Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gundulf

GUNDULF (1024?–1108), bishop of Rochester, son of Hatheguin and Adelesia was born probably in 1024, in the Vexin in the diocese of Rouen, went to school at Rouen, and became a clerk of the cathedral. William, archdeacon of Rouen, called the 'Good soul' (Bona anima), afterwards second abbot of St. Stephen's at Caen, and archbishop of Rouen (cons. 1079, d. 1110),took a strong liking for Gundulf, and introduced him into the household of Archbishop Mauritius (cons. 1055, d. 1067). In company with William he made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem was taken ill on his way back, was left behind by the rest of the party by accident, and was found in a state of extreme exhaustion. During a storm at sea he and the archdeacon vowed that they would enter the religious life, and on his return in 1059 or 1060 he became a monk of Bec, then under the rule of its founder and first abbot, Herlwin. There he met with Lanfranc, who was then prior of Bec, and who became much attached to him. He excelled in monastic virtues, and especially in abstinence, constancy in prayer, and tenderness of conscience. He was appointed keeper and sacristan of the church, and was especially devoted to the Virgin. When Anselm entered the convent in 1060, he formed a strong friendship with Gundulf, and the two held much religious discourse together, for though Anselm was by far the more learned in the scriptures Gundulf's piety and depth of feeling, which showed itself in tears, made him a congenial companion to his new friend. In 1062 Lanfranc was appointed abbot of St. Stephen's at Caen (Chron. Beccense, p. 199; the date is uncertain; Orderic, p. 494, gives it as 1066, see Norman Conquest, iii. 110; the earlier date may perhaps refer to Lanfranc's acceptance of the appointment and departure from Bec, the latter to his formal appointment), and took Gundulf and several other monks of Bec with him. While Gundulf was at Caen he persuaded his mother to enter Matilda's house of the Holy Trinity, which was dedicated in 1066. There is a story that one day Gundulf and two other monks sought to tell their future fortunes by turning over the leaves of a book of the gospels, and that having told Lanfranc of the texts on which they had lighted, he prophesied that Gundulf should become a bishop (Gesta Pontiff, p. 137). On Lanfranc's elevation to the see of Canterbury in 1070 he brought Gundulf over to England with him, and as he was an excellent man of business, made him his proctor, and gave him the management of the estates of the archbishopric. This good management enabled Lanfranc to devote large sums to pious objects, and Gundulf while acting as the archbishop's steward on one occasion fed the poor of London at a time of scarcity (Vita). Anselm wrote several letters to him in most affectionate terms (Epp. I., epp. 4, 7, 14sqq.) In 1076 the see of Rochester fell vacant by the death of Ernost, one of the monks who had followed Lanfranc from Caen. Ernost had not held the bishopric for a complete year, and had not therefore had time to make any reform in his church, which had been left by Bishop Siward, his English predecessor, in a poor condition. It was served by secular canons, and their number had dwindled down to five, while the fabric itself was nearly in ruins. Lanfranc had the matter in his own hands, for the see of Rochester was dependent on Canterbury, and the bishop was appointed by the monks under the influence of the archbishop. He was anxious to make the chapter a monastic body, and in order to accomplish this it was necessary to give the bishopric to a monk. Accordingly, he appointed Gundulf to the see, and secured the assent of the king before he announced the appointment to the Rochester clergy.

Gundulf was consecrated in Christ Church, Canterbury, on 19 March 1077. He was a famous architect, and at once set about rebuilding his church, and when the choir was completed translated the relics of Paulinus to a new shrine. In order to carry out the scheme of reform which Lanfranc proposed, he also raised conventual buildings. He made his chapter monastic, and in place of the five canons put sixty monks, all well instructed in reading and singing (Vita). He was determined to prevent any of his successors from turning out his monks and making the chapter again secular, and accordingly he secured to the monastery a separate share of the possessions of the church, and made it, as far as money matters were concerned, independent of the bishop. It has been suggested that, small as the cathedral church now is, Gundulf's building was still smaller, and that the later Norman nave 'was an enlargement rather than a rebuilding' (Freeman, William Rufus, i. 54). This seems unlikely. The parts of the now existing church which may fairly be supposed to be his work are the early portion of the crypt below the western end of the chancel, a very small bit of the west front, and the massive tower on the northern side (G. T. Clark). To these it has been proposed to add the masonry of the walls of the nave, but this of course must be mere guess-work; the arcades are later (Parker). Lanfranc helped the bishop so largely in this undertaking that the restoration is ascribed to him by the Canterbury historian (Gervase, ii. 368). Gundulf was employed by the Conqueror to build the Tower of London, and while engaged in this work lodged at the house of a burgher named Eadmer Anhoende, who was evidently strongly attached to him, was buried along with his wife in Rochester Cathedral, and founded an obit there (Registrum Roffense, p. 32). Gundulf was certainly the architect of the White Tower. Before he died he must have seen the keep completed and some progress made in the walls of the enceinte (Clark). He built a castle at Rochester for William Rufus at a cost of 60l., being compensated by the manor of Hedenham in Buckinghamshire, about which there had been a dispute between him and the king. The present tower at Rochester, however, is not his work, but was built by archbishop William of Corbeuil (Gervase, ii. 382). At West Mailing, where he appears to have constantly resided, he built a noble tower for himself, the shell of which still remains perfect and unaltered. It is usually called St. Leonard's Tower. The broad and massive tower of the parish church, is also probably his work (Clark). He built a nunnery at Malling, of which there are some remains; the lower stage of the west front is no doubt part of his building. The nunnery was dedicated in 1103. Among the gifts that he made to his abbey was Dartford, and there the Norman parts of the church may be ascribed to him.

