Herbert Losinga

Herbert Losinga or Losing, died 1119. Prior of the monastery of Fiscamp, in Normandy, and as some say, Prior of Bec in that dukedom, was in great favour with William Rufas, who brought him from Normandy, made him his chamberlain, and kept him in his court. Bale says, ``First was he here in England by friendship made of Ramseye, and afterwards by-shop of Thetforde by flattery, and fat payment, in the year of our Lord 1091, for which he is named in the chronicles to this day, the kynelying match of Symony, and that noteth him no small doar in that feate:" for he gave on less then 1900 ( a very large sum at that time) for the see, and had, during his friendship with the King, amassed such a sum, that he brought for Robert de Losing, his father, the abbacy of Winchester for 1000. He repented on that symony and decided to go to the pope to obtain absolution for it. He was stopped in the process of traveling and deprived of his  pastoral staff, when in 1093 he was given the Kings consent he resigned his ring and staff to the Pope and was told to build certain churches and monasteries as penance, this he did in lavish style as the Norwich Cathedral, St Nichols's in Yarmouth, St Margaret's in Lyne, the Church of St Mary at North Elmham and that of St Leornards on the Hill and St Mary in the Marsh will testify. While there he obtained the Popes consent to remove his see from Thetford to Norwich, and on his return on April 9th 1094 did so with Thomas, Archbishop of York consecrating the ground on the same day as his return, this was most likely the Church of St. Michael on Tombland, which was the head church of the city.

Bartholomew Cotton, a monk of Norwich, gives him an excellent character, affirming him to have been a man learned in all parts of secular and divine learning, incomparably eloquent, and so very beautiful and grave that those who knew him not might discover him to be a bishop, the graces in his mind shining in his countenance, wise in all he did and said, faithful, charitable and honest, this brilliant character could not altogether said be true of a person who was branded as buying his title. Cotton had as much on his side for excuse as he could have, he being on in his order in Norwich, he excuses him from the symony by saying that the Scripture allows us `` to redeem the time, because the days are evil," Eph. v. 16, and by the decretal which allows a clergyman to buy a right to a church of a layman, if he cannot otherwise obtain it.

From the memoir of William Herbert de Losinga, by the Rev.W.Spurdens, and published by the Norwich Archaeological Society in 1850, we gather many interesting particulars in respect of him. Mr. Spurdens says `` The accounts transmitted to us respecting this Prelate by the ecclesiastical writers and chronicles of his age are so contradictory, so improbable, and some of them on which we cannot satisfactory rely. Still it is quite evident that Herbert was one of the remarkable men of the twelfth century: and hence we are led to desire a knowledge of all that can yet be recovered concerning him, his real character, and conduct. On investigation, we are surprised to find that his name has been misrepresented, Losinga, certainly formed no part of it, and was probably not applied to him till after his death, another add on was Galfaus.

Weever says: `` Upon the death of Arfastus (the first Bishop of Thetford) one William Herbert, surnamed Galfagus, for the sum of nineteen hundred pounds, obtained from King William Rufas the Bishopric for himself, and the Abbey of Winchester for his father." His true name seems to have been William Herbert, son of Robert Herbert. The place of his birth also is not certain as Rev.W.Spurdens believes him to be born at his fathers manor at Syleham, in the Hundred of Hoxne, in the county of Suffolk, about the year 1045 and therefore an Englishman. He was then taken to Normandy for his education as before the conquest there were no schools, so the persons of wealth and station sent their sons to Abbeys in France and Normandy. Herbert therefore seems to have been sent to Fechamp with his education in mind and profited by the great promise shown by himself to such a degree that he was shown as a permanent figure to that institution. At what age he made religion his profession is not stated. He may have, possibly, have been occupied for a time, after the completion of his education, in wordily affairs; for a cloistered monk does not appear the best school for acquiring such an acquaintance with the court and with the world, as would qualify him for the office of Sewer to one monarch and of Chancellor to another. He does seem to have had a office under Duke Robert, as he certainly did under Rufus, who was so pleased with his service that he bought him over to England with him. In about the same year, 1087, Herbert was made Abbot of Ramsey and while he held that office he bought off  Rufus the See of Thetford and the Abbey of Winchester. Having then gone to Rome and laid at the feet of the Pope and being reestablished in his See needs some explanation. Henry I was left with a dispute that had arisen with Rufas and Anselm, the Achbishop of Canterbury, about investitures, so was not on good terms with the Pontiff. So although Herbert had obtained his See, he had little in the way of spiritual rights from the Pope, a visit to Rome could secure both these rights he wanted. The journey was undertaken without the Kings consent and before Herbert could leave our shores he was arrested.  The King took away his ring and pastoral staff but when he saw what he could gain from Herbert's visit to the Pope he reinstated him and let him go on his journey as a minister for peace.

Herbert seems to have been a good scholar and a good writer who was ahead of his time in all he did especially as an early diplomat. The monks of Norwich tried to have him canonized as a Saint this never came about but his work in the region is still there to be seen in all its reverence.

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