Faricius was one of the two greatest abbots of Abingdon Abbey. Aethelwold, a century and a half before him, was the other.
Faricius was an Italian from Arezzo in Tuscany. Nothing is known of his early career, but before the end of the eleventh century he was a monk at the abbey of Malmesbury, already with a reputation for learning and, especially, for his medical skills.
At this time, Abingdon Abbey was in difficulty. King William Rufus had despoiled it and left it for three years without an abbot. Many of its estates had been taken and sold off. Its buildings were so dilapidated that the monks had to sleep in the church. But in 1100, William Rufus died and was succeeded by his brother Henry I. Henry allowed Faricius to be appointed abbot.
As a medical man, Faricius treated the king and many of the most prominent people of his time, and also their wives and mistresses. He was especially good at helping women in childbirth. Thus, when he set about restoring the Abbey’s lost properties, which he did in a very aggressive manner, he tended to find favour with the king and in the law courts. He was even given estates by grateful patients. The Abbey’s finances were transformed. Faricius started a great building programme; in his time, the nave of the church was completed and the crossing, which would support the central tower, was built up to window level. He rebuilt the domestic ranges, and added private quarters for himself as abbot. Manuscripts were produced, saints’ relics and liturgical utensils and vestments acquired, and the Abbey became once more a place of splendour.
When there was a vacancy in the archbishopric of Canterbury, Henry wanted to appoint Faricius, but was prevented by the opposition of his minister, Roger of Salisbury, who seems to have feared that Faricius’s autocratic nature would be a cause of trouble. There was certainly a development of discontent in the monastery, and some of the monks complained to the king about a reduction of their cheese ration. Roger headed a high level investigation which found against Faricius and the cheese ration was restored. Faricius died soon after, in 1117.
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