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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: August 2014

3 - The Abbey's Armoury of Charters

  • Edited by Tom Licence, Senior Lecturer in Medieval History and Director of the Centre of East Anglian Studies at the University of East Anglia
  • Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
  • pp 31-52


At some point during the 1070s the archbishop of Canterbury, Lanfranc, wrote to Herfast (bishop of East Anglia 1070–84/5) in trenchant terms. Much of his letter criticized the bishop's lifestyle – ‘Give up the dicing (to mention nothing worse) and the world's amusements in which you are said to idle away the entire day’ – and the company he kept: ‘Banish the monk Hermann, whose life is notorious for its many faults, from your society and your household completely.’ Instead, Lanfranc told his bishop to read Scripture and above all to master the decrees of the Roman pontiffs and the canons of the holy councils, to ‘discover what you do not know’ and ‘ensure that you hold no opinion that is at variance with your mother church’. The significance of that advice finds context in the opening of the letter, which relates to the affairs of the abbey of Bury St Edmunds. After a conventional greeting, where Lanfranc wished Bishop Herfast might be humble in wisdom and of sober understanding, the archbishop began by observing that Berard, a cleric of Abbot Baldwin of Bury, had delivered a previous letter from the Archbishop to Bishop Herfast. He went on:

As [Berard] himself affirmed to me later, you made a coarse joke about it; you uttered cheap and unworthy remarks about me in the hearing of many; and you declared on oath that you would give me no assistance in that matter. There will be another time and another place to speak of those things. But my immediate instructions are these: that you lay no claim to the property of St Edmund unless you can give indisputable proof that it was claimed by your predecessors and that you discharge the aforesaid Berard without any fine or threat of punishment, until the case comes into our own court and can be rightly concluded according to canon law and our own ruling as judge.