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Norwich, Ancient See of


The Ancient See of Norwich was founded in 1095, when Herbert Losinga transferred his see there from Thetford, since Norwich had become the most important town in East Anglia. Losinga, one of the foremost men of his day, had been prior of fÉcamp and abbot of ramsey, and then decided to introduce Benedictines into his cathedral. In 1096 he planned the buildings and dedicated them to the Holy Trinity; much of his work is still visible, so that Norwich remains the most purely Norman cathedral in Britain (see church architecture). Provision was made for a community of 60 monks. The wealth of the community increased during the following centuries mainly because of the appropriation of churches. Income came also from the shrine of St. william of norwich, a boy alleged to have been murdered by Jews in 1144. There were frequent disputes with the townsmen over the rights of tolls and commons. After a great affray in 1272, which resulted in the burning of the monastic buildings, the citizens had to contribute 3,000 marks toward the repairs. Bishop Percy built (c. 1360) a clerestory and spire to replace ones damaged in a storm, and Bishops Lyhert and Goldwell replaced the timber roof with one of stone. The diocese suffered heavily during the Bubonic plague: in one year Bishop Bateman made over about 800 institutions. In 1370 Henry despenser was provided to the see; he was a military bishop, unusual in English history, who took a prominent part in the suppression of the Peasants' Revolt. The diocese was much affected by the lollard heresy, and Bishop Alnwick labored hard to control the danger. The most distinguished members of the monastic community were the 14th century scholar-monks, Thomas Brinton and adam easton, both of whom spent most of their working lives at the papal Curia. The priory was dissolved in 1538, when the prior became dean and the monks were appointed canons of the new chapter.

Bibliography: e. h. carter, ed., Studies in Norwich Cathedral History (Norwich 1935). e. c. fernie, Architectural History of Norwich Cathedral (New York 1993). i. atherton, Norwich Cathedral: church, city, and diocese, 10961996 (London 1996). j. nicholls, The black monks' workshop: an introduction to Norwich Cathedral Cloister and Priory (Norwich 1999).

[f. r. johnston]

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