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Benedict of Peterborough


Abbot, chronicler of Thomas Becket; d. Peterborough Abbey, England, 1193. He was very probably a benedictine at Christ Church, Canterbury; hence his writings on Thomas becket are most likely eyewitness accounts. In 1174 he became chancellor to Becket's successor, Abp. richard of canterbury, and in 1175, prior of Christ Church. In 1177 he was elected abbot at peterborough abbey, a post vacant since Abbot Waterville was deposed, two years earlier. Though he found the abbey heavily in debt, Benedict was able during his 15 years as abbot to restore solvency. A notable builder, he completed a portion of the nave of the abbey church and built certain chapels as well as the great abbey gate. He was a friend of King richard i, the Lion Heart, and, like most of the leading abbots of his day, was called on to play an active part in government service. In a somewhat enthusiastic biography (ed. J. Sparke, Historiae Anglicanae scriptores varii, 1723), Robert Swafham, a monk of the abbey, describes Benedict's efforts to build up the Peterborough library by having the monks copy a number of manuscripts. Undoubtedly one of these was the valuable Gesta Henrici II (London B.M., Cotton MS Julius A.xi), a chronicle of the reigns of Kings henry ii and Richard I long ascribed to Benedict's pen but now generally recognized as the first draft of Roger of Hoveden's Chronica (ed. W. Stubbs, 2 v., Rerum Britannicarum medii aevi scriptores 49). Benedict wrote a passio of the martyrdom of Becket; and although the complete work is lost, substantial portions of it were incorporated by the compiler of the Quadrilogus (Materials T. Becket 4:386408 or 2:120). As the second section of the passio, Benedict composed an account of the Miracula of Becket, but this has survived as a separate work (ibid. 2:21281).

Bibliography: Bibliotheca hagiographica latina antiquae et mediae aetatis (Brussels 18981901) 817075. Materials for the History of Thomas Becket, ed. j. c. robertson and j. b. sheppard, 7 v. (Rerum Britannicarum medii aevi scriptores 67; 187585) 2:xixxxi. d. m. stenton, "Roger of Howden and 'Benedict,"' English Historical Review 68 (1953) 574582. e. m. thompson, The Dictionary of National Biography from the Earliest Times to 1900 (London 18851900) 2:213214.

[m. j. hamilton]

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