Before discussing Leofric's career as a bishop and bibliophile, it would be well to explore the history of the sees to which he was assigned. The sees of Cornwall and Devon in late Anglo-Saxon England could not be considered prize jewels in the church's crown, and one must wonder why this supposedly close friend of Edward's, and possibly his chancellor, was assigned to such isolated bishoprics as Crediton and later Exeter.

Exeter was here long before its cathedral. Excavations in the garden of the Deanery, made in 1932, brought to light at a depth of some twenty feet below the surface a Roman bath and the foundations of a great building alongside. Sixteen coins found during the progress of this work are now exhibited in a case in the South Choir Aisle; they date from Domitian AD 76 to Valentinian 375, and carry the mind back to a time before Britain became England, when Celts and Romans divided Exeter between them. Britain had become a Roman colony in 43 under the Emperor Claudius, who himself took the name Britannicus the following year.... No Roman legion was ever stationed here as at York, Chester and Caerleon on Usk: all the same, it was an important place for the Roman occupiers, and it commanded the west.[1]

Both Devon and Cornwall had been inhabited from the Neolithic period and coins from the Hellenistic period from Mediterranean locations dating from circa 250 BC suggest that Exeter was an important trading port. There is also widespread evidence that Exeter and surrounding communities were important in the Roman empire for more than their tin mines, as evidenced by the remains of forts, coins, and villas found throughout both parishes.

There is little evidence of Crediton in the early records, the earliest reference to the community regarding the birth of St Boniface c. 680:

In 680 there was born at Kirton, or Crediton, eight miles west of Exeter, Winfred, destined to be one of the missionaries, and to die a martyr's death in 755 as Archbishop of Mainz, having won for his heroic work among the Frisians the title of ‘the apostle of Germany.’ Tradition says that he went to school in Exeter with the monks whose abbot was Wulphard; and the ancient Pancras Lane is still pointed out as the way by which he went to his lessons. He seems to have entered a monastery in Exeter at an early age, and to have received his name Boniface at the time of his profession.[2]

But the connection to Crediton appears to be in accord with a later tradition:

The earliest Bonifacian vita does not mention his place of birth but says that at an early age he attended a monastery ruled by abbot Wulfhard in escancastre, or Examchester, which seems to denote Exeter, and may have been one of many monasteriola built by local landowners and churchmen; nothing else is known of it outside the Bonifacian vitae. Later tradition places his birth at Crediton, but the earliest mention of Crediton in connection to Boniface is from the early fourteenth century, in John Grandisson's Legenda Sanctorum: The Proper Lessons for Saints' Days according to the use of Exeter.[3]

Boniface's importance as church leader was in Germany, and culminated in his receiving the pallium as archbishop of Germany in Rome from Pope Gregory II. During his third visit to Rome in 737–738 Boniface was made papal legate for Germany.

The coming of Christianity to the area of Exeter is of uncertain date. Thompson suggests a date not long after 200. Constantine made Christianity a religio licita by his edict of 324, but Thompson points to earlier local dedications:

One of the ancient Churches in the heart of modern Exeter has its dedication to St Pancras, the Roman boy martyred at the age of fourteen in the persecution of Diocletian in 304. St Sidwell too, or Sativola, is said to have been of Roman descent on her father's side and of British on her mother's. It is worthy of notice that, of the ancient Churches of Exeter, those to the north are of Roman origin and those to the south of it Celtic, as for example St Petrock and St Kerian.[4]

The withdrawal of the Roman legions from England c. 410, and specifically from Cornwall and Devon, impacted the wealth of both communities as is seen from the lack of wealth in archaeological sites that are dated after the Roman withdrawal. The Anglo-Saxon invasion of Southern Britain and the pushing out of the surviving Romans and the Celtic tribes is a matter that would require its own book; suffice it to say that over the next two centuries the Anglo-Saxon tribes were able to settle and become the dominant people in England.

As the Anglo-Saxons became more settled, paganism began to diminish, especially after the mission sent by Pope Gregory the Great and led by Augustine landed in Kent in 597. The conversion of South-western England is harder to trace, as details have been obscured by history; but there are a few surviving details. The Bodleian Library holds a copy (from just after the Conquest) of a charter of 739 by which Æthelheard, king of the West Saxons, granted land to Forthere, Bishop of Sherborne for the foundation of a monastery at Crediton. The Diocese of Sherborne was split into three smaller dioceses in the early 900s: a reduced Sherborne, Wells, and a separate see for Devon and Cornwall. Crediton was chosen as the site for the cathedral for the latter, probably in part because St Boniface had supposedly been born there c. 680. From 926 Cornwall had its own bishop, who at first acted as a suffragan of the bishop of Crediton, a full diocese of Cornwall being formed in only 994. The see survived just until the 1020s, when it was again absorbed by Crediton.

Exeter, the main settlement of Cornwall, has existed for a longer period than other settlements in both Devon and Cornwall, being as noted above a trading centre from about 250 BC. After the Roman withdrawal from Britain, the fight for Exeter centred around the question of which Anglo-Saxon tribe would dominate the surviving Britons who were defeated at the Battle of Peonnum in Somerset in 658. In 876, Exeter was attacked and briefly captured by the Danes, who were driven out the next year by Alfred the Great; Thompson notes that Alfred came to the help of the Monastery in Exeter with money and help in rebuilding. In subsequent years, Exeter was made one of the four burghs in Devon, and in 893 held off another siege by the Danes. Around 928 Athelstan had the walls repaired and drove out the Britons. In 1001 a Danish attack was repulsed, but the Danes plundered Exeter in 1003 having been let in, for unknown reasons, by the French reeve of Emma of Normandy, who had been given the city as part of her dowry on her marriage to Æthelred the Unready the previous year. The threat from pirates continued over the next several decades, but eventually declined possibly due to the fact that Gytha Thorkelsdottir, wife of Godwin, Earl of Wessex, and mother of Harold Godwinson, owned land in Exeter and the surrounding community.

