Walter of Cowick

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(Devon) (12th century),

Benedictine monk. He is mentioned as a saint both by C.S.P. (ii) and by William Worcestre, from which two sources it may be inferred that he was born in Norwich, became a monk of the Order at Bec in Normandy, but led the religious life at Cowick, half a mile from Exeter, and was ‘canonized’. C.S.P. adds that ‘he was in Purgatory alive and saw the places of punishment; afterwards he wore a goatskin for the rest of his life’. Neither gives a date of any kind. Bec was founded in the 11th century and Cowick, founded c.1144 and dependent on Bec, was transferred to Tavistock in 1464, having presumably become denizened under Henry V like the other alien priories. It is possible but unlikely that Walter was the object of a liturgical cult before the papal reserve of canonization became effective; it is more probable that William Worcestre is referring to canonization in a non-technical way and that he is simply recording the existence of a popular, unofficial cult.

C.S.P. (ii); William Worcestre, pp. 124–5; N. Orme, ‘St Walter of Cowick’, Anal. Boll., cviii (1990), 387–93.

Subjects: Christianity.

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