Baldwin (d.1098) (DNB00)

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BALDWIN (d. 1098), abbot and physician, was a monk of St. Denys, and was made prior of the monastery of Liberau, a cell of St. Denys, in Alsace. When Edward the Confessor refounded the monastery of Deerhurst and gave it to St. Denys, Baldwin was appointed prior of this new possession of his house. He was well skilled in medicine, and became the king's physician. On the death of Leofstan, abbot of St. Edmund's, in 1065, Edward caused the monks to elect Baldwin as his successor. The new abbot received the benediction at Windsor, in the presence of the king, from the Archbishop of Canterbury, for his house claimed to be exempt from the jurisdiction of the bishop of Elmham, in whose diocese it lay. The king further showed his regard for the new abbot by granting him the privilege of a mint. Baldwin became one of the physicians of the Conqueror, and his skill made him a favourite with the king, who enriched his house with grants of land. He had occasion to exert his influence with the king to the utmost, for Herfast, who was made bishop of Elmham in 1070, contemplated the removal of his see to St. Edmund's, and asserted his authority over the abbey. Baldwin stoutly rejected his claim, and obtained leave from the king to lay the matter before the pope. He journeyed to Rome in 1071, taking with him some of the relics of St. Edmund. The fact that two Englishmen, one the prior and the other a chaplain of his house, accompanied Baldwin on this journey, shows that at St. Edmund's, unlike some other monasteries, the French abbot lived on friendly terms with his English monks. Alexander II received Baldwin graciously. He ordained him priest with his own hands, invested him with the ring and staff, and sent him home with a privilege which confirmed the exemption of his house. Although Lanfranc was a monk he was an archbishop, and he was therefore opposed to the claims of exemption from episcopal jurisdiction, which were made by many monasteries. Accordingly he did not interfere to check the attempts of Herfast against St. Edmund's. In spite of the papal privilege, Herfast renewed these attempts, and offered to give the king a large sum of money if he would allow the case to be tried. Hearing that the privilege of his predecessor was thus disregarded, Gregory VII wrote a letter to Lanfranc in 1073, reproaching him for his remissness in the matter, charging him to restrain Herfast from any further attempts against the liberty of the abbey, and warning the king not to yield to the persuasions of the bishop. A temporary victory is said to have been granted to Baldwin by the interposition of St. Edmund. As Herfast was riding through a wood a thorn pierced one of his eyes. The bishop was in danger of losing his sight altogether. In his pain and misery he was advised to entreat the abbot, whom he had injured, to cure him. He accepted the advice and went to St. Edmund's. Baldwin saw his opportunity, and took care to obtain his fee before he took the case in hand. He held a chapter, to which he invited certain great men who happened to be in the neighbourhood, and caused the bishop to renounce his claim before the whole assembly. When Herfast had humbly confessed his sin and received absolution, Baldwin began to treat his eyes, and in a short time effected their cure. Before long, however, the bishop renewed his attempts. Lanfranc, by command of the king, held a great court to inquire into the matter. The proceedings were conducted in the English fashion. The men of nine shires heard the pleadings, and their voices declared that the abbot's claim was good. The bishop succeeded in earning the case to the king's court, where, in 1081, it was heard before all the chief men of England. Baldwin put the charters of his house in evidence, and pleaded moreover that neither he nor his predecessors had received the benediction from the bishop. The court decided in his favour, and the king issued a charter confirming to the abbey the exemption granted by his predecessors.

Baldwin's medical skill brought him many patients, some even from Normandy. He was kind and hospitable to all who came to him. As physician to the court he followed the king to Normandy. While there he was often made the bearer of royal messages, and acted as physician to the nobles, as well as to the king and his queen. At the suggestion and with the assistance of William, he pulled down the church of his abbey, which had only been finished in 1032, and built another in its place after a more splendid fashion. Of this church William of Malmesbury declared that there was none to compare with it in England for beauty and size. Baldwin's church lived on until the dissolution. The stately tower leading into the abbey yard, on a line with the west front of the church, which now serves as the tower of the church of St. James, is doubtless part of his work. The building was finished in 1094, and the abbot obtained leave from William Rufus for its consecration and for the translation of the body of the saint. Before long, however, the king capriciously withdrew his license for the consecration. A report was set abroad that the body of St. Edmund was not really in the possession of the abbey, and it was suggested that the king should seize the rich work of the shrine and apply the profits to the payment of his mercenaries. It chanced that while such things were being said Walkelin, bishop of Winchester, and Ranulf, the king's chaplain, afterwards bishop of Durham, came to the town of St. Edmund on the king's business. Baldwin took advantage of their visit to arrange a solemn translation. In spite of the opposition of Bishop Herbert of Losing, the successor of Herfast, the ceremony was performed with great splendour in the presence of the bishop of Winchester on 29 April 1095. Baldwin, according to Florence of Worcester, died 'in a good old age' in 1097. According to the 'Annals' of his house his death did not take place until the next year.

[Annales S. Edmundi, Heremanni Mir. S. Eadmundi, in Ungedruckte Anglo-Normannische Geschichtsquellen, ed. Liebermann; Jaffé's Monumenta Greg. 49, 50; Epp. Lanfr., ed. Giles, 20, 22, 23, 26; Epp. Anselm., Migne, ii. 4 ; Will. Malmesb. de Gestis Pontif. ii.; Flor. Wig. 1097; Dugdale's Monast. iii. 99; Freeman's William Rufus, ii. 267.]

W. H.