Thrybergh Ravenfield Dalton

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St. Leonard Reresby


Photo courtesy of Jonathan Dabbs

 

 

 

St. Leonards Cross in its original positionWhat you see on this page are four recorded images of the cross from circa 1817 - 2003

The photo on the left shows the original location, whilst the photo above shows the cross in it's relocated position. There are two crosses in Thrybergh which can be found on Doncaster Road and School Lane.
 Many of the old stories told by parents were in fact based on actual events, even nursery tales and rhymes were often based on actual events. The story of St Leonard dates back to the 1200's. In the story local legend told of the miraculous appearance of a Sir Leonard in the village to claim his Lady, and prevent her marrying another, after a long absence. Sounds a bit far fetched you may think, read on.
 Legend:

Sir Leonard Reresby was born in Thrybergh. Leonard  become one of the first crusaders, and fought in the Holy Wars. He was captured by the Saracens and was a prisoner for close to seven years. Leonard's wife presuming him dead after six years absence was betrothed to another.  Attributed to the power of prayer Sir Leonard was miraculously set free and transported home in an insensible state, still in his fetters and shackles and found himself laying in the field at the top of the hill in Thrybergh. The location being where the stone above stood for centuries before being relocated. [ See below.] The Church Bells were ringing in preparation for his wife's second marriage. The wedding was then prevented by his re-appearance, Sir Leonard requested that he may be taken into the Church before he was taken home. Shortly after his arrival in the Church Sir Leonard died. The story does not end there, according to the legend the shackles which had bound Sir Leonard were kept for a few generations at Thrybergh until the time of Henry V111.  during this reign the shackles were turned into ploughshares by the Wife of Sir Thomas Reresby.
 

 In 1861 THE EAGLE. A MAGAZINE,  SUPPORTED BY MEMBERS OF ST. JOHN'S COLLEGE.
VOL. II.
PRINTED BY W. METCALFE, GREEN STREET,
FOR SUBSCRIBERS ONLY.
 

It tells us how in very old times the lord of the manor had an only daughter, heiress of all his lands; how, when a youth of gentle birth had won her love, they made this cross their trysting-place; and how, when the young squire went to win renown in the holy fields of Palestine, by this cross they took their sad farewell. Time passed by, and at last a report reached Thrybergh that the young knight was dead in Holy Land. And so with many another fair maiden doubtless of those wild old times, the heiress of Thrybergh long" wept for her lover slain by the hands of infidels in that far off land. But as the months rolled by, her father, doubtless longing to see, ere his death, his daughter united to one who would worthily uphold the dignity of his ancient house, encouraged a new suitor. And in those days a father's word was law; the poor maiden bowed to her fate, and the day was fixed for the marriage. And then the tradition tells us how she went the evening before to that cross, the old place of trysting, where she had so often prayed with clasped hands for her dear knight fighting in those distant lands; how, while kneeling there and weeping bitter tears, praying for strength to bow to her father's will, the stalwart warrior whom she had so long mourned, burst into her presence and elapsed her in his arms! And that night there was joy in Thrybergh.

As you can see the legend has now somewhat altered.

 

The year 1817 when James Ross published his book of poems containing SIR LEONARD'S CROSS,  the following letter appeared in the first edition of a monthly tabloid "The Northern Star. The drawing below of the cross appeared on the front pages of the same edition.

 

"To the Editor of the Northern Star.
SIR—Not far from Thrybergh towards the East is the mutilated fragments of a cross, which by its form, and the rudeness of the sculpture on its sides, appears to be of' some antiquity. Whatever may have been its origin I cannot attempt to determine, but perhaps from the small drawing annexed, some of your correspondents, who are better versed than I am in the, vestiges of  ancient times, may be able to afford some elucidation. . A tradition is current in Thrybergh to this effect. Sir Leonard, a knight  of that neighbourhood, left his lady to go abroad, probably into Palestine in the time of the Crusades, where remaining many years, he was believed to be killed,' and his widow as she thought herself, was prevailed upon to accompany another knight to the altar. In the midst of the ceremony when all eyes were fixed upon the bridegroom and the bride, a voice tremendous as
thunder was heard to exclaim " Forbear ! The lady is my wife." Sir Leonard was soon recognised, the lady gladly returned to her husband, and they both instantly disappeared

 from among the company.

 

 

As his sudden appearance could not be accounted for by any natural means, it was believed that the knight' had been brought thither by the help of magic, and that the spot on which he first touched the ground was the site on which the cross since  called " Sir Leonard's" has been erected. There appears to me Sir, so great a similarity between this story and that of •- Alonzo the Brave and the fair Imogine," as to make it probable that one, tradition has served as the foundation for both, or which is equally as probable, that the poetical Alonzo was the traditional Sir Leonard.
Hoping that some correspondent will take the trouble of investigating this tradition, and establishing the era of the erection of Sir Leonard's Cross.
Doncaster, Nov. 5, 1817.
J.M
 

Again there are variations in the legend and obviously J. M. was not aware of St. Leonard of Limousin and suggest the story was inspired by Alonzo the Brave and the fair Imogine, and seemingly was not aware that the cross was in the village for a considerable length of time before the existence of the legend

 

The two drawings were both drawn in the same period, the top one by D. Jewitt of the Evening star and the one on the left by either James Ross or his wife Anna.


