Archiver > GEN-MEDIEVAL > 2005-08 > 1123275383

Subject: Re: Henry of Poitou, Abbot of Peterborough 1127-
Date: Fri, 5 Aug 2005 16:56:23 EDT

In a message dated 8/5/05 1:09:33 PM Pacific Daylight Time,

<< Well, here's your prompting. I'd be interested in seeing what the Laud
Chronicle has to say about Henry of Poitou. >>

First in 1123 there is an entry
"... At the same time came a certain legate from Rome, who was called Henry.
He was abbott of the abbey of St Jean d'Angely, and came about the payment of
Peter's pence. He told the king that it was unlawful that one of the secular
clergy should be set over monks; moreover they had already canonically chosen
an archbishop in their chapter; but the king would not revoke his decision
because of the love he bore the bishop of Salisbury. Soon thereafter the
archbishop went to Canterbury, and was there admitted, although it was against their

Then in 1127
"... In this same year he [King Henry] gave the abbacy of Peterborough to an
abbot named Henry of Poitou, who already held the abbacy of St Jean d'Angely.
The archbishop and all the bishops said this was uncanonical, and that he
could not have charge of two abbacies; but the same Henry gave the king to
understand that he had left his abbacy on account of the great strife in that
county, and that he had done so on the advice and with the permission of the pope of
Rome and that abbot of Cluny, and also because he was the legate sent from
Rome to collect Peter's pence. Et quia numquam quietus esse uoluit, adquisiuit
legacionem colligendorum denariorum Rome in Anglia, ut per hoc abbaciam
adquireret. This was true enough, but the reason was rather that he wished to have
charge of both abbacies --- which, in fact, he did succeed in doing as long as
it was God's will. As a secular clerk he had been bishop of Soissons;
afterwards he became a monk of Cluny, and later became prior in the same monastery,
and then prior of Savigny-le-Vieux. Thereafter, since he was a relation of the
King of England and of the count of Poitou, the count gave him the abbacy of
St Jean d'Angely. Afterwards by great intrigue he manaaged to get possession
of the archbishopric of Besancon, but only for three days, for it was only
fitting that he should forfeit what he had come by uncanonically. Thereupon he
got possession of the bishopric of Saintes, which was five miles from his
abbacy, and held it for almost a week, but the abbot of Cluny got him out, just as
he had done before from Besancon. Then it occurred to him that if he could
get firmly rooted in England, he could get all his own way, so be besought the
king, and said to him that he was a broken-down old man, who could not endure
the great injustices and disturbances which were prevalent in their land; and
begged to be given the abbacy of Peterborough through his agency and that of
all his friends whom he mentioned by name. And the king granted it to him
because he was his kinsman, and because he had been the chief witness to swear oath
and testify when the marriage of the son of the Duke of Normandy and the
daughter of the Count of Anjou was dissolved on the grounds of consanguinity.
Thus despicably was the abbacy bestowed between Christmas and Candlemas in
London; and so he accompanied the king to Winchester, and from there he came to
Peterborough, where he took up his abode just as drones do in a hive. Everything
bees gather, drones devour and carry off, and so too did he. Everything that
he could take, from within the monastery or outside it, from ecclesiatics and
laymen, he sent overseas. He did nothing for the monastery's welface and left
nothing of value untouched. Let no one be surprised at the truth of what we
are about to relate, for it was general knowledge throughout the whole country
that immediately after his arrival -- it was the Sunday [i.e. 6 February
1127, Lent began on 16 February] when they sing Exurge Quare o[bdormis], D[omine]
? -- many men both saw and heard a great number of huntsmen hunting. The
huntsmen were black, huge, and hideous, and rode on black horses and on black
he-goats, and their hounds were jet black, with eyes like saucers, and horrible.
This was seen in the very deer park of the town of Peterborough, and in all
the woods that stretch from that same town to Stamford, and in the night the
monks heard them sounding and winding their horns. Reliable witnesses who kept
watch in the night declared that there might well have been as many as twenty
or thirty of them winding their horns as near as they could tell. This was
seen and heard from the time of his arrival all through Lent and right up to
Easter. Such was his entrance: of his exit we cannot yet say. Let it be as God

And then in 1128 we have this:

"... In this same year the fore-mentioned abbot Henry went back to his own
monastery in Poitou, by premission of the king. He gave the king to understand
that he would entirely relinquish that monastery and leave that country to
dwell with him there in England in the monastery of Peterborough, but it was far
from being so. He acted thus because he wished, by means of his great
cunning, to stay there for perhaps twelve months of more, and then return. God
Almightly have pity on that unhappy foundation!

And then in 1130 we have this

"...This same year abbot Henry of Angely came to Peterborough after Easter,
and said he had entirely relinquished the monastery [of Angely]. After him,
with the king's permission, the abbot of Cluny, named Peter, came to this
country, and he was welcomed with great ceremony everywhere wherever he went. He
came to Peterborough, and there abbot Henry promised him that he would secure
the monastery of Peterborough for him, so that it would be subject to Cluny.
However there is a proverb which says 'Hedge abides that fields divides.' May
God Almightly frustrate evil counsels! Shortly afterwards the abbot of Cluny
went back to his own country.
...In this same year, before Easter, abbot Henry went oversea to Normandy
from Peterborough, and there spoke with the king. He told him that the abbot of
Cluny had ordered him to report and hand over the abbey of Angely; after he
had done that he said he would return to England if the king gave permission.
So he went to his own monastery [of Angely], and remained there right up to
midsummer day; but the day following St John's day [i.e. 25 June], the monks
chose and abbot from their own number, and brought him into church in solemn
procession; they sang the Te Deum, and rang the bells, and placed him in the
abbot's seat, and proferred him the unqualified obedience which monks owe to their
abbot; and the duke [of Aquitaine] and all the leading men and the monks drove
Henry, the other abbot, out of the monastery. The necessity to do this was
forced upon them, for in five and twenty years they had not enjoyed one single
happy day. Here all his boasted ingenuity failed him: now he had good cause to
creep into his capacious bag of tricks, and explore it in every corner, to
see if by chance there might be at least one shifty dodge left there by which he
could yet again deceive Christ and all Christian folk. Then he went into the
monastery at Cluny, where he was held so that he was unable to go either east
or west. The abbot of Cluny said that they had lost the monastery of St Jean
d'Angely through him, and because of his utter stupidity. Then he knew no
better way out of his predicament than to promise them, upon oaths sworn on holy
relics, that he would secure for them the monastery of Peterborough, if he
might reach England; and would install a prior from Cluny there, as well as a
sacristan, a treasurer, and a keeper of the wardrobe, to ensure that they got
complete control of both the internal and external affairs of the monastery.
Thus he went into France [Cluny being in Burgundy] and there above all the year.
May Christ provide for the wretched monks of Peterborough and for that
unhappy foundation ! Now they stand in need of the help of Christ and of all
Christian people."

Will Johnson

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