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Henry of Blois


Cluniac monk and bishop of Winchester; b. c. 10901100; d. Aug. 8, 1171. Henry, the most influential individual in the English Church between anselm of canterbury and Thomas becket, exemplified both the virtue and the weakness of cluny in his day. He was the fourth son of Stephen, Count of Blois, grandson of William the Conqueror, and brother of King stephen of england. From boyhood he was educated at Cluny, where he formed a lifelong friendship with peter the venerable. Henry I invited him to England as abbot of glastonbury in 1126 and appointed him bishop of winchester in 1129; by papal dispensation he held both offices until his death, and from 1139 he was also dean of St. Martin-le-Grand, London. As abbot and bishop he won the respect of his monks and clergy. He was a remarkable administrator, who reorganized the estates and finances of Glastonbury and Winchester; a gregorian reformer on political rather than moral lines; a great builder; and a munificent benefactor. He failed to secure papal consent for his translation to the archbishopric of Canterbury in 1136; but his appointment as papal legate from 1136 to 1143 made him in some ways superior to Archbishop theobald. He attempted unsuccessfully to secure metropolitan status for the See of Winchester. In politics he played a dominant part in the struggle for the throne. He crowned Stephen in 1135 and, apart from a brief defection to Matilda in 1141, gave him powerful support while upholding the independence of the Church. On King henry ii's accession in 1154 he left England for Cluny, where he reorganized the abbey's finances. After his return in 1158 he exerted a moderating influence, striving especially to keep the peace between Henry II and the new archbishop, Thomas Becket.

Bibliography: adam of domerham, Historia de rebus gestis Glastoniensibus, ed. t. hearne, 2 v. (London 1727) 305331. The Letters of John of Salisbury, ed. w. j. millor and h. e. butler, rev. c. n. l. brooke (New York 1955) 1:253256, passim. The Historia Pontificalis of John of Salisbury, ed. and tr. m. chibnall (New York 1956) 7880, 9194. l. voss, Heinrich von Blois, Bischof von Winchester, 112971 (Historische Studien 210; Berlin 1932). d. knowles, The Monastic Order in England, 9431216 (2d ed. Cambridge, Eng. 1962) 282298. f. l. cross, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (London 1957) 624625.

[m. m. chibnall]

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