The history of religious foundations in Exeter is as obscure as much of the early history of the community. There is evidence that the cathedral origins can be traced back to Roman times, but whether this was a Christian place of worship is unclear. The Minster can be dated back to the seventh century, but in 932 King Athelstan by a deed preserved in the archives of the Dean and Chapter ordered a new Minster to be constructed for the monks and endowed it generously with manors and relics; the building was used in the eleventh century as the house of the Bishop and his Canons. Following the massacre of St Brice's Day, November 13th, 1002, Swegen and his Danes sought revenge, and in 1003 Exeter was burnt and with it Athelstan's Minster and the Monastery along with its treasures and library, leaving an impoverished community for sixteen years until Swegen's son Cnut, king of all England and a Christian convert, rebuilt the Minster of the monks of Exeter in 1019. This Church of St Peter would for 250 years play a major role in the ecclesiastical life of Exeter and Devon. It was not, or not yet, the cathedral. Thompson takes up the story, offering some useful definitions en route:

From 636 Devon has been in the Diocese of a bishop, but it never had a bishop of its own until 909 when Eadulph was consecrated, with his cathedral at Crediton. It should be observed that the word ‘cathedral’ is, strictly speaking, an adjective, which qualifies the word ‘church.’ And a cathedral church is one in which is placed a bishop's ‘stool’ or seat (cathedra) from which he exercises his episcopal jurisdiction. A cathedral takes its name neither because of its age nor because of its size but only because of the bishop's throne in it. For this reason it is the mother church of a Diocese, and should be the centre of its religious life.

Nine Devon Bishops had their cathedral at Crediton. Under the last but one, Lyfing, in 1042, Cornwall was united to Devon as one see, after having had its own Bishop of St Germans since 936. In 1046 Leofric was appointed Bishop of Crediton.[5]

The new Bishop of Crediton asked for permission to move his cathedral to Exeter, and in 1050 he was enthroned in the Church of St Peter as the first Bishop of Exeter, with jurisdiction over Devon and Cornwall. Leofric passed away in 1072, and lies buried in his cathedral. His thirty-two years in his episcopal seat were of great importance to the cathedral and to later generations of Anglo-Saxon scholars because of his great generosity shown in the list prefixed to the Exeter Book during his lifetime—manors bequeathed to the Church, lands recovered for the Church, furniture, sacred ornaments, vestments, chalices, crosses, censers, and his marvellous library of sixty-six books without whose survival scholarship would have been infinitely poorer.

The life and activities of Leofric, Bishop of Exeter, 1050-1072, have recently been the focus of a substantial amount of critical study that has highlighted the bishop's importance in the crucial period spanning the Norman Conquest. Leofric's role in the eleventh-century English Church has too often been obscured by exiguous historical evidence that has caused the reconstruction of his episcopacy to be a difficult task. Unlike his peer and colleague Wulfstan II, Bishop of Worcester, 1062-1095, whose ‘vita’ has glorified his position within the English Church, Leofric does not seem to have been much celebrated after his death. This is quite possibly due to the complete absence of a hagiographic ‘vita’ dedicated to him. That Leofric was a positive pastoral figure for his cathedral may however be deduced from a list written shortly after his death in 1072 that records the goods that Leofric accumulated during his office and that he eventually donated to Exeter Cathedral.[6]

Leofric is one of the most enigmatic figures of the Anglo-Saxon church. Not noted for writing like Bede or Aelfric, or for his involvement in political matters like Stigand or Wulfstan, he might have remained just a footnote in scholarly works on the late Anglo-Saxon church except for the almost miraculous preservation of a portion of his manuscript collection. This collection, which will be discussed in detail later, includes the Exeter Book, which is one of four main sources for modern knowledge of Anglo-Saxon literature (alongside the Cædmon manuscript, the Nowell Codex, and the Vercelli Book), ecclesiastical works such as the Leofric Missal, and philosophical works such as Boethius' De Consolatio Philosophiae. Aside from the surviving manuscripts from his collection, Leofric's donation lists of which two copies have been preserved and which are of great value to Anglo-Saxon scholars interested in cathedral book lists, a letter to Pope Leo requesting a transfer of the head of his sees, and a few brief references in a variety of Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman histories and suspect charters, very little is known of Leofric. Even his origins are shrouded in mystery.

The first tradition regarding Leofric's origins is that he was a monk whose birthplace[7] was somewhere in the sees he received when he became bishop. Along with his origins being Celtic/Cornish,[8] it was also believed that Leofric somehow knew Edward the Confessor prior to the future king's exile to Normandy and followed him into exile; during this exile, Leofric was sent to Lotharingia[9] to receive further training as a monk and assistant to Edward. A final argument for Anglo-Saxon origins is Leofric's survival during the purge of foreign bishops during Edward's reign. If Leofric was Anglo-Saxon by birth this could explain why he survived the purge, although one is left to ponder if being Anglo-Saxon by birth was enough to prevent Leofric's exile considering the decades he may have spent in exile with Edward.

There is little concrete evidence for Leofric's being an Anglo-Saxon, just his Anglo-Saxon name and his collection of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts. Whether or not this scholarly theory of Leofric's origins and training is accurate, the evidence is limited enough to suggest other possibilities. The second theory regarding Leofric's origins and training suggest that he was actually Norman or more likely Lotharingian.[10] The evidence for this argument centres around the large number of foreign manuscripts contained in Leofric's donation list and his inclusion in the donation list of the monastic rule of a foreign bishop; The Rule of Chrodegang of Metz provides confirmation of Leofric's relationship with a Lotharingian monastery and tradition.

