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Waltham Abbey

Dedicated to the Holy Cross and to St. Lawrence, the Augustinian house at Waltham was founded c. 1038 by Tovi the Proud, one of Canute's lieutenants. Legend asserts that Tovi had a dream which revealed to him the burial place of a stone crucifix. Men dug at that site and found, beneath a boulder, the crucifix and a gospel. Tovi built the church at Waltham to keep them, and it became a place of pilgrimage.

When Tovi died, the land at Waltham passed to Edward the Confesor,who presented it to Earl Harold. Harold is said to have suffered a dreadful disease, which Adelharad of Lüttick was unable to cure. Adelhard, according to legend, recommended the Earl seek the aid of the cross at Waltham. Cured, Harold enlarged the monastery, imported secular canons from Lorraine, and planned a seminary, of which Adelhard was to be chancellor. Harold's battle cry at Hastings, ``Holy Cross,'' was a tribute to the Rood of Waltham. He may have been buried or reburied at Waltham, where a small local cult developed.

William the Conqueror sent the wealth of Waltham to St.-Etienne in Caen, and in 1144, Geoffrey de Mandeville destroyed the monastery. Henry II re-endowed Waltham in 1177 as a part of his penance for the murder of Becket. Henry imported regular Augustinian canons, and the house grew to be the most important Augustinian monastery in England. Waltham had the largest monastery buildings in the British Isles and was the last monastery to be suppressed during the Dissolution.

Karen Rae Keck


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