There is the legend of the Reresby who became a saint, but what is the real story?

The feast day of St. Leonard of Limousin is also the feast Day of St Leonard of Reresby
Now the other St. Leonard who was a lot higher in the ranking of saints than Sir Leonard of Reresby, and he was as can be seen  held in high esteem by the crusaders,  he was  famous for securing the release of prisoners as well as miracles. So read and compare the story of Sir Leonard of Reresby and the story of  St Leonard of Limousin who was known throughout Europe in his lifetime.

 

The Two St. Leonards

Sr. Leonard of Reresby, the Benedictines  recorded him as a Saint, and he is today recorded as a Saint by the Catholic Church as Saint Leonard of Reresby. Now Saints have what you may call a rating and Sir Leonard's sainthood  is stated as a PC which means popular cultus without any formal approval. The feast day of Saint Leonard is November the 6th. The same feast day as St. Leonard of Limousin
Source: Catholic Church list of Saints.


In the poem and legend Sir Leonard appears at the actual wedding, which of course was an embellishment to add a little more mystery. Like most stories handed down in the telling,  the story tellers would add to the original story to impress the listener.
 

According to the memoirs of Sir John Reresby the Church Alter and also the bell are dedicated to St. Leonard, and there was a picture of St. Leonard Reresby in one of the Church windows, with his chains.

 

Now here is where it could become confusing between the two St. Leonards, as St Leonard of Limousin was also often depicted holding  chains. This window was broken in Sir Johns lifetime. A Family festival was held on a Whit Sunday in memory of St. Leonard. Sir John also makes mention of the fact that the stone cross named St. Leonard's Cross which is still in the village today,  was already defaced in the 1600's. The first mention of the Altar being dedicated to our Reresby saint  is on a deed dated 1349.

 

St. Leonard of  Limousin lived in the 11th Century and was born to a noble family of Frankish origin in the reign of King Clovis. He had for a godfather St. Remy of Reims. The early life of St. Leonard is not to well recorded and little is known of him until he came to the attention of King Clovis, when he secured a large amount of Prisoners from the King. This act greatly impressed the King and he offered Leonard honours of an episcopal nature. Leonard refused the honours and placed himself in a monastery at Mircy which was near Orleans. 

 

After spending some time at the Monastery Leonard was found next  at Aquitaine where he preached the Gospels. The Queen of the Franks in this period was held in confinement and her save delivery was accredited to the prayers of Leonard. As a sign of gratitude the King made a gift of a domain to Leonard which was at Noblac [ today known as St. Leonard ] near Limoges, this is where Leonard founded a Monastery.


The fame of Leonard spread far and wide through Europe, the nobility, church dignitaries, and common folk descended on the Monastery at Noblac. There are quite a lot of miracles attributed to Leonard and he was accredited with numerous healings of sick people and animals, exorcism, and securing the release of prisoners. He was held in high regard by the Crusaders, and in Ichenhofen Bavaria there are records of four thousand favours gained by his intercession.
 

Notes:
Feast Day 6th Nov. St Leonard depicted usually as holding chains. There are many Churches World wide dedicated to St. Leonard
 

 

A French Historian helps out

 

Not having the records at hand,  I had a theory that the Church was firstly dedicated to St Leonard of Limousin, a theory that has been confirmed in a recent correspondence with the French notable historian Claude Husson who at this moment in time is writing a book on the diffusion of St Leonard of Noblat's cult. Claude has done a large amount of research into the subject and writes.
" I believe that a St Leonard's church dedicated to St leonard de Noblat (Limousin) was dedicated in Thrybergh before Leonard of Reresby was born. I found Thrybergh in a list of St Leonard de Noblat churches registered for an exhibition dedicated to him in the small town of Saint Leonard de Noblat in 1994.
That's not enough but we must also consider that the first name of Leonard of Reresby means that his parents knew Leonard of Noblat. Most important is the fact that the church has elements of Norman style.
During my research I discovered that Leonard of Noblat had been introduced in England during the Norman conquest. More than a hundred of churches were built by them, sometimes in harbours were they settled. "
Claude Husson
[ My gratitude to Claude Husson for his valuable contribution to this page. ]

 

The Facts

 

Beginning with Sir John Reresby the Author in the 17th century, and further references to the story up to the the present day 2007, no one has successfully researched the existence of a Sir Leonard Reresby of Thrybergh in the time of the crusades. 