The other major source for the viability of this theory is linked to the events surrounding the Anglo-Saxon nobles' uprising against Edward the Confessor in 1051. As a result of this uprising Edward's foreign bishops, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert of Jumièges, were exiled to the Continent. The foreign bishops not exiled were ones not from Normandy, hence the argument that Leofric was from Lotharingia or thereabouts. Again, the evidence for Leofric's being a foreigner is limited to these few facts. A third theory regarding Leofric's origins supports the argument that he was a foreigner but argues that he was not a Lotharingian but a Breton who had travelled to the Continent prior to the exile of Edward the Confessor. George Oliver holds that ‘Leofricus (the Leuricus of Domesday) descended from an illustrious family in Burgundy, but reared and educated in Lorrain, had probably formed an acquaintance with Edward the Confessor abroad.’[11]

Whatever Leofric's origins, evidence suggests that he received his training in Lotharingia, where he possibly adopted the rule of St Chrodegang (born Liège c. 715), a disciple of Boniface of Exeter who continued Boniface's reform of the Frankish church and wrote his Rule to assert that the secular clergy should as far as possible be assimilated to the regulars, and live a communal life with a professed discipline. Barlow suggests that Leofric was educated at the Church of St Stephen's in Toul,[12] where the future Pope Leo IX who was to permit the transfer of the head of the sees of Crediton and Exeter to Exeter was a canon 1017-1024 and bishop after 1027.[13] Corradini presents reasons for thinking Leofric was educated in Liège under Wazo, Bishop of Liège 1042-48, who played a central role in the Lotharingian reform movement.[14] Corradini also paints a clear picture of the preference dating back to the time of Cnut of appointing Lotharingians to bishoprics in the south-west of England.[15] There has never been evidence to suggest that Leofric knew Edward the Confessor prior to his exile, so it is in Lotharingia that Leofric apparently met Edward and became a friend of the future king. Barlow has even suggested that this meeting occurred in 1039 in Bruges.[16] One can assume that in Edward's travels to and from the Norman court, as a guest of his mother's relatives the Dukes of Normandy, Leofric may have also met the leaders of the Norman court. When exactly Leofric entered service to Edward is unknown but one can assume it was before 1042 when he became a bishop.

After Leofric's return to England, whether with Edward or not, the limited and very problematic evidence suggests that Leofric was a close confidant and advisor to Edward, acting according to various claims as clerk, personal chaplain, or even chancellor; for example, Florence of Worcester claimed Leofric was a German-trained monk assigned to the Norman court where he became involved with Edward, returned to England with Edward, received his bishopric, and was Edward's chancellor. According to Oliver,

Shortly after his accession to the English throne we meet Leofric as his chaplain, to whom he gave an estate now called Holcombe, in the parish of Dawlish, in the county of Devon, ‘cuidam meo idoneo capellano, Leofrico onomate nuncupato, septem mansas in Doflishe.’ The original grant is in the archives of the cathedral. He further made Leofric his chancellor for a short period; and promoted him to the charge of the united sees of Devon and Cornwall.[17]

The surviving sources do not provide enough material to prove or disprove the claim that Leofric was a clerk or personal chaplain to Edward. The title of chancellor is even more problematic, one difficulty being whether this title actually existed during Edward's reign. It should be noted that another of Edward's allies, albeit never a bishop, also received this title in charters from this period. While scholarly consensus holds that even if the office of chancellor did exist at the time, Leofric did not hold that position, Corradini is adamant that Leofric served as a royal chancellor and points to an article by Simon Keynes who argues, ‘priests served in the royal chancery during Edward's reign. They were selected because they had to accomplish religious duties while being in charge of the activities related to the chancery.’[18]

Whatever Leofric's role during the years preceding his receiving his post/s as bishop, it seems that he remained close with Edward. The standard view is given by Thompson:

In 1044 he was the King's Chaplain and received from him a grant of land covering what is now East Teignmouth and Dawlish. He was also the King's Chancellor. The Chancellor was the most dignified of the chaplains and virtually Secretary of State for all departments, and was generally rewarded for his services with a bishopric.[19]

In 1046 after the death of the dualist Bishop Lyfing, he received two out of the three sees that Lyfing had held, not being assigned as bishop to the third and more prosperous bishopric of Worcester. This bishopric went to Ealdred, another confidant, as well as diplomat and military leader, for the Confessor. One is left to wonder if Leofric was truly a great friend to Edward, as both the sees he received were of limited resources, in the hands of the Godwin family, and (if Leofric is to be believed) under constant threat from pirates. Whatever the reasons for Leofric being assigned these two sees, he seems to have willingly taken the assignment, perhaps because of local control by the Godwinsons, perhaps because of proximity to St Michael's Mount:

⁊ on þis ylcan geare forðferde Lyuync bisceop on .xiii. Kalendas Aprelis , ⁊ se cyng geaf Leofrice his preoste þæt biscoprice.[20]

It is difficult to determine what occurred in the next few years; Barlow notes that there is no evidence of Leofric's being employed by Edward for any diplomatic missions or attending any papal councils or synods, but considers him to have been an able administrator.[21] This Oliver confirms:

The district had greatly suffered from the incursions of pirates; and we learn from a manuscript in the Bodleian Library (No. 579) that our zealous and faithful prelate exerted himself in visiting and administering comfort to his afflicted flock—that he was assiduous in preaching God's Word—that he trained up his clergy in religious discipline, erected several churches, and was exemplary in the discharge of his spiritual functions. Crediton was then a defenceless town, in comparison to Exeter, which had rapidly recovered from its disasters inflicted by the Danish invaders; and Leofric contemplated a removal of his residence into this fortified city, the capital of Devonia, læta fluviis nemorumque comâ.[22]

But four years later Leofric appears again on the scene and has the bishopric moved from Crediton to Exeter. Aside from his manuscript collection and his survival during the tumultuous years of Edward's, Harold's, and the early years of William's reigns, this transfer is the most interesting aspect of Leofric's tenure as bishop.

The transfer of the head of a see and the reworking of a see's boundaries were not unusual in the history of the Church in England, and continued to happen for centuries. What makes the transfer of the head of Leofric's sees interesting is the length of time before he requested the transfer, the reason/s behind the transfer, whom he contacted for permission to transfer the office, and who attended the service that marked the transfer. Leofric waited for four years to request that the seat of his bishoprics be moved from Crediton to Exeter, possibly being aware how long it would take for a legate to journey to Rome and bring back a papal response. As noted earlier, Crediton was a smaller community with a cathedral, unlike Exeter, which was a bigger and walled but did not contain a cathedral until after the movement of the head of the sees; furthermore, Exeter was only seven miles from Crediton.

