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Herbert de Losinga

Herbert de Losinga

Herbert de Losinga was probably born at Exmes, a village near Argentan in Normandy, the son of Robert de Losinga. The name is believed to be a corruption of Lotharingia, or Lorraine and perhaps indicates the origin of the family.  He became a monk of Fécamp and eventually prior of that house.  He retained a strong affection for the monastery in which he spent his youth and when he came to establish his own community at Norwich its constitutions and customary (liturgical rules) were based on those of Fécamp.

Herbert was summoned to England shortly after 1087 by King William Rufus and made abbot of Ramsey. When the See of Thetford fell vacant in 1090, he offered Rufus £1000 to secure for himself this preferment and for his father the abbacy of Winchester. He was consecrated Bishop of Thetford in 1091 and moved the diocese to Norwich in 1094, becoming the first Bishop of Norwich. He was probably consecrated at the same time as Ralph Luffa, Bishop of Chichester, who moved his See from Selsey to Chichester.  Herbert was not consistently called Bishop of Norwich until about 1103.

Under the influence of Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, whose consecration he attended, Herbert decided to risk royal wrath and visit Rome to make atonement for the simoniacal purchase of his See. The transfer of the See took place finally upon his return and while there is little evidence to support the tradition that the new cathedral in Norwich was built as an act of penance imposed by the Pope, Herbert chose to convey this impression in his foundation charter: “for the redemption of my soul and the remission of all my sins, I am the first to have built at Norwich a church in the name and in the honour of the Holy and Undivided Trinity”.

Herbert laid the foundation stone with his own hands in 1096.  Work continued throughout his episcopate and the building was complete by the retirement of his successor, Eborard, in 1145.

A good deal of Herbert’s correspondence survives and it can be seen from his letters that he was an able and efficient administrator who nevertheless hankered after the quiet life of the cloister. His letters to his Norwich monks show him at his very best, a wise counsellor and effective disciplinarian, filled with the spirit of the Rule of St Benedict.

He died on 22 July 1119.

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