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William of Turbeville

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Bishop of Norwich (1146-74), b. about 1095; d. at Norwich in January, 1174; educated in the Benedictine cathedral priory of Norwich, then recently founded by Bishop Herbert de Losinga of Norwich. Here he also made religious profession, became teacher and later prior. He was present at the Easter synod of 1144, at which a secular clergyman, named Godwin Sturt, told the exceedingly improbable story that his nephew William, a boy of about twelve years, had been murdered by the Norwich Jews during the preceding Holy Week. Though many denounced the story of the ritual murder as an imposture, William used all his influence to give credence to it. When Bishop Eborard resigned the See of Norwich to join the Cistercians, the monk-canons elected their prior William as his successor in 1146, despite the strong opposition of John de Caineto, sheriff of Norwich County and a friend of the Jews. William was consecrated by Archbishop Theobald of Canterbury in the same year. As bishop he left nothing undone to spread the cult of the "boy-martyr" William. On four different occasions he had the boy's remains transferred to more honourable places, and in 1168 even erected a chapel in his honor in Mousehold Wood, where the boy's body was said to have been found. It was also at his instance that Thomas of Monmouth, a monk of Norwich priory, wrote "The Life and Miracles of St. William of Norwich", the only extant authority for this legend, which is now commonly discredited.

William was present at the consecration of Bishop Hilary of Chichester in 1147, of Geoffrey of Monmouth, Bishop of St. Asaph, in 1152, and of Archbishop Roger Pont l'Eveque of York, at Westminster Abbey, 10 Oct., 1154, and at the coronation of Henry II, 19 Dec., 1154. On 7 July, 1157, he assisted at the Council of Northampton, and on 3 June, 1162, he was present at the consecration of Archbishop Thomas Becket of Centerbury, whom he firmly supported later in the conflict with Henry II. Though he was prevailed upon to subscribe to the Constitutions of Clarendon (1164), he soon gave unmistakable evidence of his loyalty to the Holy See, and solemnly published the papal excommunication of Earl Hugh of Norfolk in the cathedral of Norwich in 1166. After the murder of Archbishop Becket, 29 Dec., 1166, history makes little mention of William. He was a friend of John of Salisbury, five of whose letters to William are printed in P.L., CXCIX — nn. 33, 93, 128, 173, 266.


THOMAS OF MONMOUTH, Life and Miracles of St. William of Norwich, ed. JESSOPP AND JAMES (Cambridge, 1896); GOULBURN AND SYMONDS, Life and Letters of Herbert de Losinga, II (London, 1878).

About this page

APA citation. Ott, M. (1912). William of Turbeville. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Ott, Michael. "William of Turbeville." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Thomas M. Barrett. Dedicated to increased understanding between Jews and Christians.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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