In his letter to Pope Leo IX Leofric requests the movement of the sees' head on the grounds that Crediton was not a worthy site for the head of the sees, being a small village lacking walls (yet Leofric retained his palace and lands in Crediton after the move). It was also implied by this letter that Crediton was under greater threat from pirates than Exeter. This is an interesting argument since Crediton was seven miles further inland than Exeter and stood on the banks of a tributary that was harder to access than that of Exeter, whose tributary was tidal and navigable up to the city walls. This enabled Exeter to be a busy port that had been attacked and sacked several times by pirates, which makes Leofric's request a little odd—one does not move closer to the pirates if one is afraid of attack by them. Leofric could have argued that the rebuilding of the city walls would provide further protection from pirates, or possibly Leofric knew that the earlier pirates were related to the Godwins, as Gytha Thorkelsdottir, Harold's mother, was originally of Viking stock and may have returned to Scandinavia after the Conquest. It is more probable, as scholars have implied, that Leofric's goal was to transfer the head of his sees from a smaller, more isolated community to one which, albeit still rebuilding its walls from the last major pirate attacks, did have a large church, the minster of the monastery of St Mary and St Peter, suitable to become a cathedral. It is not clear just how impoverished St Mary and St Peter was, for Athelstan's foundation had been endowed with almost a third of his large collection of relics, including a piece of the Burning Bush and a bit of the candle that the angel of the Lord lit in Christ's tomb,[23] yet Leofric supposedly found only five worn-out service books and a bunch of ancient vestments, though Conner surmises that there may have been a tenth-century library in Exeter dating from before Leofric's arrival.[24]

Thompson provides the local Exeter view of Leofric's moving of the head of the sees:

Leofric had not long to wait before his appointment to Crediton. But the havoc wrought by pirates among the scanty population, and the fact that the Churches of Cornwall and of Crediton had been plundered by them, moved Leofric to ask from the Pope and from the King permission to move from the exposed and insecure country village into the walled town of Exeter.[25]

The proposed move would also allow Leofric the opportunity to free himself of the ties to the monks at Crediton, which is perhaps the real reason, as Corradini points out:

On consideration of Wazo's belief that a bishop should be faithful to the king with regard to secular matters, ‘de secularibus,’ and to the Pope concerning the spiritual domain, ‘ecclesiasticus ordo,’ Leofric's request to the pope to approve and support the removal of his episcopal seat may reveal that he acted in agreement with Wazo's teachings. The Leofric Missal records that Leofric sent his priest Landbert to Rome to ask Pope Leo IX for a letter requesting that Edward permit the episcopal see of a ‘villa’ such as Crediton to be relocated to ‘urbem exoniensem,’ the city of Exeter.... Leofric's request to the pope seems to be induced by the unsafe nature of Crediton, a small town exposed to Viking attacks. Security seems also to have been the reason behind the transfer of a monastery from Lindisfarne to Chester-le-Street and subsequently from there to Durham in the ninth century, a reason too similar to that claimed for the removal of the diocesan see of Crediton, especially in view of the fact that foreign incursions had not happened in Cornwall since the early years of the eleventh century as both Crediton and Exeter had been sacked in 1013. It seems therefore plausible that Leofric knew that the security issue had promptly entailed the removal of the diocesan seat of Chester-le-Street and that papal approval had not been necessary on that occasion. This is all the more significant if one considers that in Leo IX's letter to Edward there is no mention of the security motivations that seemed to be so crucial in Leofric's request. On the contrary, Leo IX underpins, in his response, the importance of having the episcopal seat of Devon and Cornwall in an urban centre like Exeter which he reckons to be a location more congenial to a bishop than a rural ‘villa’ such as Crediton, which he calls ‘villula,’ a minor, insignificant town.[26]

So a Liège-educated Pope is happy to set the diocesan seat of Exeter in a major urban centre, along Continental lines.

The letter requesting the moving of the sees was apparently not sent to the Archbishop of Canterbury or even to Edward the Confessor, but to the saintly Pope Leo IX in Rome, in the hands of his envoy, his confidential chaplain Landbert, personally to request papal permission for the transfer of the head of the sees. The reasons the request may have not gone to the Archbishop are complicated. In the fall of 1050 the current Archbishop Eadsige died, and in the intervening months Edward was fighting with the chapter of the Archbishopric regarding who should replace Eadsige, Edward supporting the choice of a friend and foreign priest, Robert of Jumièges and the chapter house and the Godwinsons supporting a local bishop. Edward won this battle, for a time, and Robert of Jumièges became Archbishop. In an odd turn of events, he went to Rome to receive his pallium in 1051.

Leofric's choosing to go to the Pope for permission for the transfer does seem odd but may be explained by the difficult church politics of the time. Robert of Jumièges, whose appointment was a partial cause of the Anglo-Saxon lords' revolt in 1051, not only came into conflict with Godwin and his family in his attempt to retrieve church lands lost to the Godwins, but also came into conflict with Edward in his refusal to promote a friend of Edward's to a bishopric. Yet one must wonder why Leofric worried about gaining papal permission considering the number of schismatic popes during his tenure as bishop. Whatever the reasons for Leofric's contacting the Pope instead of his archbishop and king to receive this transfer, the Pope agreed to the transfer and encouraged Edward to allow it:

Leave was given, and in 1050 Leofric, led by the right arm by the King while Queen Edytha led him by the left, was placed in his episcopal Throne in the Church of St Peter in Exeter. The Church then became a Cathedral Church and Leofric became first Bishop of Exeter, with jurisdiction over Devon and Cornwall. The Charter recording this new foundation is still in the keeping of the Dean and Chapter, and of it Professor RW Chambers says, ‘If it be not the actual document placed on the Altar of the Cathedral by the Confessor in 1050, it is certainly a contemporary copy made at the time for record.’[27]

What is interesting is who was in attendance for the official transfer of the head of the sees on St Peter's Day, 1050. The surviving sources all agree that Edward the Confessor and his queen graced Leofric with their appearance at the ceremony and provided him with some lands, which apparently was unusual. Edward did not even attend the investiture of Robert of Jumièges into the seat at Canterbury, which seems odd considering Robert was Edward's choice and his appointment caused conflict with the chapter and the Anglo-Saxon nobles. One even has to question why the king and queen would make such a long journey from London to Exeter just for the transferring of the head of the sees:

The king and the queen accompanied Leofric to the episcopal throne before a large number of nobles and senior churchmen whose presence augmented the importance of the occasion. The manner in which the ceremony took place suggests that Leofric earned his cathedral a status and prestige that it had not enjoyed in previous times. The ritual involved in the removal of the episcopal seat from Crediton to Exeter was concrete expression of Wazo's ideas on the roles of lay and religious authorities. Leofric perceived and acknowledged the importance of obtaining papal approval in religious matters, such as the location of his episcopal seat, and at the same time he called upon King Edward to consolidate the importance of Exeter cathedral in front of the English aristocracy....

