The Chapter members seemed to insist only on keeping discipline within their own ranks; indirectly, however, their action revealed a high regard for Lowe. It is, therefore, not surprising that his own friars elected him as their Provincial in 1427. His regime must have won the full approval of his brethren because they re elected him at Northampton in 1428 and at York in 1430.
There is no record of a dispensation from the Martiniatia (the Church law that forbade more than two terms of office being held successively). Lowe did not think it necessary to seek a dispensation because canonists had found a loophole through which its prescriptions could be avoided.
They claimed that the papal decree had not been authentically intimated to the Prior General of the Augustinians and, therefore, it need not be followed by them. Pope Eugene IV subsequently supplied the necessary juridical form in 1453, and for the next sixty years its precepts were carried out.
On 5th December 1433 the Registers of the Prior General declared that Provincial John Lowe was allowed to keep for life his chamber at Austin Friars in London with all its furniture, even if he should become bishop. If this should happen, he may have two brethren as socii (companions), one to recite the Divine Office with him, and the other as his personal servant.
On 15th December of that same year the Registers of the Prior General declared that an inventory of John Lowe's possessions to be taken he may use them during life, but after death one half will go to the house in London, the other to Droitwich.
It was standard practice, as previously mentioned above, for a friar to remain for life in the friary that accepted him and paid for his education. Seeing that Lowe had begun in Droitwich and had with permission moved to the London friary, when he died his possessions would be shared equally between both places.
Lowe's appointment to provincial did not stop his fight against heresy. In 1428 he spent much time as the co examiner of Ralph Mungyri, Richard Monke and William White. In his own Augustinian Province of England, however, he did nothing to stop the accelerated trend towards personal privileges. He personally followed this easy path by obtaining permission from the Prior General in Rome to secure the financial benefit of a chantry for himself.
(A chantry was an often-lucrative financial endowment of a priest to celebrate or, usually, to chant the Mass for the eternal salvation of a deceased person or persons at agreed intervals over an agreed period of time. It was thus essentially, though not solely, a liturgical institution requiring as a sine qua non of its existence an agreed site where the recipient could celebrate these Masses, usually at a specific altar in a designated church, or even in a purpose-built chantry chapel.)
It is unknown if Lowe availed himself of this permission, and it may have appeared hypocritical had he done so. It soon would not have been financially necessary, however, for him to have done so because on 25th February 1432 he was appointed confessor to King Henry VI with all privileges of former chaplains.
As the royal confessor, he received 3s (three shillings) a day a for the maintenance of himself and his servants within the king's household, and for the wages of each of four grooms to keep his four horses and one hackney cab in the household, one and a half pence a day and for small necessaries, and 116s a year.
Photos (at right)
Images of the interior and wood-lined ceiling of St Aspath’s Cathedral in North Wales, where John Lowe was the bishop.
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