York, Ancient See of
YORK, ANCIENT SEE OF
Metropolitan see located in northern England where it included all or part of the modern counties of Cumberland, Northumberland, Westmorland, Yorkshire, Lancashire, and Nottinghamshire within its shifting boundaries during the Anglo-Saxon and medieval periods.
Growth and Development. The Christian origins of the archdiocese are obscure, although York itself was an important center of Roman Britain, and it is known that a bishop of York attended the Council of Arles in 314. Christianity was presumably destroyed by the Anglo-Saxon invasions and was not restored until the 7th century following Augustine of Canterbury's mission to England, 597. Pope Gregory I the Great intended York to be a metropolitan see with 12 suffragans, a hope which,
although never realized, would seem to confirm York's importance earlier. Not until 625 was Augustine's disciple, paulinus of york, consecrated bishop there, but his tenure proved short-lived. The Christian king of Northumbria, edwin, was killed in battle, 632, and Paulinus fled to Rochester, leaving York to the care of the Celtic bishop abbot of lindisfarne. The see was restored in 664, when the volatile Wilfrid was consecrated bishop and restored the church of York. With the accession of Egbert (Ecgbert) of York, brother of the Northumbrian king, the see was raised to metropolitan status; the pallium arrived in 735. The 9th century brought the Scandinavian invasions and the destruction of the Northumbrian ecclesiastical organization. hexham, Lindisfarne, and whithorn, all three suffragans of York, were ravaged, and the Scandinavians occupied York itself in 866, although it appears that Archbishop Wulfhere continued to reside in the city until his death in 900. The succession of archbishops was interrupted until Athelstan's liberation of the city in 927. Archbishop Wulfstan I (c. 931–956) began the awesome task of reestablishing Christianity in the north. The only 10th-century suffragan of York was Chester-le-Street, whose diocesan seat was removed permanently to durham in 994. The poverty of the archdiocese was such, however, that York was frequently held in plurality with the bishopric of worcester in the 10th and 11th centuries. Durham remained the only suffragan of York until well after the Norman Conquest of England, which brought, in its turn, terrible destruction to the north when King William the Conqueror exterminated the rebels of 1069 to 1070. In 1133, following the conquest of Cumberland by King William II Rufus (1087–1100), an additional suffragan was established at Carlisle. From that date no substantial changes occurred in the organization of the archdiocese until the reign of King henry viii. York produced its share of outstanding personalities: the aforementioned Wilfrid (d.709), that difficult but singularly vital figure in Northumbrian ecclesiastical history; john of beverley (d. 721), Bishop of York, canonized in the 11th century for his numerous miracles of healing; oswald of york, the late 10th-century Bishop of Worcester and Archbishop of York, a significant contributor to the introduction of Cluniac monasticism in England; Wulfstan II, Archbishop of York, 1002 to 1023, one of the most notable homilists of his age; thomas of bayeux (1070–1100), first Norman archbishop and builder of the great minster, which was pulled down in the 13th century to make way for the present one, begun 1227; john le romeyn (1286–96), largely responsible for the north transept and the tower; Thomas arundel (1388–96), opponent of Lollardy; Richard scrope (1398–1405); Cardinal Christopher bainbridge; and most famous (or infamous) of all, Cardinal Thomas wolsey (1514–30), the most powerful English ecclesiastic of the late Middle Ages, and the English Church's greatest single "abuse." Most of the archbishops were men of authority in both temporal and ecclesiastical affairs, and many were men of notable learning, but following the Norman Conquest, none were saints.
Culture. The most significant artistic monument of the archdiocese is certainly York Minster, dedicated to St. Peter. Its principal feature is its medieval stained glass, especially the collection of windows (c. 1260–65) in the north transept, the "Five Sisters window" of grisaille glass. Also noteworthy is the great east window of the 15th century, the work of a single craftsman. In fact, more than one-half of the extant medieval stained glass in England is in the churches of York. The cathedral's chapter house contains Saxon Gospels and a Saxon horn of Near Eastern provenance.
In education, York played its greatest role during the Anglo-Saxon period. Archbishop Egbert, who may have beenn Bede's pupil, founded school and library, both of which became famous in the 8th century and, through alcuin, greatly influenced intellectual life in Carolingian Europe. Despite invasions and internal struggles in Northumbria, the school, noted for its encyclopedism and systematization of knowledge rather than its intellectual creativity, maintained its essential continuity until the Norman Conquest; the library, greatest in western Europe during the 8th century, was burned in 1069. Neither school nor library was "replaced," and York was not an important intellectual center after 1066.
Monastic life in the archdiocese flourished during two widely separated periods: that of Northumbrian religious life in the 7th and 8th centuries, which produced cuthbert at Lindisfarne and bede at jarrow; and the period of the 12th-century revival that gave rise not only to great cistercian houses such as rievaulx, associated with Abbot aelred, and fountains, but also to foundations by other orders such as the large Benedictine house, St. Mary's Abbey, in York.
Jurisdiction. York's struggle with Canterbury over archiepiscopal primacy in England was, without doubt, York's single most important role on the broader stage of England's religious history. It began during the episcopate of Thomas of Bayeux (1070–1100). In 1071 with both archbishops, Thomas and lanfranc, present, Pope alexander ii decided for Canterbury over York, but in 1118 thurstan, Archbishop elect of York, refused to submit to Canterbury and appealed to Pope callistus ii (1119–24), who consecrated him and released him and his successors from subordination to Canterbury. The struggle was renewed in the 14th century and was finally settled by Pope innocent vi (1352–62), who decided that the archbishop of Canterbury was to have precedence and the title, "Primate of all England," while the archbishop of York was to be called "Primate of England." Both archbishops could carry their crosses in the other's province. This decision has ensured Canterbury's primacy ever since, both for the remainder of the Middle Ages and since the Henrician changes.
Bibliography: hugh the chantor, The History of the Church of York, 1066–1127, tr. by c. johnson (New York 1961). g. w. kitchin, ed., The Records of the Northern Convocation (Surtees Society Pub. 113; Durham 1907). j. raine, ed., The Historians of the Church of York and Its Archbishops, 3 v. (Rerum Britannicarum medii aevi scriptores, 71; London 1879-94). f. l. cross, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (London 1957) 1484–85. The Victoria History of the County of Yorkshire, ed. p. m. tillott (London 1961). j. leneve, Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1300–1541 (1716). Corrected and continued from 1215 by t. d. hardy, 3 v. (Oxford 1854). New ed. by h. p. f. king et al. (London 1962–): v.6, Northern Province (York, Carlisle and Durham) comp. b. jones 6:vii–viii, 1–94.
[h. s. reinmuth, jr./eds.]