Canterbury, Ancient See of
CANTERBURY, ANCIENT SEE OF
Principal metropolitan see of England, founded c. 600 by augustine of canterbury. Pope St. gregory the great had envisaged london as the ecclesiastical metropolis of southern England, but instead Augustine chose the capital of Kent, the most powerful and civilized Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the time, whose King ethelbert had become a Christian. Canterbury itself was a Roman city, a small replica of Rome in ecclesiastical organization, architecture and church-dedications (for example, see saint augustine, abbey of). The See of Canterbury has always been small in extent: eastern Kent with several "peculiars" elsewhere; but the Province of Canterbury came to include the whole of England south of the Humber, along with Wales. Before his death (c. 604), Augustine had founded the suffragan Sees of rochester and London.
History. Until 653 Canterbury was ruled by Augustine and his Italian companions: lawrence, mellitus, justus and honorius. The first Anglo-Saxon archbishop was Frithonas (Deusdedit of Canterbury, 655–664). A new impulse was given to the Church in England by Archbishop Theodore (668–690), who held councils; appointed bishops to new sees, even in the north; and placed Irish missionary centers under episcopal control. With the African monk hadrian, he refounded the Canterbury school, which trained scholars and future bishops and outshone the Irish schools of the time.
In 753 york, in accordance with Gregory the Great's plan, became a metropolitan see. About 40 years later King Offa of Mercia tried to make Lichfield a Midland metropolitan see, but in 802–803, the supremacy of Canterbury was confirmed by both the Pope and a provincial council. After the disasters of the ninth-century Danish invasions the see recovered under Odo of Canterbury and dunstan, who worked in close association with the Kings of the time. In the later Danish invasions, Canterbury gained its first martyr, St. alphege, archbishop from 1005 to 1012.
After the Conquest, lanfranc, who replaced the simoniacal Stigand, worked very closely with King william i at the reform of the English church. simony, and
eventually marriage for the higher clergy (see celibacy, history of) were abolished, the monasteries were reformed by the introduction of Norman abbots and a more vigorous intellectual and spiritual life, and monks sometimes replaced canons as chapters of cathedrals. This latter practice, almost unique in Christendom, had already started under Dunstan. Soon after his death the cathedral chapter of Christ Church, Canterbury, had become monastic, and under Lanfranc, its observances (codified in his Monastic Constitutions ) and its literary and artistic activities strongly influenced other monasteries. Lanfranc also regained lost Canterbury estates from Odo of Bayeux and established a temporary ascendancy over the northern province of York. However, in spite of eadmer's claims and the Canterbury forgeries, Lanfranc's position was reversed by a papal decision in 1121 and York regained permanent independence.
The disputes over investiture between Archbishop anselm of canterbury and King william ii and King henry i brought importance to Canterbury and exile to the most original theological thinker ever to occupy Augustine's chair. The dispute over the Constitutions of clarendon, including the treatment of criminous clerks and the right of appeal to Rome, between Thomas becket and henry ii culminated in the former's martyrdom. This shocked all Europe and a cult of the archbishop rapidly sprang up over most of Europe, while in England the pilgrimage to Becket's tomb retained its immense popularity throughout the Middle Ages.
The later 12th century was marred by disputes between archbishops, who wanted to establish a collegiate church at Hackington whence archbishops might draw trained curialists for administering the diocese, and monastic chapters whose monks regarded this projected church as their rival. The monks were successful in the prolonged litigation that followed, though at a high cost, financially and in diminution of religious spirit.
Archbishops from 1200 to the Reformation. The disputed election of 1205 to 1207, which ended in the nomination of stephen langton by Pope Innocent III, was the most famous in English ecclesiastical history. After the end of the interdict that followed King john's rejection of Langton, Canterbury enjoyed a series of remarkably able and intellectual bishops for most of the 13th century. These included St. edmund of abingdon, boniface of savoy, robert kilwardby, john peckham and robert of winchelsea who put into effect the decrees of the reforming Councils of the lateran and of lyons. They visited the province as well as the diocese systematically and efficiently, and promulgated a code of laws about clerical discipline, administration of the Sacraments and preaching.
