in the forthcoming battle. The battle was fought and the king was successful and consequently, in thanksgiving for his victory, gave certain privileges and rights to the church at Beverley.
Persuaded by his holy life and the miracles after his death, Bishop John was canonized in 1037 and became Saint John of Beverley.
In 1138 John’s banner was one of the Northern banners behind which the men of Yorkshire marched to beat an invading Scottish army near Northallerton.
By 1266 it was the custom that when the King summoned an army, the Minster sent one man with the banner; the banner was also lent to at least four English Kings (Edward ll, Edward lll, Henry V and his son Henry Vl) to help them defeat their enemies.
In 1415 King Henry V won the battle of Agincourt on the Feast of St. John’s translation (25th October). In 1420 the King visited John’s shrine to give thanks, and made him one of the patron saints of the Royal family.
The following extract is from prayers said on the feast of the translation:
“For though God decreed to give help to this church of His and the kingdom of England’s inhabitants, on the account of the merits of diverse saints with which she gloriously shines, yet He has of late more miraculously comforted them, as we sincerely trust, by the special prayers of the almificious confessor and pontiff, his most blessed John of Beverley….
O the ineffable consolation of these our times, especially refreshing and memorable to all ages, that is the gracious victory of the most Christian Prince Henry the fifth king of England and his army in the battle lately fought at Agincourt, in the county of Picardy, which was granted to the English by the immense mercy of God to the praise of His name and the honour of the kingdom of England on the feast of the translation of the said saint.
In which feast, during the engagement of our countrymen with the French…..holy oil flowed by drops like sweat out of his tomb as an indication of the Divine mercy toward his people, without doubt through the merits of the said most holy man.”
*St. Bede in his ‘History of the English Church’