[R]ex ipse gloriosus, per brachium dextrum episopum ducens, et nobilissima regina Edgitha per sinistrum, in cathedram pontificalem in prefato monasterio constituerunt, presentibus ducibus, multisque Anglie proceribus.[28]

Stafford has pointed out that Queen Edith had dower rights to the town of Exeter, which may explain her presence at the investiture.[29]

An interesting result of the transfer of the head of the sees is that Leofric freed himself of the monks of Credition Cathedral, and their Rule.[30] Upon his arrival, and with the permission of Edward, Leofric followed the Continental trend of establishing a community of secular canons and brought a new rule to the new cathedral, the above-mentioned Rule of Chrodegang.[31] The monks at St Peter's, only eight in number according to Leland,[32] were removed, and according to Hooker[33] travelled to London with Edward, to Westminster. St Peter's was then staffed with lay priests, twenty-four secular canons, and twenty-four vicars,[34] a tradition that continues today. Thompson explains:

From this date [1050] Exeter has been a cathedral of the Old Foundation, as it is called in distinction from the Monastic Foundation of those which, before the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, had been Religious Houses, and the New Foundation of more recent cathedrals. Exeter Cathedral has always been served by secular clergy, and not by monks. The monks (or nuns, according to one tradition) eight in number, who had worshipped in the Old Minster and lived in the monastery here, are said to have been removed to Edward the Confessor's new abbey at Westminster.

Leofric established a chapter of twenty-four canons, who were helped in the performance of their duties by twenty-four priest-vicars. The canons lived with the bishop, with a common refectory and a common dormitory, under the revised rule of Chrodegang, an eighth-century Bishop of Metz. There has been a perpetual succession, from the eleventh century to the present day, in the holders of canonries. At present there are twenty-four prebendaries, of whom four are ‘called into residence’; and these four with the dean form the chapter of the cathedral. The number of priest-vicars has varied from time to time: the College of Vicars-Choral, though not at the moment dissolved, will have no new members admitted to it.[35]

Leofric's apparent exile to two poorer sees and his freeing himself of the monks from both may be explained by the proximity of Exeter to Mont-St-Michel and St Michael's Mount. Leofric's manuscript collection has a high proportion of Norman manuscripts, and several can be linked to Mont-St-Michel. Perhaps Leofric's goal in having the head of the sees transferred was not for greater protection from pirates or because there was a bigger, more lively community in Exeter, but because Exeter provided access to Norman monks, especially since the lands around Exeter were controlled by the Godwin family. After the Conquest, Leofric's survival is notable; he likely played a role in the subduing of the southwest, especially in William's siege of Exeter in early 1068, and he survived William's purge of English bishops in 1070.

Alas, his life’s work still unfinished, Leofric passed away early in 1072, and was succeeded by Osbern FitzOsbern, brother to William FitzOsbern, Earl of Hereford. Osbern, a second cousin of Edward the Confessor and a royal chaplain, became Bishop of Exeter in 1072, and was consecrated at St Paul's in London by Lanfranc, the Archbishop of Canterbury.[36] ‘Until he died, a pattern of antique virtue, in 1103, [Osbern] continued to observe “the customs of his lord king Edward,” and to commend others who also observed them. His example is a warning against attaching much importance to the generalizations of later writers about Norman contempt for English barbarism.’[37] Stenton points to the veneration felt in Normandy as well as England for Edward the Confessor, whose living memory lingered in the Conqueror's own circle in Osbern and, even more, in Leofric.

On the 10th of February, 1072-3, this worthy prelate was called to his repose, and was buried in the crypt of his church ‘in cryptâ ejusdem ecclesiæ,’ supposed to be under the present vestry of the priest-vicars' or St. James's Chapel. In the fabric roll of the cathedral of 1419 is a charge ‘Pro scripturâ lapidis Domini Leofrici, primi ecclesias Exon episcopi.’[38]

Lacking the ultimate accolade of sanctification and an accompanying hagiographic vita, the enigmatic figure of Leofric of Exeter inhabits the shadows of history; there is no mention of his death in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, only a brief notice in the Leofric Missal. Skilled politically, he seems to have survived between Edward the Confessor and the Godwins on the one hand and William the Conqueror and Robert of Mortain on the other while getting his own way from Pope Leo IX in the transfer of the see of Crediton to Exeter. Speculation about his survival manoeuvres while maintaining a low profile is contained in the article by Gale, Langdon, and Leischman,[39] but Leofric is remembered today primarily on account of the magnificent library he amassed and bequeathed to his cathedral library upon his passing in 1072.

Si qi s illū abstulerit inde, subiaceat maledictioni. Fiat. Fiat. Fiat.

This bilingual curse to be visited on the head of anyone removing the manuscript in question from the cathedral library is found at the end of nine of the volumes donated by Leofric; this version comes from page 488 of Corpus 41. Two early lists of Leofric's benefactions exist, contained in two gospel-books that are today Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Auctarium D 2.16, beginning ‘Her swutelað on þissere cristes bec hwæt leofric bisceop hæfð gedon inn to sancte petres minstre on exanceastre,’[40] and Cambridge, University Library, MS Ii. 2. 11, which copy is now bound into the Exeter Book.[41]

Leofric apparently did not find his new cathedral well endowed with manuscripts when he arrived from Crediton, for the list records:

he ne funde on þam minstre þa he tofeng boca na ma buton .i. capitularie, ⁊ .i. forealdod nihtsang. ⁊ .i. pistel boc ⁊ .ii. forealdode ræding bec swiðe wake. ⁊ .i. wac mæssereaf.[42]

