Grimbald (DNB00)

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GRIMBALD, GRIMBOLD, or GRYMBOLD, Saint (820?–903), abbot of New Minster at Winchester, was dedicated as a monk of the Flemish monastery of St. Bertin, near St. Omer, in the province of Rheims, at the age of seven, during the abbacy of Hugh, son of the Emperor Charles, who was slain in 844; he became chancellor and prior. He was a good singer, learned in the scriptures and in ecclesiastical discipline, and distinguished for his piety. The story that he entertained Alfred, the youngest son of Æthelwulf, when on his journey to Rome in 853, and made a deep impression on the mind of the ætheling, is worthless, for Alfred was then a little child, and was not more than seven when he returned to England in 856. On the death of Abbot Rudolf in 892, the monks desired to have Grimbald as abbot, but the Frankish king gave the abbey to Fulk, archbishop of Rheims. About this time Alfred was able to turn his attention to the advancement of learning, and invited Grimbald to come over and help him. Leland, who quotes from a 'Life' of Grimbald, now lost, says that Asser was sent over to fetch him. Archbishop Fulk wrote a letter commending him to Alfred, and announcing that he had given him permission to accept the king's invitation. Grimbald seems to have come over to England about 893. It is said that Alfred in asking him over declared that he wanted him to help him carry out his design of building a new monastery in Winchester, the royal city. This is unlikely, as it is fairly certain that the king's intention belongs to a later period. A long report of a speech which Grimbald is said to have delivered at a council at London soon after his arrival is given in the 'Book of Hyde,' but this, together with some other details, can scarcely be considered of any historical value. He became one of Alfred's mass-priests, was his personal instructor, and no doubt took a leading part, in conjunction with John the Old-Saxon, in the conduct of the school which the king established for the education of the young nobles. In his Introduction to his translation of the 'Pastoral Care' of Gregory the Great, Alfred speaks of the help which he had received from Grimbald and others who construed the Latin for him. It was not until the last year of Alfred's life that he propounded his plan to Grimbald of building a new minster at Winchester, and he probably did not even buy the land for the buildings before his death (Liber de Hyda, p. 51; Gesta Regum, p. 193; Gesta Pontificum, p. 173, where he is said to have built the house at Grimbald's persuasion). When Eadward the Elder came to the throne, he was, it is said, stirred up by Grimbald to carry out his father's design, and at first intended to found his new house at the expense of the Old Minster, but was rebuked by Grimbald, who told him that God would not accept robbery for burnt-offering. The house was built in two years. During its erection Grimbald received several refugees from Ponthieu, who brought over with them the relics of St. Judoc. These relics were deposited in the new church, which was dedicated by Archbishop Plegmund in 903. It stood close to the Old Minster on the north side, and the king is said to have been forced to pay the bishop and canons a mark of gold for every foot of the ground (Gesta Regum, u.s.) The new church was served by secular canons, and the story that Grimbald was disgusted with their carelessness is of course an invention which owes its origin to party feeling. He died on 8 July in the same year in which the New Minster was dedicated, at the age, so it is said, of eighty-three, and was buried in his church. He was venerated as a saint and confessor, and some altars were dedicated to him; the 'Benediction' for his day is in a manuscript at Rouen (Archæologia, xxiv. 13). His name plays a prominent part in the mythical story of Oxford. According to the 'Book of Hyde,' he was a professor of holy scripture, and Rous makes him the first chancellor, and says that he left the university when he grew old, built the New Minster, and died there at the age of seventy-seven. Camden in his 'Britannia' (4to ed. 1600) inserted a story, partly, he says, from the 'Book of Hyde,' and partly from 'an excellent manuscript of Asser,' to the effect that Grimbald took several learned foreigners with him to Oxford; the old scholars whom he found there refused to follow his rules; a violent dispute ensued; Alfred attempted to make peace; Grimbald was offended, retired to Winchester, and caused his tomb to be removed thither from the vault of St. Peter's Church, Oxford, which he had built. This passage was inserted in Camden's edition of Asser (Frankfort, 1603), and he declared, according to Bryan Twyne's story, that he caused it to be copied from a manuscript which did not appear to him to be very ancient. The passage was probably forged by Sir Henry Savile (Parker); it does not appear in Archbishop Parker's edition of Asser, printed in 1574. Grimbald's crypt, as it is called, is still to be seen in St. Peter's at Oxford;. it was probably built by Robert of Oily, of whom the church held land in 1086, and was rebuilt some fifty years after its original construction.

[Bishop Stubbs examines some of the statements about Grimbald's life, and especially the date of his coming to England, in his edition of William of Malmesbury, ii. introd. xliv-xlviii; Iperius, Chron. Bertin., Martene and Durand, iii. 510, 537; Asser's De Rebus Gestis Ælfredi, p. 487, Mon. Hist. Brit., with the interpolated Oxford story, pp. 489-90; Liber de Hyda. pp. 30-35, 51, 76-83, ed. Edwards (Rolls Ser.); Florence of Worcester, i. 91, 118, and William of Malmesbury's Gesta Regum, pp.188,193(Engl.Hist.Soc.), Gesta Pontificum, p. 173 (Rolls Ser.); Annales Winton., Annales Monast. ii. 10 (Rolls Ser.); Leland's Scriptores, i. 156, and Collectanea, i. 18, 2nd edit., Leland speaks of a Life of Grimbald now lost; King Alfred's Works, iii. 66, ed. Giles; Acta SS. Bolland., 8 July, ii. 651-6; Mabillon, Acta SS. O.S.B. sæc. vol. iv. pt. ii. p. 511; Thorpe's Pauli's Life of Alfred, pp. 151-153, 161; Archæologia, 1832, xxiv. 13; Becon's Prayers, iii. 43 (Parker Soc.); Rous's Hist. p. 46, ed. Hearne; Anglica Scripta, ed. Camden, p. 15, Britannia, p. 331 in 4th ed., and p. 287 Gough's fol. trans.; Wood's Annals, i. 22, ed. Gutch; Parker's Early Hist. of Oxford, pp. 39-47, 250-4 (Oxf. Hist. Soc.)]

W. H.