RICHARD ROLLE The Book of Margery Kempe, chapters 17, 58, and 62

Richard of Hampole (1300-1349) also known as Richard Rolle, was a hermit who lived in Yorkshire, England. Born to a small farming family, Rolle was a scholarly man who studied at Oxford University for several years before abandoning his studies to pursue a spiritual life. He was not a member of a religious order, but chose instead to wander the countryside in contemplation. Legend tells that he scandalized his sister by requesting to borrow two of her dresses. He then proceeding to convert them into the clothes of a hermit, beginning his life on that path at age 19. After his death, which may have been caused by plague, many people believed that miracles occurred at his tomb. There was a strong movement to canonize Richard of Hampole during the Middle Ages although that end was never attained.

He is best known for his meditative text Incendium Amoris or The Fire of Love, a devotional guidebook widely read during the Middle Ages. The book details the purgative steps that one must go through in order to attain intimacy with God. Meditation is essential to this process of removing sin and selfishness. The four stages in this process are described as the open door, heat, song, and sweetness. The book is titled Incendium Amoris because the fire of love burns more and more strongly in the soul as one approaches God. Rolle described the anticipated union with God as a feast that appeals to all the senses.

The Pricke of Conscience is a poem on the Last Days, once associated with Rolle, now attributed to an anonymous author.  In the early 15th century copies of the poem were known to have been in the possession of important members of the laity, including Alice Bolton who gave windows to All Saints North Street, York.  A window on the theme of the poem at All Saints is dated c. 1410 and related in style to the great east window of York Minster, that depicts the Book of Revelations. See The Pricke of Conscience (Stimulus Conscientiae), A Northumbrian Poem by Richard Rolle de Hampole ed. Richard Morris. A. Asher & Co.: Berlin, 1863.  Lines of the poem are here presented with the scene of each segment of the window.

SOURCES: Allen, Rosamund S., ed. Richard Rolle: The English Writings. Paulist Press: Mahwah, NJ. 1988. See on-line text Fire of Love from Wheaton College.

Excerpts from Meditations on the Passion by Richard Rolle: Richard Rolle: The English Writings, ed. Rosamund S. Allen. Paulist Press: Mahwah, NJ, 1988, pp. 93, 111.

Sweet Lord Jesus Christ, I thank you for the agonies which you endured for us, and for the sweet blood which you shed for us, when you were so painfully beaten and roped to the pillar so that blood on the pillar can still be seen. I ask and beg you as my dear lord for that sweet blood, which you bled so generously for me, to be full deliverance for my soul.

Sweet Jesu, I bestow on you words of thanksgiving for all the humiliation and excruciating pain which you endured when they spat in your face, on that sweet mirror and glory of heaven in bodily form, which angels and saints take delight in gazing upon. Now, sweet Jesu, allow me the grace to take my greatest delight in gazing inwardly and meditating on that glorious face; and, sweet Jesu, restore the image of your face in my soul, which has been faded by the filth of sin; and [send] me the grace to honor you in every creature; and let me never be conceited about the appearance of my own face, nor feel the urge to commit sin because of the appearance of anyone else’s face.

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