Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Fighting Bishop

Tomb of Remigius, Lincoln Cathedral [link]
A "ship list" exists of the ships used by William of Normandy when he conquered England in 1066. It records who contributed the ship and in many cases the men and supplies aboard. One of the ships was provided by Remigius de Fécamp, a Benedictine monk.

The exact participation of Remigius is in dispute. According to the historian Henry of Huntingdon (c.1088 - c.1157), Remigius fought at the Battle of Hastings, bringing 20 knights along with his ship. Gerald of Wales, however, who thought so highly of Remigius that he tried to get him canonized as a saint (it never happened), said he only came along with 10 knights that were sent from the region of Fécamp.

His contribution must have been significant, because after the Conquest he was made the Bishop of Dorchester, which at the time was the largest diocese in England. But he had to continue "fighting": his ordination by Stigand, Archbishop of Canterbury was a point of contention when papal legates came to England in 1070 and pushed Stigand out of his office, also reversing the appointment of Remigius to Dorchester. Stigand's successor, Lanfranc, wouldn't touch the subject of Remigius' legitimacy, and Remigius had to travel to Rome in 1071 to seek forgiveness from Pope Alexander II and become "properly" re-appointed as a bishop.

Was there smooth sailing now that he was recognized as Bishop of Dorchester? Not quite. There were two archbishoprics in England—York and Canterbury—and each one claimed that Dorchester belonged in its territory and Remigius' loyalty was to that archbishop. Lanfranc and the Archbishop of York, Thomas of Bayeaux, appealed to Pope Alexander II who, even though he was a former pupil of Lanfranc's and held him in high esteem, refused to take sides, pushing the debate back to the king's council in England.

The council ruled that Dorchester (and Lichfield and Worcester, to which York also lay claim), belonged to Canterbury. Still, Thomas would occasionally ask for help from Remigius, such as during the consecration of the Bishop of the Orkney Islands. Remigius, not wanting to set a precedent that he "worked for" York, appealed to Canterbury to keep him away from the ceremony.

Remigius had a long and busy career, taking part in William's courts, and sitting on the commission that produced the Domesday Book. He died on 7 May 1092 and was buried in Lincoln Cathedral, where his bones, chalice, paten, and half of his crozier were recovered in 1927.

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