John was born at Harpham, Yorkshire. He studied under Adrian at St. Theodore’s School in Kent, and on his return to his native land, became a monk at Whitby. He was named bishop of Hexham in 687 and then transferred to York as metropolitan in 705, succeeding St. Bosa.
John was known for his holiness, his preference for the contemplative life, and his miracles, many of which are recounted in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, the author of which he had ordained. In ill health, John resigned the bishopric of York in 717 and retired to Beverley Abbey, which he had founded, and remained there until his death on May 7. His shrine was for centuries one of the most popular pilgrim centers in England. He was canonized by Pope Benedict IX in 1037.