One cannot tell what he brought to the library from Crediton, which had, after all, been a cathedral, nor can one tell today precisely how many volumes he bequeathed to Exeter Cathedral; estimates range from fifty-nine to sixty-four or sixty-six, depending on whether one includes in the count the five items aforementioned or manuscripts known to have been in use in Exeter that are excluded from the gift lists, such as four collections of homilies or Corpus 41, which even carries the bilingual Record of Gift. What is remarkable is that by the time of Leofric's death Exeter Cathedral possessed a library of sixty or more volumes and came fourth in its number of holdings after Winchester, Worcester, and Durham. Starting a library virtually from scratch in an apparently impoverished new see with such success is quite a remarkable achievement and must remain Leofric's primary claim to fame, especially among Anglo-Saxon scholars. Archdeacon Thompson summarises the library's contents as follows:

Professor Max Förster has described the sixty-six books as consisting of fifty-five ecclesiastical works, of which thirty-one were service books: and of eleven other books, three of which were philosophical works of Boethius, and the remaining eight were poetry, namely two of Classical Latin poets, Persius and Statius, five volumes of early Christian Poetry in Latin, and last, the manuscript of Early English poetry known as the Exeter Book.[43]

It used to be doubted that Exeter had its own scriptorium, with scholars often content to talk of hands ‘of the Exeter type,’ but surely there can be little doubt that Leofric had a scriptorium of his own in which to copy borrowed manuscripts or write original ones in addition to acquiring manuscripts from other better-endowed institutions through personal contacts. Following Conner, Maxted notes:

A number of manuscripts have been considered to have similarities of handwriting which could associate them with a scriptorium organised by Bishop Leofric (Conner 1993). They include Corpus Christi Library Ms. 191 which includes Chrodegang's Regula canonicorum, a pontifical (now British Library Ms. Add. 28,188) a psalter (now British Library Ms. Harley 863) and the [Leofric C]ollectar (British Library Ms. Harley 2961).[44]

The inventory list shows that Leofric obtained books from both native and foreign sources, from English institutions such as Christ Church and St Augustine, Canterbury, and Glastonbury in addition to Continental ones from Normandy and Brittany, for instance. Corradini offers a convenient list:

The Leofric Missal contains parts originating from St Vaast, Arras in northern France and in Glastonbury; Cambridge, University Library Hh 1.10 containing Ælfric's grammar shows a Christ Church, Canterbury affiliation; Oxford, Bodleian Library, Auctarium F 1.15, containing Boethius and Persius, is made of two parts eventually bound together that originate from Christ Church and St Augustine's, Canterbury, respectively. Volumes that show a continental provenance or origin in Leofric's book collection are: Oxford, Bodleian Library, Auctarium D 2.16 a gospelbook produced in Brittany; Oxford, Bodleian Library, Bodley 394 containing Isidore and coming from France; and Oxford, Bodleian Library, Bodley 849 containing Bede's Expositio super vii epistolas catholicas produced in France, possibly in the Loire region.[45]

This is not the place to reproduce the entire list of Leofric's books, but it is important to note two features of his library, namely, the Lotharingian connections and the number of books in Old English vernacular. Maxted writes of the Lotharingian connection:

Among the books in the list of Leofric's donations is Regula canonicorum by his fellow Lothringian Chrodegang. Of the other 26 service books those that can still be identified show strong Lothringian influence, for example one of the ‘ii fulle maesse-bec,’ now Bodleian Library Ms. Bodley 579, better known as the Leofric Missal and the ‘i collectaneum,’ now the British Library Harleian Ms. 2961, known as the Leofric Collectar. There are three psalters, the third, listed as ‘se thriddan, swa man singth on Rome,’ being the type commonly used in England and probably thus specified to distinguish it from the other two, which were probably in the Gallican style preferred by Leofric.[46]

The Enlarged Rule of Chrodegang (the regula canonicorum in Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, 191) is in both Latin and Old English, and was copied in Leofric's Exeter scriptorium from an exemplar written in Winchester. These Lotharingian-influenced manuscripts serve to suggest that Leofric was, indeed, educated on the Continent and demonstrate that his reforms were part of a larger picture of Lotharingian reform in the south-west of England in the eleventh century. But Leofric's interests lay also in the vernacular Old English of his day. Maxted notes:

Of the group of manuscripts associated on stylistic grounds with a possible Exeter scriptorium several are in the vernacular. They include the works of Aelfric (Cambridge University Library Ms. Hh.1.10), Alfred's translation of Gregory's Regula pastoralis (Cambridge University Library Ms. Ii.2.4) a martyrology (Corpus Christi Library Ms. 196) and two books of homilies (British Library Cotton Ms. Cleopatra B.xiii and Lambeth Palace Library Ms. 489).[47]

The donation list itself is in Old English, as are four of the items in the list: a gospel book, a penitential, Alfred's translation of Boethius' De Consolatione Philosophiae, and, of major importance, the Exeter Book containing English poetry. In the vernacular and bearing the bilingual curse but not included in the donation list is Corpus 41 and its Old English Bede.

It is noteworthy that Leofric did not have a Latin text of the Historia Ecclesiastica, but an Anglo-Saxon translation. Corpus 41 and its marginal St Michael text therefore belongs to Leofric's drive to use Old English in his cathedral as eleventh-century clerics were wont to do and to the bishop's apparent desire to preserve Anglo-Saxon native poetry. Thank goodness no one asked Leofric what Ingeld had to do with Christ, for posterity would be much the poorer without the Exeter Book of Old English Poetry.[48]

After Leofric's time, the taste for Old English seems to have waned. Maxted comments as follows:

Of the 135 surviving manuscripts that Neil Ker (1964, 81-85) has identified as belonging to the medieval cathedral library at Exeter only fifteen (including five over which there is some doubt) are wholly or partly in English. However all of them are eleventh century or earlier. After Leofric's time the vernacular seems to have been frowned on. The 1327 inventory appears to list no works in English except for a group of items which the assessors did not even feel it worth their while to value: ‘Many other books worn out by age, written in French, English or Latin, which are not assessed because they are accounted of no value.’ This job lot must have included the Exeter Book which, from its markings, appears at some stage in its life to have served as a beer mat.[49]

It must also have been left carelessly on the floor near a sputtering fire, as a glowing ember has burned its way through several pages. Its having been held by a later age as of no account has permitted the Exeter Book to be one of the only two of Leofric's books to remain in Exeter since he himself owned it. Other Old English manuscripts were given away, such as that of the Anglo-Saxon Gospels, which had been donated to the library by Leofric and was given to Archbishop Matthew Parker by the dean and chapter in 1566. When in 1602 eighty-one of the library's manuscripts were given to Sir Thomas Bodley for his Oxford Library, the Exeter Book was not included being, presumably, considered worthless. One cannot tell when or why Corpus 41 left the Exeter library for Parker's—was it, also, deemed to be of no value? Did it go directly to Parker or did it reach him by a more circuitous route?

