Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Leofric (d.1072)
LEOFRIC (Lat. Lefricus) (d. 1072), first bishop of Exeter, probably, as may be gathered from his name, an Englishman by descent, though, as he is called ‘British’ (Florence, an. 1046), perhaps a native of Cornwall, was brought up and received his learning in Lotharingia. He became one of the clerks or chaplains of Edward the Confessor [q. v.], and was the first to be designated as chancellor (ib.) On the death of Bishop Living or Lyfing [q. v.], in 1046, he was appointed to succeed him in the united dioceses of Devonshire and Cornwall, the seat of the bishopric being at Crediton. Finding his diocese in a backward state, for it had often been plundered by pirates, he visited it diligently, preached to the people, instructed the clergy, and built several churches. His life was decorous, and he was zealous in the discharge of all his duties. His foreign education gave him the ideas of a continental churchman, and made him an ecclesiastical reformer. He was dissatisfied at having his see placed in a village like Crediton, and wished to have it removed to Exeter. At Crediton his church was liable to be attacked by pirates; at Exeter there were fortifications. Accordingly, he sent his chaplain, Lanbert, to Pope Leo IX with a letter, begging leave to move his see, and asking the pope to request Edward to sanction the change. Leo wrote to the king expressing his surprise that the English bishops should not have each his see placed in a city, and, deferring the general question, directed him to carry out Leofric's wish. Edward obeyed, went to Exeter in 1050, and, in the presence of the earls and great men of the kingdom, the king took the bishop by the right arm, and the queen [see Edith or Eadgyth, d. 1075] taking him by the left arm, they joined in installing him in his new episcopal seat in the minster of St. Peter at Exeter. Leofric expelled the monks (William of Malmesbury, Gesta Pontificum, p. 200, writes nuns, but this is evidently a mistake) from the church, and put canons in their place. These new canons, however, were not to live like the English canons; he placed them under the rule of Chrodegang of Metz (for this rule see Stubbs, De Inventione Crucis, Pref. pp. ix sqq.), which had been familiar to him in Lotharingia, compelling them to use a common dormitory and a common table. He found his new church miserably poor, despoiled of nearly all its lands, its books, and its ornaments. For some time he supported the canons out of his own means while he was recovering the lands of which the church had been robbed. Among these was Topsham, which Harold [see Harold II] unjustly took away, and which the bishop was not able to recover. He also bestowed other lands on the church, chiefly within the diocese, together with Bampton in Oxfordshire. Certain of these lands he appropriated to the support of the canons, and his grant was confirmed by a charter from the Conqueror in 1068. He also gave many vestments and ornaments to the church, and a library of nearly sixty volumes, twenty-eight of them being in English. One of these, ‘a great English book of divers things, written in verse,’ may be identified with the collection of poetry known as the ‘Liber Exoniensis.’ The original manuscript is still preserved in the library of the dean and chapter of Exeter, and there is a facsimile copy in the British Museum. From this work Thorpe took his ‘Codex Exoniensis,’ published by the Society of Antiquaries in 1842. ‘Leofric's Missal,’ which he gave to his church, is in the Bodleian Library, MS. 579. It contains, besides liturgical matter, records of manumissions and an account of the translation of the see. Leofric died on 10 Feb. 1072, and was buried in the crypt of his church, probably under St. James's Chapel, the vestry of the priests-vicars, to the south of the choir (Oliver). The fabric roll contains an entry under 1419 for an inscription to him (ib.), and in 1568 a monument was erected to him in the south tower, which was believed to stand upon the place of his burial.
[Oliver's Lives of Bishops of Exeter, pp. 6–10; Freeman's Norman Conquest, ii. 83, 84, 549, iv. 166, 378; Exeter, pp. 30–4 (Historic Towns Ser.); Green's Conquest of England, pp. 545, 546; Wright's Biog. Lit. i. 38; Haddan and Stubbs's Councils and Eccl. Docs. i. 690–5; Dugdale's Monasticon, ii. 514, 526, 531; Kemble's Codex Dipl. iv. No. 940 (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Anglo-Saxon Chron. ann. 1045, 1046; Flor. Wig. an. 1046 (Engl. Hist. Soc.); William of Malmesbury's Gesta Pontiff. p. 201 (Rolls Ser.)]