University of Leicester, 2008
The collection of books assembled for Leofric, bishop of Exeter, during the twenty-two years of his episcopacy has been the subject of sustained scholarly attention, which has just started to uncover the importance that scriptorial materials have in illuminating the life and deeds of the bishop. Due to the lack of a hagiography dedicated to him, Leofric’s importance in the eleventh century church has long remained obscure. The following thesis endeavours to shed new light on the activities that underpinned Leofric’s episcopacy through an investigation into the books compiled at the bishop’s behest. In particular, four homiliaries are here under scrutiny from a perspective that is both physical and textual: these manuscripts contain a selection of texts that Leofric requested specifically for performing his pastoral remit and that, for this reason, represent the bishop’s interests. The analysis of some of these texts demonstrates that, when studied in their manuscript context, homilies yield crucial information on the way in which preaching materials were used and on the audiences to whom they were directed in times subsequent to their composition. The way in which Leofric exploited homiletic works dating to the late tenth century was innovative and original in so far as it reflected the administration policies that he adopted for his diocese and the reforms that he activated in restructuring a decaying episcopal see. His pastoral achievements were not only important in the context of the eleventh-century English episcopate but also in a broader, continental perspective and were attained as part of a reforming programme that would later culminate in the Gregorian Reform. Leofric’s Lotharingian education triggered the activation of these reforms at Exeter at a time when Lotharingian prelates held prominent positions in the western Christendom.