Thomas of Bayeux (DNB00)
|←Thomas (1388?-1421)||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 56
Thomas of Bayeux
THOMAS of Bayeux (d. 1100), archbishop of York, a native of Bayeux, was a son of Osbert, a priest (Gesta Pontificum, p. 66) of noble family (Richard of Hexham, col. 303), and Muriel (Liber Vitæ Dunelm. pp. 139-40), and was a brother of Samson (d. 1112) [q. v.], bishop of Worcester. He and Samson were two of the clerks that Odo (d. 1097) [q. v.], bishop of Bayeux, took into his household and sent to various cities for education, paying their expenses (Orderic, p. 665). Having acquired learning in France, Thomas went to Germany and studied in the schools there; then, after returning to Normandy, he went to Spain, where he acquired much that he could not have learnt elsewhere, evidently from Saracen teachers. On his return to Bayeux Odo was pleased with his character and attainments, treated him as a friend, and made him treasurer of his cathedral church. His reputation as a scholar was widespread. He accompanied Odo to England, and was made one of the Conqueror's chaplains, an office that implied much secretarial work.
At a council held at "Windsor at Whitsuntide 1070 William appointed him to the see of York, vacant by the death of Archbishop Aldred [q. v.] In common with Walkelin [q. v.], his fellow-chaplain, appointed at the same time to the see of Winchester, he is described as wise, polished, gentle, and loving and fearing God from the bottom of his heart (ib. p. 516). His consecration was delayed because, according to the York historian, Ethelwine, bishop of Durham, having fled, there were no suffragans of York to consecrate him, and the see of Canterbury had not yet been filled by the consecration of Lanfranc [q. v.] (T. Stubbs, apud Historians of York, ii. 357). He might, however, have received the rite, as Walkelin did, at once from the legate, Ermenfrid, who was then in England; but it is probable that the king caused the delay, intending that he should be consecrated by Lanfranc (Freeman, Norman Conquest, iv. 344-5). After Lanfranc's consecration in August, Thomas applied to him. Lanfranc demanded a profession of obedience, and when Thomas, acting on the advice of others, refused to make it, Lanfranc declined to consecrate him. Thomas complained to the king, who thought that the claim to the profession was unreasonable. A few days later, however, Laufranc went to court, and convinced the king that his demand was just [see under Lanfranc]. As a way out of the difficulty William ordered Thomas to return to Canterbury and make a written profession to Lanfranc personally, not to his successors in the see, for he wished the question as to the right; of the see of Canterbury to be decided in a synod of bishops according to what had been the custom. Thomas was unwilling to give way, and, it is said, was only brought to do so by a threat of banishment. He finally did as he was bidden, though the Yoork writer says that he made only a verbal profession, and received consecration (Gesta Pontificum, pp. 39, 40; T. Stubbs). Both the archbishops went to Rome for their palls in 1071. Alexander II decided against the validity of the election to York, because Thomas was the son of a priest, and took away his ring and staff; but on Lanfranc's intercession relented, and it is said that Thomas received his ring and staff again from Lanfranc's hands. He laid the claims of his see before the pope, pleading that Gregory the Great had ordained that Canterbury and York should be of equal dignity, and that the bishops of Dorchester, Worcester, and Lichfield were rightfully suffragans of York. Alexander ordered that the matter should be decided in England by the judgment of a council of bishops and abbots of the whole kingdom. The archbishops returned to England, visiting Gislebert, bishop of Evreux, on their way. According to the pope's command, the case was decided at Windsor [see under Lanfranc] at Whitsuntide 1072, in an assembly of prelates, in the presence of the king, the queen, and the legate. The perpetual superiority of the see of Canterbury was declared, the Humber was to be the boundary between the two provinces, all north of that river to the furthest part of Scotland being in the province of York, while south of it the archbishop of York was to have no jurisdiction, being left, so far as England was concerned, with a single suffragan, the bishop of Durham. By the king's command, and in the presence of the court, Thomas made full profession of obedience to Lanfranc and his successors (Lanfranc, i. 23-6, 302-5; William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regum, iii. ccc. 294, 302; Gervase, ii. 306). Thomas was also unsuccessful in a claim that he made to twelve estates anciently belonging to the bishopric of Worcester and appropriated by Aldred to the see of York. Wulstan [q. v.], bishop of Worcester, refused to give them up, and Thomas, who before the boundary of his province was decided claimed Wulstan as his suffragan, accused him of insubordination, and later joined Lanfranc in desiring his deprivation. The estates were adjudged to the see of Worcester in a national assembly presided over by the king. Thomas was afterwards on friendly terms with Wulstan, and commissioned him to discharge episcopal functions in parts of his province into which he could not go, because they were still unsubdued, and because he could not speak English (T. Stubbs, ii. 362; Flor. Wig. an. 1070; Gesta Pontificum, p. 285). He was present at the council of London held by Lanfranc in 1075, and it was there settled that the place in council of the archbishop of York was on the right of the archbishop of Canterbury (ib. p. 68). In that year