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Lyfing, Bishop of Crediton & Worcester
(died 1047)

Lyfing or Livingus was a person of considerable distinction and importance. At first a monk of Winchester, he became successively Abbot of Tavistock (1009) and Bishop of Crediton (1027). As friend and chief counsellor, he frequently accompanied King Canute the Dane on his continental journeys. He was for some time absent with the King in Denmark and accompanied him on his pilgrimage to Rome, whence, the Bishop returned alone to England, bringing with him the famous letter which Canute addressed from Rome to his English subjects. (This letter will be found in Florence, and in William of Malmesbury.)

Besides the Bishopric of Crediton, Lyfing held those of Worcester (1039) and St. Germans (Cornwall), the latter of which he received on the death of his uncle, Bishop Britwold in about the same time he took on Crediton. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle styles Lyfing as words-notera, ie. "Word-wise" or eloquent. His triple bishopric was, no doubt, reward of his service to the Danish King, upon whose behalf he probably exercised something more than word-wisdom. William of Malmesbury describes him as ambitious and tyrannical and he is said, after the death of Canute, to have been concerned in the cruel seizure, at Guildford (1040), of the Atheling, Alfred son of the Saxon king, Aethelred the Unready.

In accordance with an ancient belief, which asserted that the deaths of great men were accompanied with great storms and portents, a tremendous thunder-clap was, says Malmesbury, heard throughout England at the moment of Bishop Lyfing's death on 23rd March 1047. "Insomuch that all men thought the end of the World was at hand." He was buried, not at Crediton or Worcester, but in his monastery at Tavistock, which he had greatly favoured and adorned.

Edited from Richard John King's "Handbook to the Cathedrals of England: Southern Division" (1903).


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