Pages ix-x

Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066-1300: Volume 2, Monastic Cathedrals (Northern and Southern Provinces). Originally published by Institute of Historical Research, London, 1971.

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The monastic cathedral was an institution almost peculiar to medieval England. (fn. 1) Essentially it was a Benedictine monastery where the conventual church was also a cathedral and where the bishop stood in place of an abbot at the head of the community. Three of the monastic cathedrals with which this volume is concerned were already in existence in 1066, owing their foundation to the monastic revival of the tenth century: these were Winchester (founded 964), Worcester (c. 974-7) and Canterbury (c. 997). (fn. 2) Under the influence of archbishop Lanfranc and other Norman monk-bishops, three more cathedrals were given chapters of religious-Rochester (1083), Durham (1083) and Norwich (c. 1100)-and three Saxon monasteries became cathedrals-Bath (1088), Coventry (1102) and Ely (1109). Bath and Coventry, which were to be the monastic parts of double chapters in their respective dioceses-Bath and Wells, and Coventry and Lichfield-will be dealt with in separate volumes. Ely, which appears in the present volume, was created as a new see in 1109, its bishop and cathedral being established in the Saxon abbey (founded 963-9). The inclusion of Carlisle brings to eight the number of cathedrals covered by this volume. At Carlisle, as at Ely, a new see was set up to centre on an existing religious house. But the priory of Carlisle, founded in c. 1122, was for Augustinian canons, and on becoming a cathedral in 1133 its rule and constitution were different from all the other English monastic cathedrals, although it had, unlike them, certain continental parallels. (fn. 3)

In the early years after the Conquest monastic bishops were appointed in some of the cathedral monasteries, but 'the golden age of patriarchal rule . . . was of short duration'. (fn. 4) Even for a monk-bishop there was tension between his position as head of the monastic community and his ever-expanding diocesan work, so that the prior became the effective religious superior of the convent. Theoretically, the bishop had the abbot's power to appoint the prior and the other obedientiaries, but as bishop and convent drew apart the monks came to seek the right of free election of their prior. The process whereby this right was established varied considerably from cathedral to cathedral, as will be seen from the notes and details of the Fasti, but generally by 1300 the disputes were over: the bishop retained a formal authority only, to grant the licence to elect and to confirm and install the elected prior. (fn. 5)

The normal procedure of abbatial election in the Rule of St. Benedict was applied in Æthelwold's Concordia to the election of the bishop in the cathedral monastery. (fn. 6) In practice in episcopal elections the monks, like the canons of secular cathedrals, had to contend with powerful external influences, the most important of which was the king's will. Even after formal freedom of election had been conceded by king John in 1215 and the system of royal licence to elect came into general use, (fn. 7) there were serious conflicts between kings and convents, as will be seen from numerous examples in the Fasti. (fn. 8) At Canterbury there was the added complication that the bishops of the province claimed a part in the election of the archbishop. (fn. 9) At Rochester the appointment of the bishop was in the archbishop's patronage; when the system of licence to elect came into operation, it was the archbishop who granted the licence and released the temporalities. In other cathedrals too the archbishop had a theoretical interest in elections, but it was only rarely that an archbishop refused his assent. (fn. 10) Disputes between king and convent, or between archbishop and convent, or between opposing factions within a convent, were often referred to the pope, and thus opportunities arose for the pope to introduce his own nominees by provision. (fn. 11) After every archiepiscopal election application had to be made to the pope for the pallium, the symbol of the archbishop's metropolitan authority.

The archdeacon of a diocese where the cathedral establishment was monastic was not normally a member of the chapter and he was more obviously the bishop's assistant than was his counterpart in a secular cathedral. On the question of the setting up of territorial archdeaconries, evidence from the four dioceses in this volume where there were two or more archdeacons seems to confirm the suggestion made in the first volume of the present series, that the duties of some early archdeacons may not have been defined on a strictly territorial basis. (fn. 12) The four archdeacons of the diocese of Norwich were probably given their separate territories in the 1120s or 1130s, and the two archdeacons of Winchester diocese perhaps at about the same time, but at Worcester the two archdeacons were almost certainly not given distinct territories until the 1140s, and at Durham not until after 1174.

The same style and conventions have been used in this volume as in the first volume of the 1066-1300 series of the Fasti. Although biographical details are necessarily reduced to a minimum, some brief notes are given of posts in other dioceses held at the time of a dignitary's appointment and during his term of office. These notes are not intended to be exhaustive, but it is hoped that they will assist the reader in anticipation of future volumes of the series.


  • 1. See D. Knowles, The Monastic Order in England (2nd ed., Cambridge, 1963) pp. 619-31.
  • 2. Sherborne, a cathedral monastery in 1066, ceased to be so when the see was moved to Salisbury in 1075-8 and the chapter was made secular.
  • 3. See J. C. Dickinson, Origins of the Austin Canons (1950) pp. 244 ff.
  • 4. D. Knowles, The Monastic Order in England (2nd ed., Cambridge, 1963) p. 624.
  • 5. See D. Knowles, The Religious Orders in England 1 (Cambridge, 1962) 254 ff. Lists of cathedral priors are included in the forthcoming Heads of Monastic Houses, 940-1215, ed. D. Knowles, C. N. L. Brooke and V. London.
  • 6. Regularis Concordia, ed. T. Symons (1953) p. 6.
  • 7. Selected Letters of Innocent III, ed. C. R. Cheney and W. H. Semple (1953) pp. 199-201.
  • 8. E.g. at Durham 1237, p. 31; at Winchester 1240-4, p. 86.
  • 9. E.g. election of 1191, p. 5.
  • 10. E.g. archbishop of York in Carlisle election 1257, p. 20.
  • 11. E.g. at Ely 1298-9, p. 47; at Winchester 1261-2, pp. 86-7.
  • 12. Fasti 1066-1300 1 (1968) p. xi.