Leofric remains one of the more enigmatic figures of the Anglo-Saxon church; not noted for writing like Bede or Aelfric, or his involvement in the political matters, like Stigand or Wulfstan, he might have remained just a footnote in scholarly works on the late Anglo-Saxon church except for the almost miraculous preservation of a portion of his manuscript collection. Much of the Anglo-Saxon material surviving from pre-Conquest England is from Leofric's collection, which he donated to Exeter cathedral upon his death c.1072. His donation lists suggest that he donated a wide variety of materials to the cathedral of which only part survived. The most famous and important text from the collection that remains extant is the Exeter Book, which contains such works as The Seafarer, The Wanderer, The Wife's Lament, The Ruin, and The Anglo-Saxon Riddles. Other works that still remain from the collection are Leofric's missal and Corpus 41.

Interestingly, manuscript Corpus 41 does not appear in any version of Leofric's donation list even though the manuscript contains Leofric's inscription. Some scholars have considered Corpus 41 to be of lesser importance than other manuscripts in Leofric’s collection because the central text is an Anglo-Saxon version of Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum, and some have suggested that Corpus 41 was actually Leofric's Daybook and for that reason it is of relatively limited importance. Yet the marginalia have proven to be of great interest because of the variety of material preserved there, especially the text in praise of the Archangel Michael.