a Danish fleet sailed up the Humber, and the invaders did damage to his cathedral church, St. Peter's, which he was then raising from its ruined state, and took away much plunder (Anglo-Saxon Chron. sub an.). After the settlement of their dispute he was very friendly with Lanfranc, who, at his request, commissioned two of his suffragans to assist Thomas in consecrating Ralph, bishop of Orkney, at York on 5 March 1077; and, when writing on that matter, Thomas assured Lanfranc that a suggestion made by Remigius [q. v.], bishop of Dorchester, that he would again put forward a claim to the obedience of the bishops of Dorchester and Worcester, was unfounded (Lanfranc, i. 34–6). He also received a profession of obedience from Fothad or Foderoch (d. 1093), bishop of St. Andrews, who was sent to him by Malcolm III [q. v.] and his queen Margaret (d. 1093) [q. v.], and employed him as his commissary to dedicate some churches (Hugh the Chantor, T. Stubbs, ap. Historians of York, ii. 127, 363). When the Conqueror was in the Isle of Wight in 1086, both the archbishops being with him, he was shown a charter that had been forged by the monks of Canterbury and widely distributed, to the effect that the archbishop of York was bound to make profession to Canterbury with an oath, which had been remitted by Lanfranc without prejudice to his successors. The king is said to have been angry, and to have promised to do justice to Thomas on his return from his expedition, but died in the course of it (Hugh, u.s. 101–2). Thomas refused to give advice to his suffragan William of St. Calais, bishop of Durham [see William, d. 1096] when summoned before Rufus to answer to a charge of treason, and took part in the trial of the bishop in the king's court at Salisbury in November 1088 (Sym. Dunelm. Opera, i. 175, 179, 183). He attended the funeral of Lanfranc at Canterbury in 1089, and during the vacancy of the see consecrated three bishops to dioceses in the southern province, they making profession to the future archbishop of Canterbury. In 1092, when Remigius [q. v.] had finished his church at Lincoln, Thomas declared that it was in his province, not as being in the old diocese of Dorchester, but because Lincoln and a great part of Lindesey anciently pertained to the province of York, and had unjustly been taken away, together with Stow, Louth, and Newark, formerly the property of his church; and he therefore refused to dedicate the church which was to be the head of a diocese subject to Canterbury. William Rufus, however, ordered the bishops of the realm to dedicate it, and they assembled for the purpose, but the death of Remigius caused the ceremony to be put off (Flor. Wig. sub an.; Gir. Cambr. vii. 19, 194). A letter from Urban II, who became pope in 1088, to Thomas, is given by a York historian; in it the pope blames Thomas for having made profession to Lanfranc, and orders him to answer for his conduct; it presents some difficulty, but cannot be rejected (Hugh, u.s. pp. 105, 135).
On 4 Dec. 1093 Thomas and other bishops met at Canterbury to consecrate Anselm [q. v.] to that see, and before the rite began Bishop Walkelin, acting for the bishop of London, began to read out the instrument of election. When he came to the words ‘the church of Canterbury, the metropolitan church of all Britain,’ Thomas interrupted him; for though, as he said, he allowed the primacy of Canterbury, he could not admit that it was the metropolitan see of all Britain, as that would mean that the church of York was not metropolitan. The justice of his remonstrance was acknowledged, the words of the instrument were changed to ‘the primatial church of all Britain,’ and Thomas officiated at the consecration (Eadmer, Historia Novorum, col. 373). The York historian, however, states that Thomas objected to the title of primate of all Britain given in the instrument; that he declared that as there were two metropolitans one could not be primate except over the other; that he went back to the vestry and began to disrobe; that Anselm and Walkelin humbly begged him to come back; that the word ‘primate’ was erased, and that Anselm was consecrated simply as metropolitan (Hugh, u.s. 104–5, 113, who, in spite of his solemn declaration as to the truth of his story, is scarcely to be trusted here). The next day Thomas, in pursuance of his claim to include Lincoln in his province, warned Anselm not to consecrate Robert Bloet to that see; as bishop of Dorchester he might consecrate him, but not of Lincoln, which, he said, was in his province. Rufus arranged the matter by granting the abbey of Selby and the monastery of St. Oswald at Gloucester to Thomas and his successors in exchange for his claim on Lincoln and Lindesey, and to the manors of Stow and Louth. Thomas is said to have accepted this arrangement unwillingly and without the consent of his chapter (ib. p. 106; Monasticon, vi. 82, viii. 1177). As Anselm was not in England when Rufus was slain in 1100, Thomas, who heard the news at Ripon, hastened to London, intending to crown Henry king, as was his right. He found that he was too late, for Henry had been crowned by Maurice [q. v.], bishop of London. He complained of the wrong that had been done him, but was pacified by the king and his lords, who represented that it would have been dangerous to delay the coronation. He was easily satisfied, for he was of a gentle temper and was suffering greatly from the infirmities of age. After doing homage to Henry he returned to the north, and died at York, ‘full of years, honour, and divine grace,’ on 18 Nov. He was buried in York minster, near his predecessor, Aldred; his epitaph is preserved (Hugh; T. Stubbs, who says that he died at Ripon; Gesta Pontificum, p. 257).
