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Lanfranc

LANFRANC

Lanfranc served as archbishop of Canterbury under William the Conquerer. He reformed the English church, established strong church-state relations, and introduced components of Roman and canon law to England. Under William's reign, he laid the foundation for what succeeding theorists would build into England's secular common-law court system. Early U.S. law derived some elements from this system.

Lanfranc was born in about 1005 in Pavia, Italy. He studied law in Pavia and became a respected scholar, principally because of his studies in roman law, which was a subject of growing interest in Italy at the time.

Lanfranc established a school at Avranches, Normandy, and taught for three years, until about 1042. After being attacked and almost killed by a highway robber, he went into seclusion at Saint Stephens Abbey at Bec, a newly established monastery. After three years of total seclusion, he returned to teaching, this time at the monastery. He taught there for eighteen years, earning high respect throughout Europe as an instructor of theology. The school became one of the most famous in Europe under his leadership. The future pope Alexander II was among his students.

When William the Conquerer decided to marry Matilda of Flanders, Lanfranc declared that the union would be a violation of canon law. Because of Lanfranc's strong opposition, William threatened to exile him. Lanfranc eventually gave up his stand against the marriage. In about 1051 William married Matilda, despite a papal ban on the union. Lanfranc sought support from the pope and engineered an eventual reconciliation of the papacy with the king. Six years after the wedding, William received the pope's approval to marry Matilda. In 1063 the grateful king appointed Lanfranc the first abbot of Saint Stephens.

Lanfranc also successfully lobbied for papal support for William's subsequent invasion of England. Because of these efforts, Lanfranc became William's closest and most trusted adviser by the time of the invasion in 1066, which resulted in the Norman Conquest.

In 1070 William appointed Lanfranc archbishop of Canterbury and chief justiciar. In the latter capacity, Lanfranc worked as a viceroy, or representative of the king, alongside William and when William was away from court. To reinforce William's dominance as ruler of England, Lanfranc replaced many English bishops with Normans. He also defeated an effort by the archbishop-elect of York to declare independence from Canterbury. He supported absolute veto power for the king and helped lay the precedent for trying bishops before secular courts.

"You can offer God no greater or more pleasing gift than your desire to govern divine and human affairs by the appropriate laws."
—Lanfranc

Lanfranc supported papal sovereignty and protected the church from secular influences. He also helped William establish independence for the English church. In 1076 he wrote an important ordinance that separated secular courts from ecclesiastical courts. In addition, he reformed guidelines for the marriage of priests, established ecclesiastical courts, and strengthened monasteries. He died May 24, 1089.

Lanfranc brought to England an understanding of canon and Roman law, which had been more widely embraced in continental Europe. Although he did not replace England's court system with Roman law, he introduced components of that system to England's court system.

Lanfranc's efforts laid the foundation for important writings on english law in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In the twelfth century, the first major text on the common law was written, reputedly by ranulf glanvill (his authorship is now disputed). In the thirteenth century, writings by henry de bracton built further on the common law with principles from both Roman (or civil) law and canon law. These works were important elements in the establishment of England's eventual common-law system. The scholar frederic w. maitland said that Lanfranc's influence was responsible for "the early precipitation of English law in so coherent a form." The United States borrowed concepts from the English court system that began to develop during the years following the Norman Conquest.

further readings

Butler, Denis. 1966. 1066: The Story of a Year. New York: Putnam.

Lloyd, Alan. 1966. The Making of the King, 1066. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Macdonald, Allan J. 1926. Lanfranc: A Study of His Life, Work, and Writing. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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Lanfranc

Lanfranc

The Italian monk and theologian Lanfranc (ca. 1010-1089) served as archbishop of Canterbury. He was a trusted adviser of King William I and presided over many changes in the English Church after the Norman conquest.

A native of Pavia, Lanfranc migrated to France in the 1030s. He studied under Bérenger at Tours and taught at Avranches. In 1042 he became a monk at Bec; he rose to be prior and head of the monastic school, which became famous under his direction. At the councils of Rome and Vercelli in 1050 Lanfranc was the principal defender of orthodoxy against the heretical doctrine of Bérenger on transubstantiation. His own views were expounded later in his treatise De corpore et sanguine Domini (On the Body and Blood of the Lord), which, like his other theological work, is sound but unoriginal.

William, Duke of Normandy (later William I of England), made Lanfranc abbot of his new foundation of St. Stephen at Caen in 1063, and in 1070, now king of England, he arranged Lanfranc's election as archbishop of Canterbury. Lanfranc was consecrated on August 29. Thereafter Lanfranc was the King's chief adviser and agent in Church affairs and one of his leading supporters in England. He suppressed a conspiracy of the earls of Norfolk and Hereford in 1075, and in 1087 he carried out the Conqueror's last wish by crowning his son, William II.