NotesEdit

  1. Arthur Huxley Thompson, Archdeacon of Exeter. The Story of Exeter Cathedral; the Cathedral Church of St. Peter in Exeter. (London: Raphael Tuck & Sons, Ltd, 1933), pp. 7, 8.
  2. Thompson. loc. cit., p. 11. On Crediton, see Nicholas Orme. ‘The Church in Crediton from Saint Boniface to the Reformation,’ in Timothy Reuter, ed. The Greatest Englishman: Essays on Boniface and the Church at Crediton. (Paternoster, 1980), pp. 97-131.
  3. Wikipedia, s.v. ‘Saint Boniface.’ The Grandisson reference is from Wilhelm Levison. Vitae Sancti Bonifati Archiepiscopi Moguntini. (Hanover: Hahn, (1905).
  4. Thompson, loc. cit., p. 9.
  5. Thompson, loc. cit., p. 15.
  6. Erika Corradini. ‘“Apud Lotharingos Altus et Doctus”: Leofric of Exeter, 1050-1072.’ Proceedings of the Manchester Centre for Anglo-Saxon Studies Postgraduate Conference. (1 March, 2005), p. 1.
  7. Frank Barlow. ‘Leofric and his Times.’ The Norman Conquest and Beyond. (London: Hambledon Press, 1983), p. 113, points out that canon law required that a bishop be 30 years of age when consecrated, so Leofric was probably born before 1016.
  8. Florence of Worcester refers to him as Brytonicus, a native of Cornwall, presumably. Frank Barlow. The English Church 1000-1066: A History of the Later Anglo-Saxon Church. 2nd ed. (New York: Longman, 1979), pp. 83-84.
  9. Lotharingia was a region in northwest Europe, comprising the Low Countries, the western Rhineland, the lands today on the border between France and Germany, and what is now western Switzerland—the present-day Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany), Rhineland-Palatinate (Germany), Saarland (Germany), and Lorraine (France). Wikipedia, s.v. ‘Lotharingia’ and note 1.
  10. William of Malmesbury calls Leofric ‘apud Lotharingos altus et doctus.’ NESA Hamilton, ed. Willelmi Malmesbriensis: De Gestis Pontificum Anglorum. (London, 1870), Rolls Series II, p. 201. William is talking here of Leofric's background and training, not his origins; William thought Leofric was from Cornwall and had been exiled with Edward the Confessor.
  11. George Oliver. Lives of the Bishops of Exeter, and a History of the Cathedral. (Exeter, 1861), p. 1. www.dsnell.zynet.co.uk/Oliver/01.html, 2005.
  12. Frank Barlow. ‘Leofric (d. 1072).’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. (Oxford University Press, 2004).
  13. Barlow. ‘Leofric and his Times,’ p. 114.
  14. Corradini, loc. cit., p. 8.
  15. Corradini, loc. cit., p. 5.
  16. Barlow. English Church 1000-1066, pp. 83-84.
  17. Oliver. Lives, p. 1.
  18. Corradini, loc. cit., p. 1, n. 4. See also Simon Keynes, ‘Regenbald the Chancellor.’ Anglo-Norman Studies: Proceedings of the Battle Conference 10 (1988), 185-222, pp. 190-92.
  19. Thompson, op. cit., p. 16.
  20. Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, MS C, sub anno 1045.
  21. Barlow. ‘Leofric and his Times,’ p. 117.
  22. Oliver. Lives, p. 1.
  23. Wikipedia, s.v. ‘Exeter Cathedral,’ citing JJ Jusserand. English Wayfaring Life in the Middle Ages. (London: T Fisher Unwin, 1891), p. 327.
  24. Corradini, loc. cit., p. 3, n. 12, citing Patrick W Conner. Anglo-Saxon Exeter: a Tenth-Century Cultural History. (Woodbridge, 1993), pp. 30-32.
  25. Thompson, op. cit., p. 16.
  26. Corradini, loc. cit., pp. 8-9.
  27. Thompson, op. cit., p. 16.
  28. Corradini, loc. cit., p. 10. The Latin text is from the foundation charter of Exeter Cathedral.
  29. Pauline Stafford. Queen Emma and Queen Edith: Queenship and Women's Power in Eleventh-century England. (Cambridge, Mass: Blackwell, 1989), p. 266.
  30. The secular clerks in Exeter had been expelled in 968 (in the reign of King Edgar) as part of the reforms under Dunstan, and a group of Benedictine monks came from Glastonbury. Probably at this time the calendar in the Leofric Missal was copied from a Glastonbury exemplar. Ian Maxted. Exeter Working Papers in British Book Trade History; 12. A history of the book in Devon 23: The Cathedral Library. (2001), p. 1. bookhistory.blogspot.ca/2007/01/devon-book-23.html.
  31. See Arthur S Napier, ed. The Old English Version of the Enlarged Rule of Chrodegang with the Latin Original. EETS, no. 150 (London: Oxford University Press, 1916, repr. New York, 1971), pp. xii, 131 from MS Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 191, no. 46 in Neil R Ker. Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1957, repr. 1990), pp. 74-75. Ker notes, ‘Written almost certainly at Exeter and identifiable, probably, with the “regula canonicorum” in the list of Bishop Leofric's gifts to Exeter (see Exeter Book 1933, 26).’ He also notes ‘that this copy is derived from one written at Winchester,’ citing Max Förster. ‘Lokalisierung und Datierung der altenglischen Version der Chrodegang-Regel.’ Sitzungsberichte der Bayrischen Academie der Wissenschaften. (Schlussheft, 1933), p. 7. See also Brigitte Langefeld, ed. The Old English Version of the enlarged Rule of Chrodegang Edited together with the Latin Text and an English Translation. (Munich: Münchener Universitätsschriften, 2003).
  32. Thomas Hearne, ed. The Itinerary of John Leland the Antiquary. 2nd ed., 9 vols. (1744-45), pp. iii, 67.
  33. Maxted, loc. cit.
  34. See F Rose-Troup. ‘Leofric the First Bishop of Exeter.’ Transactions of the Devonshire Association 74 (1942), pp. 41-50.
  35. Thompson, op. cit., p. 17.
  36. See further the recently discovered Quedam exceptiones. Quedam exceptiones de historia Normannorum et Anglorum of the early twelfth century is an abbreviation of the Gesta Normannorum Ducum (in the C redaction written by William of Jumièges), with interpolations relating to the FitzOsbern family, and especially to Osbern FitzOsbern. MS BLCotton Vespasian A. xviii, ed. and trans. Elisabeth MC van Houts. The Gesta Normannorum Ducum of William of Jumièges, Orderic Vitalis, and Robert of Torigny. 2 vols. (Oxford, 1992-95), II, pp. 292-304. www.hronline.ac.uk./cotton/mss/ves1.htm. Wikipedia, s.v. ‘Osbern FitzOsbern’ notes that Frank Barlow calls Osbern ‘unsociable’ in (1983). William Rufus. (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1983), p. 326.
  37. Sir Frank M Stenton. Anglo-Saxon England. 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1947, 1962), pp. 668-669.
  38. Oliver. Lives, p. 1. The location of Leofric's remains has been lost, and the present tomb does not mark his resting-place—Wikipedia, s.v. ‘Leofric.’
  39. Tara Gale, John Langdon, and Natalie Leishman. ‘Piety and Political Accommodation in Norman England: The Case of the South-west,’ in Stephen Morillo, Diane Korngiebel, eds. Haskins Society Journal 18 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2007), pp. 110-131.
  40. Ker. Catalogue, p. 35, no. 291.
  41. See Max Förster. ‘The Donations of Leofric to Exeter,’ in RW Chambers, M Förster, and REW Flower, eds. The Exeter Book of Old English Poetry. facsimile ed. (London: Percy Lund, Humphries & Co, Ltd, 1933) pp. 10-25, and Conner, op. cit., Appendix v, pp. 226-35.
  42. Corradini, loc. cit., p. 2, n. 8.
  43. Thompson, loc. cit., pp. 18-19.
  44. Maxted, loc. cit.
  45. Corradini, loc. cit., p. 4, n. 15. Maxted, loc. cit., points out that the Leofric Missal contains a calendar copied for Exeter from a Glastonbury exemplar perhaps earlier as part of Dunstan's reforms and the introduction of Benedictine monks from Glastonbury under Sideman, Bishop of Crediton from 973. It also contains a list of the relics at Exeter.
  46. Maxted, loc. cit.
  47. Maxted, loc. cit.
  48. Benjamin Thorpe, ed. Codex exoniensis: A collection of Anglo-Saxon poetry, from a manuscript in the library of the Dean and Chapter of Exeter, with an English translation, notes, and indexes. (London: Published for the Society of Antiquaries of London, by W Pickering, 1842). Israel Gollancz, Sir, and William Soutar Mackie, eds. The Exeter Book: an Anthology of Anglo-Saxon Poetry presented to Exeter Cathedral by Leofric, first Bishop of Exeter (1050-1071), and still in the possession of the Dean and Chapter. ed. from the MS, with a translation, notes, and introduction, etc., Early English Text Society, OS (London & New York: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co, 1895: Oxford University Press, Humphrey Milford, 1895, 1934: Millwood, NY: Kraus Reprint, 1978, 1995: repr. Boydell & Brewer, 1995). Raymond Wilson Chambers, Max Förster, and Robin Ernest William Flower, eds. The Exeter Book of Old English Poetry. facsimile ed. with introd. chapters (London: printed and published for the Dean and Chapter of Exeter Cathedral by Percy Lund, Humphries & Co, Ltd, 1933). George Philip Krapp and Elliot Van Kirk Dobbie, eds. The Exeter Book. The Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records, III (New York: Columbia University Press, 1936). Bernard James Muir, ed. The Exeter Anthology of Old English Poetry: an edition of Exeter Dean and Chapter MS 3501. (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1994, 2nd ed. 2000: DVD 2006). See also LJ Lloyd and Audrey M Erskine. The Library and Archives of Exeter Cathedral. (Exeter: The Library and Archives of Exeter Cathedral, 2004).
  49. Maxted, loc. cit. The 1327 inventory of 230 items was compiled by the Sub-Dean, William de Braileghe.

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