Saint Robert and the Deer


By Dr. Frank Bottomly, published 1st March 2005

It is almost a commonplace that there is an affinity between a holy man and the creatures of the wild. The archetype is St. Francis of Assisi but the phenomenon was well marked both before and after his time. I would like to consider briefly an episode in the life of Robert of Knaresborough, not only one of the best known English hermits but also, according to Matthew Paris, one of the three most famous saints of the thirteenth century. Apart from the usual life of prayer and asceticism characteristic of hermits, Robert gave himself to poor relief and the provision of care for the outcasts of society. To begge and brynge pore men of baile, Thys was his purpose principale (Metrical ‘Life’) The Trinitarians who came to Knaresborough about 1252 continued his social work and the correlation was so close that the Knaresborough community uniquely dedicated their house to St. Robert instead of to the Holy Trinity as their rule commanded. From the near contemporary ‘Lives’ composed in Latin

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