So lets look at the facts

.
The legend according to Sir John Reresby Bard the author :
"A deed dated 1349 is the first that mentions the alter of St. Leonard, the tutelar [ Guarding presence a tutelary being or person, especially a saint or deity ] saint of Thrybergh, according to the custom of Roman Rites. Tradition will have him to have been one of the family of Reresby, and conveys to us a long story concerning him, the substance of  which is this:- That one Leonard De Reresby serving his Prince in the holy war, was taken prisoner by the Saracens, and there detained captive nearly seven years, that his wife according to the law of the land, was towards being married to another, that being apprehensive of this accident, by the power of prayer he was miraculously delivered and insensibly conveyed with shackles and gyves or fetters upon his limbs, and laid upon the East Hill and then conveyed to the church where he desired to make his first visit."

That is then the legend, a legend that does not bear out with facts.
Legend:-
"In the 13th century Sir Leonard Reresby was according to the legend  supposed to have become one of the first crusaders, and fought in the Holy Wars."
Facts:-
The First Crusade 1096 - 1099,  The Second Crusade 1147 - 1149, The Third Crusade 1189 - 1191, The Fourth Crusade 1202 - 1204.  Are what could be called at a stretch the first crusades, which took place around some one hundred years prior to the Reresby arrival in Thrybergh.  That fact alone discredits part of the legend. But what if  Sir Leonard took part in the last crusades?
What can be termed the last  Crusades were of little success, The German Emperor, Frederick II, was persuaded  by the Pope into leading the Fifth Crusade 1228 - 1229, although Frederick was successful by treaty in placing Jerusalem under Christian rule, the Turks returned in 1244 and took the city back. In 1248 - 1254 Louis IX of France failed in the sixth crusade, and also failed in the last crusade which was in 1270.
Fact
Margery Normanville married Ralph Reresby around 1268, the Reresbys did not gain the lordship of Thrybergh until after that time, the last crusade was in 1270 led by  Louis IX of France. Unless Sir Leonard if he indeed existed was capable of time travel he couldn't have fought in any of the holy crusades.

If there was a Sir Leonard lets say born elsewhere, he would not have been living in Thrybergh during the time of the crusades.

 Legend:-
Attributed to the power of prayer Sir Leonard was miraculously set free and transported home in an insensible state, still in his fetters and shackles and found himself laying in the field at the top of the hill in Thrybergh.

Fact
Leonard if he existed at this time could only have been the son of Margery and Ralph, but would have been around two years  of age at the time of the last crusade, or as a brother of Ralph, alas as a brother of Ralph he did not have the lordship of Thrybergh nor indeed was he born at Thrybergh, so why would he be transported back to Thrybergh. I have tried in vain to locate a Leonard Reresby of anyplace prior to 1470  and as yet come up with no result!

There is a theory by some that the legend was built around an actual event concerning a Reresby captured and imprisoned on English soil who escaped in his chains and returned to Thrybergh which could be correct, he was not however transported back to Thrybergh by a miracle, rather by good luck, determination and Shanks pony [ His legs]. He was in fact Sir Adam Reresby the son of Ralph who was at the Battle of Borougtibridge in 1322, and captured, but he escaped, still in his chains, then made his way home to Thrybergh . There was no miracle attached to that story, but it doesn't require a great imagination to see how it could have been attached to the legend of St Leonard of Limousin, and resulting in a fictitious St. Leonard of Reresby.


So if the story was built around a Reresby by another name why was the name Leonard used, the simple answer to that is more than likely because the actual saint of the church was St. Leonard of Limousin!

In the memoirs of Sir John Reresby the first mention of the Altar being dedicated to a Saint Leonard is on a deed dated 1349. So given the date of the Sir Adam escapade then it becomes entirely feasible that that story gave birth to the legend There can be little doubt that St. Leonard's Church was originally dedicated to Sir Leonard of Limousin.
Given that Saint Leonard Reresby is listed as Populas Cultas we can assume that the legend was not fully accepted, nor was it denied by the Roman Church at the time, which means that a Saint was created out of a fictitious character, when all anyone had to do to disprove it, was to simply investigate the man rather than the legend. So how did the investigative clergy sell this story to Rome convincingly enough to have a Saint declared! One can only assume that Populas Cultas means that sainthood was granted to appease the Reresby's and the local population of Thrybergh.

It's still a great legend for an old wives tale though, isn't it?

© John Doxey 2005

Footnote: If anyone can produce a Sir Leonard Reresby from pre 1349 I would like to hear from you, if anyone would like to comment on the above I would like to hear from you also.

 

The Poem by James Ross

Sir Leonard's Cross


 

 

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STATEMENT :

I have no affiliation  with any Trade Union, Political body, or organization regarding the information on this site. All information on this site is Factual and correct to the extent of my knowledge. There is no intent to cause offence to any individual. Should you spot an error please let me know  and that error will be corrected.

PEASE NOTE:

This site is the result of over 7 years research, and compilation, should you wish to use any of the content for publication of literature please contact me. The poetry and life of James Ross, the story of St. Leonard's Cross, and other items on this site were compiled, and first published on this site in their present context as a study of Thrybergh. If you use this site as a source, out of courtesy, please give credit where it is due as I have done on this site where appropriate.
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