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Samson of Bury-St.-Edmunds


English abbot; b. Tottington, Norfolk, c. 1135; d. bury-st.edmunds, 1212. Though always proud of being a Norfolk man, Samson studied in the schools of Paris through the good offices of a chaplain who financed his studies with money from the sale of holy water. While still a layman, Samson journeyed to Rome c. 1160 on the business of the Abbey of Bury, to whose patron, St. Edmund, he showed lifelong devotion. He joined this monastery five years later and by virtue of his managerial ability rose through the offices of subsacrist and third prior to become abbot, an office he held from 1182 until his death. As abbot he reformed the abbey's finances and carried out an extensive rebuilding program. He helped the town of Bury gain a charter and granted it extensive market rights. Samson, a staunch defender of the rights of his abbey, came into conflict with kings henry ii, Richard I (especially over the abbey's contribution to Richard's military activity), and John. As a member of the Royal Council, he frustrated the efforts of William de Longchamp to curtail the rights of the benedictines in England. Thomas Carlyle included an essay on Samson in Past and Present.

Bibliography: The Chronicle of Jocelin of Brakelond, tr. and ed. h. e. butler (London 1949). a. l. poole, From Domesday Book to Magna Carta (2d ed. Oxford 1955). d. knowles, The Monastic Order in England, 9431216 (2d ed. Cambridge, England 1962).

[d. nicholl]

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