Lawrence (d.1175) (DNB00)

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LAWRENCE (d. 1175), abbot of Westminster, who has been confused with Lawrence (d. 1164) [q. v.], prior of Durham, seems to have been of Norman birth (Tanner). According to Matthew Paris he was educated, and for many years resident, at St. Albans (Vit. S. Alb. Abb. ed. 1640, np. 65, 79, 82, 90). He may be identical with the Lawrence who was archdeacon of Durham in 1153, and who accompanied his namesake, the prior of Durham, to France in that year. Tanner suggests that at a later date he became a monk of St. Albans. Henry II noticed him favourably, and on the deprivation of Gervase, abbot of Westminster (about 1159), recommended him for election to the vacant office (cf. Johannes Amundesham, Annates, ed. Riley, Rolls Ser. ii. 801). He was elected by the universal suffrage of the monks, and fulfilled the expectations formed of him. Under Gervase's rule the monastery had become wretchedly impoverished, and he had even sold the vestments and stripped the abbot's house bare. Lawrence obtained money from the king for the repair of the monastic buildings and for the rebuilding of the chief offices lately burnt down. Henry II also restored the abbey estates in Gloucestershire and Worcestershire, which had been seized by his predecessor. The abbot's funds still being inadequate to meet the requirements, he borrowed horses, furniture, vestments, &c, to the value of two hundred marks from Gorham, abbot of St. Albans (Walsinqham, Gesta Abb. Mon. Sancti Albani, Rolls Ser. i. 133). In 1162, when a synod of bishops met in St. Katherine's Chapel, Westminster Abbey, to settle a dispute between the Bishop of Lincoln and the convent of St. Albans, Lawrence presided, and opened the proceedings by a speech defending the privileges of the monks. The case was decided in the monks' favour in March 1163 (ib. i. 139 sq., 150). A quarrel between Lawrence and Abbot Gorham is said to have followed owing to Lawrence's retention of a manor at Aldenham belonging to St. Albans (ib. i. 112, 134), and to the readiness with which he entered on litigation with that convent (cf. ib. i. 112, 134). At one time he seems to have protected Alquinus, prior of St. Albans, in a quarrel with his abbot, and he subsequently made Alquinus prior of Westminster (ib. i. 108). But he was summoned to give Gorham extreme unction on his deathbed (23 Oct. 1166). Lawrence was successful in obtaining the canonisation of Edward the Confessor from the pope. When on 13 Oct. 1163 the new saint's body was transferred to the shrine prepared for it by Henry II, the abbot drew the famous ring, reported to have been given to Edward in a vision by St. John the Evangelist, off the saint's finger, and solemnly presented it to the church; from the robes in which the body was wrapped he had three copes made. On the same day Lawrence presented a new 'Life' of the confessor to Henry II. Paris says that the abbot had undertaken to write it by the king's request, but there is no trace of any such work by him, and the 'Life' referred to is no doubt that one written by Lawrence's friend Ailred or Ethelred [q. v.], abbot of Rievaulx (cf. Gesta Abb. mon. St. Albani, ed. Riley, i. 159; Higden, Polychron. ed. Lumby, vii. 226). Lawrence stood high in the favour of the pope, Alexander III, whose election he supported (Robertson, Materials for Hist. of Thomas à Becket, Rolls Ser. v. 19), and procured from him the right for himself and his successors of wearing the mitre, ring, and gloves; but the bull granting these dignities arrived after his death, and it therefore fell to the lot of his successor to be the first mitred abbot. A letter which he wrote on behalf of Foliot, bishop of London, to the pope is extant in the 'Epistolæ Thornæ à Becket' (Bonn, 1682, p. 548; cf. Robertson, Materials, vi. 221). Lawrence died 11 April 1175, and was buried in the south cloister of Westminster Abbey. His tomb was misplaced in the rebuilding of the cloisters, and the name of Vitalis has been incorrectly placed on his grave. Widmore, in his 'History of Westminster Abbey.' gives his epitaph, which says that

Pro mentis vitae dedit illi Laura nomen;
Detur ei vita Laurea pro meritis.

Sporley (MSS. Cott. Claud. A. viii. f. 44) says an image in marble was placed on his tomb. A statue of him is on the new north front of the abbey.

A pension of six marks was set aside for his anniversary. All writers unite in praise of his learning and abilities. That he was chosen a judge in various causes, and was a favourite with long, pope, and archbishop, is a sufficient testimony to his worth, fits, Bale, and Flete (in the manuscript history of the abbey) give long lists of his writings, but many of those are the work of his namesake of Durham. Some homilies intended for different seasons of the year and for the various festivals of the church, about a hundred in all, extant in the library of Balliol College, Oxford, are undoubtedly by the abbot (Coxe, Catalog. Codicum MSS. i. 70, Balliol 223, ff. 255, sec. xii.)

[Besides authorities given above see Hardy's Descriptive Catalogue, Bolls Ser. ii. 409-10; Bale, i. 196; Wharton's Anglia Sacra, i. 787; Dugdale's Monasticon, i. 269, ii. 186; Twysden's Script, col. 688; Dart's Hist, of Westminster Abbey, ed. 1723, vol. ii. p. xv; Neale and Brayley's Hist. 1818, i. 34; Sortees's Durham, i. 24; Stanley's Memorials of Westminster Abbey, pp. 355, &c]

E. T. B.