Lanfranc's principal task was to carry out reforms and changes in the Church. Some of these changes were purely political and involved replacing Saxon bishops and abbots with foreigners wherever possible. To effect his reforms, he held a series of councils; those of Winchester (1072 and 1076) and London (1075) were of great importance. He tried to enforce stricter discipline in monasteries and the rule of celibacy upon the secular clergy. He also presided over the removal of bishoprics from villages to towns; for example, in 1075 the sees of Lichfield, Sherborne, and Selsey were transferred to Chester, Salisbury, and Chichester. About the same time, no doubt with Lanfranc's approval, William ordered that Church cases should no longer be heard in secular courts. Lanfranc also claimed supremacy for Canterbury over York; his claims were endorsed by a legatine council held at Winchester in 1072.

Lanfranc regarded cooperation with the King as the best policy for the Church. He offered no opposition to King William's claims to decide between rival popes, to appoint and invest bishops, and to approve or disapprove decrees of Church councils and publication of papal letters. The extreme claims to power and independence, which were being made by Pope Gregory VII and his party, were quietly ignored. Lanfranc was perhaps fortunate that he died on May 24, 1089, less than 2 years after the accession of the irreligious William II, with whom cooperation was almost impossible. A small collection of Lanfranc's letters and some theological works survive.

Further Reading

Lanfranc's The Monastic Constitutions, edited and translated by D. Knowles (1951), illustrates his ideas on the religious life. A useful collection of contemporary documents, including some of Lanfranc's letters, is translated in D. C. Douglas and G. W. Greenaway, eds., English Historical Documents (1042-1189), vol. 2 (1953). The best biography is Allan John Macdonald, Lanfranc: A Study of His Life, Work, and Writing (1926; 2d ed. 1944). The basic book on the Church for this period is Z. N. Brooke, The English Church and the Papacy (1931), in which the author identifies and discusses the collection of canon law brought by Lanfranc to England.

Additional Sources

Gibson, Margaret T., Lanfranc of Bec, Oxford Eng.: Clarendon Press, 1978. □

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Lanfranc

Lanfranc (lăn´frăngk), d. 1089, Italian churchman and theologian, archbishop of Canterbury (1070–89), b. Pavia. At first educated in civil law, he turned to theology and became a pupil of Berengar of Tours. After teaching in Avranches, Normandy, he went to Bec (c.1040), where he founded an illustrious school and became prior (c.1043). Among his pupils were St. Anselm and perhaps Pope Alexander II. In 1049, Berengar impugned Lanfranc's orthodoxy, and Lanfranc, successfully clearing himself, attacked Berengar in turn. Some 10 years later Lanfranc wrote the treatise De Corpore et Sanguine Domine [concerning the Body and Blood of the Lord], which, though ineffective as a rebuttal of Berengar's writings on the Eucharist, set forth ideas that became influential in the Middle Ages. He was closely associated with Duke William of Normandy (later William I of England) and probably helped secure papal recognition of the duke's marriage and the papal blessing for the conquest of England. In 1070, William replaced Stigand as archbishop with Lanfranc, who accepted only on the direct command of the pope. Thereafter king and archbishop worked closely together in matters of both church and state. Lanfranc replaced English abbots and bishops with Normans (a course often denounced but quite essential to any reform), reduced the archbishop of York to subjection to Canterbury, legislated against clerical marriage and concubinage, built churches, reformed ecclesiastical finance, established ecclesiastical courts, strengthened the monasteries, and removed the bishoprics from small towns to important cities. Occasional friction between church and state caused no quarrels until the reign of William II. Lanfranc had favored young William, and crowned him, but the archbishop was deeply displeased by the king's arbitrary actions, and trouble was averted only by Lanfranc's death.

See M. Gibson, Lanfranc of Bec (1978).

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Lanfranc

Lanfranc (c.1010–89), archbishop of Canterbury (1070–89), was an Italian from Pavia, who moved to northern France in the 1030s, and rose in Normandy before 1066 to be William the Conqueror's chief ecclesiastical adviser. A theologian and teacher of European renown, Lanfranc's presence gave the church in Normandy a prestige which it otherwise lacked; a fact which contributed considerably to the support given by the papacy to the Norman Conquest. Lanfranc originally came to northern France to seek pupils and, around the year 1040, he passed through a spiritual crisis and sought seclusion in the then impoverished abbey of Le Bec. He emerged in the late 1040s and was thereafter always close to the centre of affairs. After 1070 his influence was widely pervasive throughout the Normanized church in England. Among other things, he controversially asserted Canterbury's primacy over York and, as a result, was able to preside over synods of the entire English church which gave a central direction to the efforts of the new Norman bishops. He circulated an abridged, but authoritative, collection of canon law throughout the English church and, through his Monastic Constitutions, he helped several English monasteries to adopt more up-to-date continental customs. His letters reveal a quiet disciplinarian who was also a pragmatist. His close and harmonious co-operation with William the Conqueror assisted the Norman settlement of England and contrasted with the attitudes of his pupil and successor St Anselm, who placed a much greater emphasis on obedience to the papacy and to the rigorist policies of the Investiture contest popes.

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Lanfranc

Lanfranc (1010–89) Italian theologian. A Benedictine monk, his priory at Bec, Normandy, was a centre for European scholars in the 1040s. As a counsellor of William I (the Conqueror), he became Archbishop of Canterbury (1070–89).

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