William of St Calais, -1096

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Monk Biography:Probably from Bayeux and born about 1030, William was educated under the auspices of Bishop Odo of Bayeux (half brother of King William I) and became a Benedictine monk at the abbey of St Calais in Normandy. On 9 November 1080 he was made bishop of Durham, an indication of the trust that the king held him in. The bishop was one of the senior royal counsellors, and is thought to have been the major adminstrative force behind the compilation of Domesday Book (the main scribe of which is thought to have come from the scriptorium at Durham Priory). His political skills seem to have failed him at the death of William I: during the chaotic period of the succession he picked the wrong man and the successful successor William II prosecuted him and he was deprived of office and sent to Normandy in 1088. Eventually reconciled, he recovered his position in 1091 but died at the start of 1096. Bishop William of St Calais is one of the pivotal figures in the history of Durham Priory. Spiritually he was responsible for turning the cathedral at Durham from a collegiate church of secular clerks into a Priory served by Benedictine monks. Physically, he was at the laying of the foundation stone of the building that replaced the previous church and which still stands today as Durham Cathedral. Furthermore, he played a major role in the establishment of Durham Priory Library with a gift of some fifty books to his newly established house. This major donation is recorded on the flyleaf of the second volume of one of those books, the William of St Calais book donation list in DCL A.II.4, the Bible of William of St Calais. Also referred to as William of St Carilef (hence the Carilef Bible (Durham Durham Cathedral MS A.II.4) and its main scribe the Carilef Bible Scribe).
First recorded:
Last recorded:1096

Offices Held

Documentary evidence

Referred to:List of books given by him to Durham Priory Date:Between 1080 and 1096 Document:William of St Calais book donation list

Referred to:Notice of his giving books to Durham Priory, written before 1096 Date:Between 1080 and 1096 Document:Durham_Durham_Cathedral_MS_B.II.14 Document note:Colophon, f.200v to third volume of Augustine's Commentary on the Psalms
Link to document:https://iiif.durham.ac.uk/index.html?manifest=t1m05741r687&canvas=t1t8336h205q

LVP Number:B.1.4

LVP Entry:
William St Calais

Durham Liber Vitae 2007 :- The Durham Liber Vitae. London, British Library, MS Cotton Domitian A.VII. Edition and digital facsimile with introduction, codicological, prosopographical and linguistic commentary, and indexes; including the Biographical register of Durham Cathedral Priory (1083-1539) edited by David and Lynda Rollason (London: British Library, 2007)