It required, therefore, not only personal competence but also the concurrence of several fortunate circumstances to make this appointment possible. They were given through the friendship and high esteem in which the Austin Friars were held by both Pope Eugene IV (pope from 1431 to 1447) and Humphrey, the Duke of Gloucester and regent of England.
The official diocesan registers of Lowe's ten years at St Asaph are lost. As far as his contacts with his former confreres are concerned, it is known that his rooms at Austin Friars, London, remained reserved to him for life, and that Master (“doctor”) Henry Kirton O.S.A. of Clare Priory was called to preach in Lowe’s diocese – as Lowe wrote - “in this mountainous diocese, inhabited by rude men, whose idiom he speaks.”
In these words, Lowe seems to have expressed his own feelings towards his diocese. Its people were uneducated, and his work among them was made difficult by their Welsh tongue which he probably did not speak. Despite these sentiments he seems to have dedicated himself wholly to the affairs of his difficult diocese and reappears in the public eye only towards the end of his regime.
In 1442 he was associated with the foundation of Eton College and two years later of King's College, Cambridge. He was also sent on a political mission to Frankfurt, Germany which lasted from 15th March to 14th August 1442.
It has always been uncertain exactly when he paid for the new library for Austin Friars, London, but there credible affirmations that he did so. He donated a manuscript to this London friary in 1436 but this does not necessarily indicate the date for its beginning.
It seems more probable that the regulations which the prior general gave for the London library on 3rd February 1456 mark the date for its completion. Lowe enriched it with many books, of which only three can presently be identified today. Two other manuscripts given by him to the Austin Friars of Oxford are now kept at Cambridge.
Lowe called on his Augustinian confreres for special work and took a lively interest in their literary activity, as mentioned in relation to John Bury O.S.A. on the next page. John Capgrave O.S.A., who became the most prolific of the English Augustinians, dedicated to his Commentary on Books II and IV of Kings. Lowe was a humanist.
John Capgrave O.S.A. and also Osbern Bokenham O.S.A. have been regarded as early humanists because of their cultivation of their English mother tongue, but the first evidence of the new humanist learning among English Augustinians is given in early authoritative praise of John Lowe, “who had not paid so close attention to the Scriptures as to occasion a suspicion of his having neglected the studies of humanity nor was he so deeply engaged in the pursuit of human literature as not to render it subservient to divine learning.”
This well-balanced judgment reflects the aim of the Augustinian school of Santo Spirito in Florence, which drew the leading humanists of Italy into its circle and tried to teach them, that a revival of the classics should consist in imitating a truly Latin style and the absorption of their great ideals without imbibing their pagan spirit.
On 22nd April 1444 Lowe was transferred by Pope Eugene IV to the Diocese of Rochester, England. Once again this Pope was granting an honour to the Augustinians, who had supported papal authority challenged by some European monarchs and princes, and who had arranged to bring the Order of St Augustine to the Church of St Peter in Pavia, where the tomb of St Augustine is located.
(Continued on the next page.)