Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 21.djvu/137

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

lish, Mowbray, in the arrondissement of St. Lô; he was brother of Roger of Mowbray, and his sister Amicia married Roger of Albini. He was consecrated bishop of Coutances at Rouen on 10 April 1048, and is described as tall, handsome, and prudent. At the council of Rheims in October 1049 he was accused of simony; he confessed that his brother had bought the bishopric for him, but declared that it was without his knowledge, and that when he found it out he tried to avoid consecration. He was pronounced guiltless, and followed Pope Leo IX, who presided over the council in person, on his journey back to Rome. In the following May he was present at the council in Rome which condemned Berengar of Tours. Geoffrey had business of his own in Italy. His predecessor, Bishop Robert, had begun to rebuild the cathedral of Coutances. There were no funds sufficient to finish the building, no books, no ornaments, and only five canons. Geoffrey journeyed to Apulia, for the victorious Robert Guiscard and his brothers came from Hauteville in the diocese of Coutances, and he was well known to many of their followers. He told the adventurers of his needs, and they gave him liberal gifts from the spoils taken in their Italian wars. With these he returned to Coutances, and at once began to build. He completed the fabric of his church, which was consecrated on 8 Dec. 1056 in the presence of Duke William, built an episcopal residence with a fine hall and stabling, and added to the number of canons. This church appears to have been laid in ruins by Geoffrey Harcourt in 1356, and the present church was built chiefly by Bishop Sylvestre de la Cervelle in the later years of the same century. In 1063 Geoffrey attended a council at Rouen held by his metropolitan, Maurilius, and the next year incited Turstin and his wife and their son Eudo to found the abbey of the Holy Trinity at Lessay. He joined in the invasion of England, and the night before the battle of Hastings listened to confessions and pronounced absolution of sins; he and the bishop Odo are said to have come with a host of clerks and some monks in order to fight by their prayers (William of Poitou, p. 201; Orderic, p. 501); the bishop Odo certainly used a carnal weapon the next day; nothing is known of any part which Geoffrey may have taken in the fight. He is said to have been better skilled in war than in clerical matters, more apt at leading harnessed warriors in battle than at teaching surpliced clerks to sing psalms (Orderic, p. 703). At the coronation of the Conqueror on 25 Dec. 1066, the Archbishop of York having first put the question in English to the assembled multitude whether they would have William to reign over them, Geoffrey repeated it in French to the Normans (ib. p. 503). He received a vast number of grants of lands in England; Orderic says that he held as many as 280 manors (ib. p. 703); his estates lay in various parts of the kingdom (Ellis, Introduction to Domesday, i. 400), but chiefly in the western shires; in 1086 he held seventy-seven manors in Somerset alone (Eyton). He is generally spoken of either by his christian name or by the title of his Norman see rather than by the name of his English residence, once at least in Domesday (Glouc. f. 165) as ‘de Sancto Laudo’ (Saint-Lô, the earlier seat of his bishopric), and he is described in the teste of a charter as ‘de Seynt Loth’ (Monasticon, i. 144).

Geoffrey appears to have accompanied William on his visit to Normandy in March 1067, for he was present at the dedication of the church of Jumièges on 1 July (Gallia Christiana, xi. 870). He took a prominent part in putting down the revolt in the west of England in 1069, leading a force raised from Winchester, London, and Salisbury to the relief of the castle of Montacute, which was besieged by the men of Somerset and Dorset. He slew some of the besiegers, put the rest to flight, and mutilated his captives (Orderic, p. 514). Worldly as he was, he lived on terms of friendship with the holy Bishop Wulfstan of Worcester, and tried to persuade him to dress more handsomely (Anglia Sacra, ii. 259). He presided at the trial of the suit between Archbishop Lanfranc and Bishop Odo on Pennenden Heath in Kent in 1071, representing the king and acting as his justiciar (ib. i. 335); the title was not as yet ‘definitely attached to a particular post’ (Stubbs, Const. Hist. i. 346). On 8 April 1072 he attended the king's council at Winchester, where the dispute between the archbishops of Canterbury and York was heard, was present at the adjourned hearing at Windsor, and attested the decree in favour of Canterbury, being described as ‘bishop of Coutances and one of the nobles of England’ (Vita Lanfranci, p. 304). In 1075 he was present at an ecclesiastical council which Lanfranc held in St. Paul's, for, as it is explained, though his bishopric lay over sea, he was assigned a place in the council because he had large estates in England (ib. p. 305). When Ralf of Wader, earl of Norfolk, and Roger, earl of Hereford, made an insurrection in this year, Geoffrey joined Odo of Bayeux in leading an army against Ralf; they advanced to Cambridge, and, in common with the other leaders on the king's side, cut off the right foot of each of their captives