Herman, Bishop of Sarum
A native of Lorraine, Herman was probably one of the clerks of the Royal chapel under the Danish dynasty, and held that office when, in 1045, Edward the Confessor appointed him Bishop of Ramsbury & Sonning, in succession to St. Britwold. He was sent to Rome in 1050 on the King's errand, in company with Aldred, Bishop of Worcester, afterwards Archbishop of York. His business was probably to obtain a dispensation from Edward's vow of pilgrimage. He started at mid-Lent and arrived in Rome on Easterís Eve, during the session of the council of that year.
As neither Ramsbury or Sonning had a congregation of monks or canons and very small revenues, the bishop was discontented. His predecessors, he told the King, were Englishmen and had kinsmen to help them, but he, as a foreigner, could not get a livelihood. Edith, the King's wife, promised that, when a see fell vacant, she would do what she could to get it for him, to hold along with the one he already had. However, in 1055, Britwold, the Abbot of Malmesbury, died and Herman asked the King for the abbey and for permission to remove his see thither. The King assented, but the monks, who naturally objected to the arrangement, sought the aid of Earl Harold (later to become King Harold II), and he persuaded Edward to retract his consent three days after he had granted it. Indignant at his defeat, Herman left England and became a monk of St. Bertin's Abbey at St. Omer, the administration of his diocese being undertaken by Aldred.
It, was not long before Herman repented of this step; he had been used to living comfortably and the privations of monastic life did not suit him. In 1058, the See of Sherborne fell vacant. He returned to England and received the bishopric, Harold making no objection. Thus the two sees of Sherborne and Ramsbury & Sonning were united, and he became bishop over all of Berkshire, Wiltshire and Dorset. In 1065, he dedicated the new church which Queen Edith built at Wilton. Herman did not lose his bishopric in consequence of the Norman conquest and, on 29th August 1070, assisted at the consecration of Archbishop Lanfranc. He was present at the council held at Winchester in April 1072 and at the Whitsuntide assembly at Old Windsor, when the dispute between the provinces of Canterbury and York was judged. It having been ordered, in a council held in London in 1075, at which he was present, that Episcopal sees should be removed from villages or small towns to cities, he removed the see of his united diocese to the then thriving town of Old Sarum and began to build his church within the ancient hill-fortress. He died, before he could finish it, on 20th April 1078. A tomb of Purbeck marble near the western entrance of the present Salisbury Cathedral is sometimes said to be his. It was certainly brought from Old Sarum when the see was moved by Bishop Richard Poore; but, while the translation of the bodies of other bishops in 1226 is recorded by William de Wenda, he does not mention the body of Herman. William of Malmesbury, as is natural, considering the bishop's relations with his monastery, describes him as greedy. He was evidently well thought of at the Confessor's court and the King's biographer speaks of him as famous and learned.
Edited from Leslie Stephens &
Sidney Lee's "Dictionary of National Biography" (1891).
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