Thomas was tall, handsome, and of a cheerful countenance; in youth he was active and well proportioned, and in age ruddy and with hair as white ‘as a swan.’ He was liberal, courteous, and placable, and, though often engaged in disputes, they were of a kind that became him, for they were in defence of what he and his clergy believed to be the rights of his see, and he prosecuted them without personal bitterness. Beyond reproach in respect of purity, his life generally was singularly free from blame. He was eminent as a scholar, and especially as a philosopher; he loved to read and hold discussions with his clerks, and his mental attainments did not make him vain. Church music was one of his chief pleasures; his voice was good, and he understood the art of music; he could make organs and teach others to play on them, and he composed many hymns. He was serious in disposition, and when he heard any one singing a merry song would set sacred words to the air; and he insisted on his clergy using solemn music in their services (ib.) He was active in church-building and in ecclesiastical organisation. When he received his see a large part of his diocese lay desolate, for the north had been harried by the Conqueror the year before, and from York to Durham the land was uncultivated, uninhabited, and given over to wild beasts. York itself had been ruined and burnt in the war; the fire had spread to the minster, which was reduced to a ruin, and the other churches of the city probably shared its fate. He rebuilt his cathedral church, it is said, from the foundations, though the same author seems to speak of restoration and a new roof (Hugh, ii. 107–8). Possibly he first repaired the old church and then built a new one; possibly the words may mean that, though, as seems likely, the blackened walls were standing, he in some parts was forced to rebuild them altogether; in any case, his work was extensive, and amounted at least virtually to the building of a new church, a few fragments of which are said to remain in the crypt (Willis, Architectural History of York, pp. 13–16; Freeman, Norman Conquest, iv. 267, 295, 373). Of the seven canons he found only three at their post; he recalled such of the others as were alive, and added to their number. At first he made them observe the Lotharingian discipline, rebuilt the dormitory and refectory, and caused them to live together on a common fund under the superintendence of a provost [see under Aldred, d. 1069]. Later he introduced the system which became general in secular chapters; he divided the property of the church, appointing a prebend to each canon, which gave him the means of increasing the number of canons, and gave each of them an incitement to build his prebendal church and improve its property (Hugh, u.s.). Further, he founded and endowed in like manner the dignities of dean, treasurer, and precentor, and revived the office of ‘magister scholarum,’ or chancellor, which had previously existed in the church. He gave many books and ornaments for use in his church, and was always most anxious to choose the best men as its clergy. In order to carry out his reforms he gave up much property that he might have kept in his own hands, and his successors complained that he alienated episcopal land for the creation of prebends (Gesta Pontificum, u.s.). Some trouble having arisen at Beverley with reference to the estates of the church, Thomas instituted the office of provost there (Raine), bestowing it on his nephew and namesake [see Thomas, d. 1114)]. In 1083 he granted a charter freeing all the churches in his diocese belonging to the convent of Durham from all dues payable to him and his successors, being moved thereto, he says, by gratitude to St. Cuthbert, to whose tomb he resorted after a sickness of two years, and there received healing; and also by his pleasure at the substitution of monks for canons in the church of Durham by Bishop William (Rog. Hov. i. 137–8). The epitaph, in elegiac verse, placed on the tomb of the Conqueror, was written by him, and has been preserved (Orderic, pp. 663–4).[Raine's Fasti Ebor.; Hugh the Chantor and T. Stubbs, ap. Historians of York, vol. ii., Will. of Malmesbury's Gesta Regum and Gesta Pontiff., Gervase of Cant., Sym. Dunelm., Gir. Cambr., Rog. Hov. (all seven in Rolls Ser.); Lanfranc's Epp. ed. Giles; Ric. of Hexham, ed. Twysden; Liber Vitæ Dunelm. (Surtees Soc.); Eadmer, ed. Migne; Orderic, ed. Duchesne; Freeman's Norm. Conq. vol. iv., and Will. Rufus.]