The Norman Church
completely rebuilt during the Norman period
The Norman monarchy was closely linked to
the Church - William I's invasion of England was endorsed by Pope Alexander II (1061-73), and Pope Gregory VII (1073-85) had long
been William's friend and advisor.|
Soon after the Conquest, William I began
the Normanization of the English Church. He co-operated with the
Pope in the removal and imprisonment of the Anglo-Saxon Archbishop
of Canterbury, Stigand (who starved himself to death, 1072).|
to the Archbishopric of Canterbury an old ally, Lanfranc (died 1089)
- a Benedictine monk from Lombardy, who had helped resolve the
problems occasioned by William's marriage with his cousin,
William also appointed foreigners to the
other English bishoprics: Between 1070 and 1140 only one
native Englishman was appointed to any English bishopric. These
Norman (or other non-English) bishops had little contact with their English flocks and
engaged in jurisdictional disputes (such as a long-running squabble
between York and Canterbury over the latter's primacy), or else acted
as royal counselors. Lanfranc, for example, helped to foil a plot
against William in 1075, and to ensure William Rufus' succession in
Pope Gregory VII (1073-85) had a high
opinion of Papal power and initiated the
Gregorian Reform movement in the Church. A major dispute (known as the
Investiture Controversy) with the Holy Roman Emperor, Henry IV soon erupted over the right to appoint
bishops, and whether the bishops' main duty of obedience was to popes or
|Gregory VII also wanted to enforce canon law
rigidly so as to oblige the clergy to adopt
ascetic standards of conduct. In particular, he wanted to
impose celibacy (a blind eye had been turned to clerical
marriage in many places) and to end simony (paying for
clerical offices) and nepotism (favoring relatives in
Lanfranc tried to introduce Gregorian
reforms into the English Church. At Councils in London (1075) and
Winchester (1076), canons were passed to enforce clerical
Lanfranc also looked to the material
conditions of the English Church, initiating the rebuilding of
the cathedrals at Canterbury, York (the Minster), and Saint Paul's in London.|
Although Lanfranc adopted many of Gregory
VII's ideas, he did not embrace his hostility to secular power over
the Church and - despite Gregory's urging - largely avoided conflict with
William I on this issue.|
The vault of Ely Cathedral
and Anselm, the organization and administration of the Church were improved.
Dioceses were subdivided into archdeaconries and deaneries, and church courts
The church of Caen at the site of one of William
I's monastic foundations |
Between 1066 and 1135, the number of
monks and nuns increased from about one thousand to between four and
five thousand; the number of religious (i.e. monastic) houses grew from about sixty
to over 250.
Before the Conquest, the Rule of Saint
Benedict provided the model for all English monasteries, but after
1066 new orders entered England.
Abelard & Heloise
|The Cluniac order was introduced into
England in 1077. It had twenty-four English houses by 1135.
The Cluniacs were a highly centralized order - the abbot of
Cluny being the superior of all its houses.
One of the most famous Cluniac monks was Peter Abelard, who
entered the order after his disastrous
romance with Heloise.
|During the 12th Century, the Cistercian
order spread rapidly in England. The Cistercians were a
severely ascetic order who insisted on strict observance of
their Rule, and manual labor.
Cistercians were called "white monks" because of the color of
Cīteaux, the first Cistercian abbey
The gatehouse of the 12th Century Cartmel
Priory in Cumbria
|The Augustinian (or Austin)
canons had established houses in Anglo-Saxon England, but only
spread rapidly after 1066. Between the Conquest and the death
of Henry II, about fifty-four houses were founded. The first
being Colchester in 1096 and Holy Trinity London in 1106. They
had about sixty houses by 1135.
Monks took vows of poverty, chastity and
humility (obedience). They were generally from comparatively
prosperous backgrounds. Poor peasants sometimes became "lay brethren"
and did the dirty work (like laundry, cooking and cleaning)
whilst the monks prayed. (The Cistercians were exceptional in
demanding manual labor from monks themselves).
More men than women joined religious
orders; by 1250 there were about 550 male religious communities to 150
female. Many girls were 'given" by their parents along with a gift of
land while the daughters were still very young. Nunneries also
provided a refuge for unattractive spinsters and pious widows.