William de St-Calais
William de St-Calais was a medieval Norman monk, abbot of the abbey of Saint-Vincent in Le Mans in Maine. He was nominated by King William I of England as Bishop of Durham in 1080. During his term as bishop, he replaced the canons of his cathedral chapter with monks, and began the construction of Durham Cathedral. He is considered by scholars to have been the new king’s chief advisor.
About William de St-Calais in brief
William de St-Calais was a medieval Norman monk, abbot of the abbey of Saint-Vincent in Le Mans in Maine. He was nominated by King William I of England as Bishop of Durham in 1080. During his term as bishop, he replaced the canons of his cathedral chapter with monks, and began the construction of Durham Cathedral. In addition to his ecclesiastical duties, he served as a commissioner for the Domesday Book, and was also a councilor and advisor to both William I and his son, William Rufus. He is considered by scholars to have been the new king’s chief advisor. In 1095 he prosecuted the royal case against Anselm after he had become archbishop of Canterbury. Before his death, he had made his peace with Anselsm, who blessed and consoled him on his deathbed. He may have been a member of one of the clerical dynasties of Bayeux. His mother’s name, Ascelina or Anselma, is given in Durham’s records; his father, whose name is unknown, became a monk at the monastery ofSaint-Clais in Maine, and may previously be a knight. Although he is generally referred to as Saint Calais, the main source of information about his life, the monastic chronicle of Symeon of Durham, does not call him such. He studied under Odo, Bishop ofBayeux, the half-brother of the future William I, who was then Duke of Normandy. Other bishops educated at Bayeix around this time included Archbishop Thomas of York and Samson, Bishopof Worcester.
He asserted that when St-calais asserted that if true, he would have been freed from his diocese, which would have freed him from his interference in the affairs of the diocese of York, if he had professed obedience to the archbishop. He died in 1081, and is buried at St Vincent-des-Prés, near Le Mans, Maine, sometime around 1078. His elevation to the see of Durham is likely in recognition of his diplomatic services following the death of the previous bishop, William Walcher, during a feud with the king in France. His only appearance in historical records is his upholding of the monasteries’ right to some property, and his acceptance of a gift of property in the town. His name is not given in the records of the Durham Cathedral, but he is known to have stocked the cathedral library with books, especially canon law texts. He had a son, also named William, who became a bishop of Durham and died around 1091. He also had a daughter, who died in 1080, and a son-in-law, also known as William, and who was buried at Durham in 1093. He went on to become a leading advisor to Robert Curthose, the elder brother of William RUFus, the son of William II, and later to the king’s uncle, Odo.