Appendix 10
Then shall bishops bear arms, and armed camps shall be built. Men shall
build towers and walls in holy ground, and they shall give to the soldiers what
should belong to the needy. Carried away by riches they shall run along on
the path of worldly things and shall take from God what the holy bishop shall
forbid.
One of the causes of friction between the Church and the barons was that
hereditary and aristocratic barons were nearly on a par with bishops in
terms of wealth. As lands were donated to the church both by the crown
and by those who bequeathed lands booking a place in heaven, the church
and monasteries became richer.
It became necessary after Henry Ist died to protect these lands from
marauding knights and barons as peace throughout the realm crumbled.
Castles were put up in various bishoprics and a transposition took place
were those who were supposed to be protectors of the flock became
protectors of their own wealth. Even though abbeys and bishoprics were
expected to provide knights for the crown, these were now stationed at the
vast array of castles that were springing up all over the country.
The bishop of Winchester built castles at Winchester (Wolvesey), Merdon,
Farnham, Bishops Waltham, Downton and Taunton.
1
Alexander bishop of
Lincoln had castles at Newark, Sleaford and Banbury. While plunderers, as
has many times been revealed, were everywhere pillaging the property of the
churches, some bishops made sluggish and abject by fear of them, either gave
way or lukewarmly and feebly passed a sentence of excommunication that
was soon revoked; others but it was no task for bishops) filled their castles
full of provisions and stocks of arms, knights and archers and though they
were supposed to be warding off the evil doers who were plundering the
goods of the church showed themselves always more cruel..
2
Henry Blois was one of the worst offenders and thus uses this ploy to
state an understood fact as if it were a prophecy written back in the 6
th
century. At the same time he alleviates any suspicion of authorship of the
1
Annales Monastici ii, 611
2
Gesta Stephani, Henry Blois
Merlin prophecies to himself by implicating such inappropriate behaviour
by the church of which he is guilty.
He makes the same complaint in the Gesta Stephani for the same
reasoning: likewise the bishops, the bishops themselves, though I am
ashamed to say it, not indeed all but a great many out of the whole number,
girt with swords and wearing magnificent suits of armour, rode on horseback
with the haughtiest destroyers of the country and took their share of the spoil.
The towers in holy ground could be a direct reference to himself
building a castle like tower as part of Wolvesey palace near the holy ground
of the abbey…. gave orders for a most vigorous investment both of the
bishops castle which he had built in very elegant style in the middle of the
town and of his palace, which he had fortified strongly and impregnably just
like a castle.
3
There is no doubt as to the tower being in Winchester at the time as
Roger of Wendover relates that Matilda ‘besieged the tower of the bishop of
Winchester’. One castle which was in the middle of the city
4
must have been
near the cathedral (holy ground) and the other Wolvesey, (which had a
tower also) is not far from the cathedral. At Wolvesey, the garderobe tower
is that joining the north-east angle of the keep and the round tower of the
ruins and is recorded to have been built by Henry Blois in 1138.
Henry bemoans the state of affairs of which he was very much part of.
He at one stage had more knights at his disposal than Robert of Gloucester
and paid their wages from ecclesiastical coffers. Henry is looking back at
the dreadful state of affairs in the anarchy while relating them as if Merlin
had foreseen exactly what his audience understood had transpired in their
own age. Henry is morose and reminisces and seems to be castigating as an
apologist not only his own materialism but that of the whole Anarchy.
He refers to the holy bishop in the prophecy and his audience must have
thought that he is one of the culpable. Again, this isHenry’s tactic which
avoids suspicion of authorship of the prophecies. Not only does it reflect the
views of the GS; it has too much in common with the bishop himself.
Bishops will then bear arms, will then follow the military life, will set up
towers and walls on sacred ground and give to soldiers what should go to
the poor!! What is more astounding is that any Scholar would even consider
3
Gesta Stephani, Henry Blois
4
See appendix 22
that Merlin as a seer would just happen upon such insights specific to the
first half of the twelfth century.