views updated May 21 2018


Archbishop of canterbury; b. Pavia, c. 1005; d. Canterbury, May 24, 1089. After studying and practicing

civil law at Pavia he became a student of the liberal arts and theology under berengarius at his school in Tours (1035). He excelled in dialectic and opened his own school at Avranches in 1039, but suddenly entered the destitute Benedictine abbey of bec in 1042 to become a monk, and later prior, under Abbot herluin of bec. There he founded a school that became known throughout Europe; St. anselm of canterbury, ivo of chartres, and the later Pope alexander ii were among his pupils. As a dialectician and theologian Lanfranc wrote glosses on the Epistles of St. Paul, the Collationes of Cassian, and other works, concentrating, like Berengarius, on a thorough study of the words of the text. In the Eucharistic controversies he defended the orthodox position against Berengarius at the councils of Rome and Vercelli (1050), at Tours (1059), and in his Liber de corpore et sanguine Domini (c. 105962). While at Bec he became an adviser to William, Duke of Normandy, the future william i of england, who in 1063 made him abbot of his new foundation, St. Stephen's at Caen. Against his inclination and only on papal order Lanfranc was consecrated archbishop of Canterbury, Aug. 29, 1070. He proved himself an effective but cautious reformer. Unlike gregory vii, Lanfranc agreed with William that the reform of the English Church was the king's responsibility. However, Lanfranc's reforms concerning clerical celibacy, marriage, and cathedral chapters, and his use of Norman churchmen brought the English Church into close contact with the gregorian reform movement on the Continent. His most important innovation was the creation of separate courts of ecclesiastical jurisdiction. He introduced pre-Gregorian collections of Canon Law into England and infused new vitality into English monasticism. Lanfranc asserted his supremacy over the archbishop of york, but H. Böhmer's thesis that he forged documents to support his primacy has been disproved [E. Hora, "Zur Ehrenrettung Lanfranks" Theologische Quartalschrift, 3 (1931) 288319]. While he had the full confidence and support of William the Conqueror, relations with William's successor. William (II) Rufus, soon became difficult. Lanfranc's life as a scholar, prelate, and statesman as well as his lapidary letters reveal an agile, orderly mind and a determined, practical disposition. The monks who lived with Lanfranc, such as St. Anselm, gilbert crispin, and eadmer of canterbury, testify to his fatherly care, kindness, and humility.

Bibliography: Works. Opera omnia, ed. j. l. d'achÉry (Paris 1648); Opera omnia, ed. j. a. giles, 2 v. (Oxford 1844). Patrologia Latina, ed. j. p. migne (Paris 187890) 150. lanfranc, The Monastic constitutions, ed. and tr. d. knowles (New York 1951). Sources. "Acta Lanfranci" in j. earle, Two of the Saxon Chronicles Parallel, ed. c. plummer, 2 v. (Oxford 189299) 1:287292. gilbert crispin, Vita Herluini in Gilbert Crispin, ed. j. a. robinson (Cambridge, Eng. 1911) 87110. a. le prÉvost, ed., Ordericus Vitalis: Historia ecclesiastica, 5 v. (Paris 183855) 2:126, 209213; 3:309; 5:382. william of malmsbury, Gesta Pontificum Anglorum, ed. n. e. s. a. hamilton (Rerum Britannicarum Medi: aevi scriptores [New York 1964-]) 52:3773. m. crispin, "Vita beati Lanfranci," Patrologia Latina 150:1958. Literature. a. j. macdonald, Lanfranc: A Study of His Life, Work and Writing (2d ed. London 1944). É. amann and a. gaudel, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique 8.2:255870. z. n. brooke, The English Church and the Papacy (Cambridge, Eng. 1931). d. knowles, The Monastic Order in England, 9431216 (Cambridge, Eng. 1962) 107144. f. m. stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (2d ed. Oxford 1947). n. f. cantor, Church, Kingship, and Lay Investiture in England, 10891135 (Princeton 1958). F. L. Cross, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (London 1957) 783784. j. godfrey, The Church in Anglo-Saxon England (Cambridge, Eng.1962). r. w. southern, "Lanfranc of Bec and Berengar of Tours," Studies in Medieval History Presented to F. M. Powicke, ed. r. w. hunt et al. (Oxford 1948) 2748; "The Canterbury Forgeries," English Historical Review 73 (1958) 193l226; Saint Anselm and His Biographer (New York 1963). d. c. douglas, William the Conqueror (Berkeley 1964).

[b. w. scholz]


views updated May 18 2018


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 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.


views updated Jun 11 2018


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. □


views updated May 23 2018

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.



views updated May 11 2018

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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