The 14th-and 15th-century archbishops were generally civil servants or canon lawyers rather than scholars; often their promotion reflected the growing control of the Church by the crown. simon of sudbury (1375–81), for example, was killed by the mob in the Peasants' Revolt as the King's principal reactionary adviser. These archbishops, often of aristocratic families, took a prominent part in politics and sometimes were translated by the Pope at the King's request to remote and unimportant sees in punishment for their political activities.
Through most of the Middle Ages England was remarkably free from heresy, but when the lollards arose Archbishops William courtenay, Thomas arundel and Henry chichele were zealous in suppressing them with the help of the secular arm. However, they excluded the inquisition.
From the 12th century, archbishops of Canterbury were so frequently papal legates that they enjoyed the name of legatus natus. A few were promoted to be cardinals in Rome, but John kemp, bourgchier and morton (1452–1500) were all cardinals while remaining archbishops of Canterbury. William warham (1503–32) was a friend of colet and erasmus, and toward the end of his reign began the crisis that was to lead to the Reformation in England. Thomas cranmer (1533–56), tool of henry viii, pronounced the king's marriage with cathrine of aragon null after its validity had been upheld by the Pope, and rejected papal supremacy, substituting for it the doctrine that the king was supreme head of the Church in England. Under Cranmer, all the monasteries and chantries and several hospitals were suppressed, four of the diocesan manors were ceded to the King, the relics of Thomas Becket were destroyed and his name, together with that of the Pope, was removed from all the service books.
The accession of mary tudor brought reconciliation with Rome and the appointment of Cardinal Reginald pole as archbishop and legate (1556–58). But the deaths of Mary and of Pole on the same day ended all hope of a permanent Catholic restoration. Under elizabeth i the Acts of Supremacy and uniformity were renewed, England became Protestant and Canterbury was made the headquarters of the Anglican Church (see anglicanism).
Cathedral. The first cathedral of Canterbury, begun by Augustine and completed by his successors, had been burned in 1067. Eadmer describes it as a miniature of Old St. Peter's, Rome. It was rebuilt by Lanfranc on a much bigger scale with a nave of nine bays, but a choir of only two. From 1100 to 1130, under Anselm and priors Ernulf and Conrad, the eastern limb was rebuilt and enlarged for processions and the display of exceptionally numerous relics of Canterbury saints. This part was badly burned in 1174, and the choir was rebuilt by two architects named William, one French and the other English (1174–84). The relics of Thomas Becket were translated to the chapel of the Holy Trinity, to the east of this choir. The nave was rebuilt from 1379 onward in perpendicular style under the architect Henry Yevele and the fine tower ("Bell Harry") under John Wastell, c. 1500. Architecturally, it is one of the finest cathedrals in England, and it is enriched by stained glass dating from 1180 to 1280, especially the theological windows of Old and New Testament types and antitypes and the martyrdom of St. Thomas. There are also many tombs of saints and archbishops. A Norman crypt and part of the monastic buildings still survive.
Bibliography: bede, Ecclesiastical History ed. h. spelman, i, 25–33; ii, 5–8; iv, 1–2. Councils and Ecclesiastical Documents Relating to Great Britain and Ireland, ed. a. w. haddan and w. stubbs, 3 v. (Oxford 1869–78) v.3. Registers of archbishops of Canterbury pub. by Canterbury and York Society. i. j. churchill, Canterbury Administration, 2 v. (New York 1933). r. willis, The Architectural History of Canterbury Cathedral (London 1845). h. loxton, Pilgrimage to Canterbury (Newton Abbot, England 1978). p. collinson, et al., A History of Canterbury Cathedral (Oxford/New York 1995). p. brett and j. doyle, Canturbury (Norwich, England 1997).