In spite of all his architectural engagements, he was diligent in performing his episcopal duties. He constantly acted as Lanfranc's commissary, and held ordinations and other functions for him. Nor did he ever fail when at Rochester to perform the service of the mass twice each day. Lanfranc recovered some of the estates of the see for him, and gave him Malling, which he won from Bishop Odo, earl of Kent, in a suit on Pennenden Heath. On the death of Lanfranc in 1089 he took charge of the diocese of Canterbury, and was sent by the king to punish the monks of St. Augustine's and some of the inhabitants of Canterbury for raising a riot (Anglo-Saxon Chron. App. p. 389). When his old friend Anselm was appointed to the see of Canterbury, Gundulf wrote to the monks of Bec, entreating them not to grudge resigning their abbot (Epp. iii. ep. 3), and he entertained the archbishop-designate in various manors belonging to the see before his consecration (Historia Novorum, col. 369). He is said to have been liked by Rufus, who gave him the manor of Lambeth to make up for the expense brought upon him by the siege of Rochester Castle during the rebellion of 1088 (Vita). When Rufus had recovered from his severe sickness in 1093, the bishop one day while talking familiarly with him expressed a hope that he would lead a better life, to which the king replied with a strange piece of blasphemy. In the council held at Rockingham in March on the questions at issue between the king and Anselm, Gundulf was the only bishop who abstained from disowning the primate (S. Anselmi Vita II., iii. 24). He was present at the dedication of Gloucester Abbey on 15 July 1100. His name appears in attestation of the charter which Henry I published at the beginning of his reign. Henry treated him with marked respect, and his queen, Matilda, liked to talk with him, and caused him to baptise her son William. He is said to have remonstrated with the lords who rebelled against Henry, and to have convinced some among them of the evil of their conduct. In 1102 he assisted Gilbert, abbot of Westminster, to examine the body of the Confessor, and from pious motives tried to possess himself of a hair of the royal saint's beard, but found that he could not pull it out (Ailred, col.408). He was attended in his last illness by Anselm and Ralph, abbot of Seez, who succeeded him in his bishopric and afterwards became archbishop of Canterbury. He died on 7 March 1108 at the age of eighty-four, and was buried by Anselm in his cathedral church. The tomb said to be his, on the south side of the choir, near the altar, is composed of rough slabs of stone with neither inscription nor moulding to mark its age, but may perhaps contain his body (Bloxam, Gent. Mag. 1863, ii. 689). Gundulf's Bible, formerly at Amsterdam, and more recently in Sir Thomas Phillipps's collection, contains the inscription 'prima pars bibliæ per bonæ memoriæ Gundulphum Roffensem episcopum' (Hist. Lit. de la France, ix. 374). His holiness of character is generally recognised, and is amply proved by his long friendship with Anselm. He appears in the legend of Bishop Wulfstan's appeal to the Confessor as endeavouring at Lanfranc's order to pull the bishop's staff from the king's tomb (Ailred, col. 406), and in a story about the death of Rufus. The king has a dream; the bishop explains it to him, exhorts him to mend his ways, and gives him absolution (Benoit de Ste. More, l.40523 sqq.; Giraldus, De Instructione Principum, p. 174).

[Vita Gundulfi, Anglia Sacra, ii. 273 sqq. and Migne's Patrologia Lat. vol. clix. col. 813 sqq., by a contemporary monk of Rochester; Ernulf's Hist. Roffen. in Wharton's Anglia Sacra, i. 336 sqq.; Thorpe's Registrum Roffense, p. 31; Epistolæ S. Anselmi, Eadmer, Vita S. Anselmi, Historia Novorum, Migne's Patrologia Lat. vols. clviii. clix.; for Gundulf's buildings, Clark in Old London, Archæological Institute, vol. 1866, p. 97; Clark's Mediæval Military Architecture, ii. 252, 291; Parker in Gent. Mag. 1863, ii. 255, and Freeman; Epp. Lanfranci, Chron. Beccenes, Vita Lanfranci, Giles's Patres Eccl. Anglic.; Ailred of Rievaulx. cols. 406, 408, in Twysden's Scriptores Decem; William of Malmesbury, Gesta Pontificum, pp. 136, 137, Anglo Saxon Chron. App., Gervase of Canterbury, i. 367, ii. 376 (all Ro ls Ser.); Giraldus, De Instructione Principum, Anglia-Christiana Society; Benoit de Ste. More, ed. Fr. Michel; Freeman's Norman Conquest, vol. iv. passim, and William Rufus, vols. i. and ii. passim.]

W. H.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.143
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
340 i 23 Gundulf: for the archbishop read the monks under the influence of the archbishop
341 i 38-39 for really belongs to the fifteenth century, read is composed of rough slabs of stone with neither inscription nor moulding to mark its age,
21-19f.e. for It is said that a large Bible .... and which contained read Gundulf's Bible, formerly at Amsterdam, and more recently in Sir Thomas Phillipps's collection, contains