The early history of the cathedral church and chapter of St Mary, Coventry, has much in common with that of Bath. However, the monastic community here had a shorter pre-conquest existence since it was founded some time before themid-eleventh century.1 The episcopal seat underwent two moves before 1228: from Lichfield to Chester in 1075 and from there, briefly, to Coventry in 1102, presumably because the latter was a larger and more important centre.2 Finally, in 1228 the continuing claims of Lichfield resulted, as for Bath and Wells, in the combining of the two chapters under the episcopal title of Coventry and Lichfield. Here, too, the settlement was preceded by a lengthy period of controversy, during which the monks became subject to a series of oppressive bishops beginning with Robert de Limesey, whose transfer of the see to Coventry established him and his successors as titular abbots.3
The main highlights of these unsettled years can be briefly summarized, with a view to setting forth the circumstantial background of some of the entries in the monks' biographies. Surprisingly, perhaps, one of these oppressive bishops was Walter Durdent ( 1149-1159), prior of Canterbury (q.v. under Canterbury) before he was elected by the Coventry monks, who, in so doing, ignored the protests of the Lichfield canons and deprived them of any say.4 The chronicles are unanimous in their depiction of bishop Hugh de Nonant ( 1188-1198), who provoked the monks into violence, during a synod in 1189, in which he himself sustained injury; this provided him with an excuse to expel the monks and replace them with a secular chapter.5 The prior, Moses, q.v., another former monk of Canterbury, saw no alternative but to surrender the priory demesne and barony to the bishop and take his case to Rome. The monks were restored by papal mandate in 1197 while the repentant bishop was on his deathbed far away at Bec, the abbot of Bury St Edmunds being one of the prelates commissioned to reinstate them.6
Persevering in their claims the canons of Lichfield elected one of themselves as their candidate for the see in 1208, while the monks chose their prior, Joybert, q.v. This impasse occurred in the critical years of king John's quarrel with the monks of Canterbury and his refusal to accept Stephen Langton as archbishop; it lasted almost____________________
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Publication information: Book title: Biographical Register of the English Cathedral Priories of the Province of Canterbury, C. 1066-1540. Contributors: Joan Greatrex - Author. Publisher: Clarendon Press. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 1997. Page number: 336.