Let's start by helping you get situated on a French map. in the 12th century, Normandy thought of itself as separate from France and contained an archdiocese and six dioceses, one of which was the Diocese of Lisieux, shown here as shaded. Then as now, it was a beautiful and lush area, with rolling hills, abundant fisheries, family farms raising chickens and dairy cattle, and apple and pear orchards. Think of Camembert cheeses, Calvados brandy, and chicken stewed in rich cream, and you'll have the cuisine of Lisieux.
Politically, however, there was turmoil--at least partially because the Norman invasion of England had resulted, first, in placing a Frenchman on the throne of England, and second, an English king ruling much, if not all, of Normandy, much to the displeasure of the king of France. Rich lords (and that included the bishops and abbots of Normandy) juggled their allegiances according to whose army happened to be in the area and who held title to their lands.
Arnulf was born into that confusing struggle at the turn of the century and knew from childhood that fate had destined him for a life in the church. His grandfather was Norman the Dean, second most powerful cleric in he diocese of Sees.His uncle was bishop of Lisieux, and his older brother became bishop of Sees. He served his apprenticeship under family members and was, from the family's point of view, the obvious successor to his Uncle John of Lisieux in 1141. From the royal point of view, however, there were serious challenges to his ordination as a bishop. We'll talk more about the political background of all of this next week. For now, all we need to record are these details:
(1) It took Arnulf nearly three years to claim his bishopric from the Duke of Anjou, and it cost him a fine of over 900 pounds.
(2) He inherited a diocese that had become a casualty of the war that raged over the throne of England from 1135 o 1153. Uncle John had supported Stephen and paid the price of seeing the city and cathedral burned nearly to the ground. When Arnulf finally made peace with Matilda and her husband, he faced a cathedral that was little more than a pile of rubble and a diocesan treasure of only 17 marks. [A mark was worth about 2/3 of a pound].
(3) Arnulf was learning a very hard lesson. His duty was to serve his church and his king, but there were no guarantees that the two would agree. Further, both church and king believed themselves to be superior to the other.