Last updated

This page is about Thurstan of Bayeux (1070 – 1140) who became Archbishop of York. Thurstan of Caen became the first Norman Abbot of Glastonbury in circa 1077.
Archbishop of York
ElectedAugust 1114
Term ended21 January 1140 (res.)
Predecessor Thomas II
Successor Waltheof of Melrose
Ordination6 June 1115
by  Ranulf Flambard
Consecration19 October 1119
by Pope Callixtus II
Personal details
Born c. 1070
Died6 February 1140 (aged c.69)
Pontefract, Yorkshire, England
ParentsAnger and Popelina

Thurstan [lower-alpha 1] or Turstin of Bayeux (c. 1070 – 6 February 1140) was a medieval Archbishop of York, the son of a priest. He served kings William II and Henry I of England before his election to the see of York in 1114. Once elected, his consecration was delayed for five years while he fought attempts by the Archbishop of Canterbury to assert primacy over York. Eventually, he was consecrated by the pope instead and allowed to return to England. While archbishop, he secured two new suffragan bishops for his province. When Henry I died, Thurstan supported Henry's nephew Stephen of Blois as king. Thurstan also defended the northern part of England from invasion by the Scots, taking a leading part in organising the English forces at the Battle of the Standard (1138). Shortly before his death, Thurstan resigned from his see and took the habit of a Cluniac monk.


Early life

Thurstan was the son of a canon of St Paul's in London named Anger, Auger or Ansgar, [lower-alpha 2] who held the prebend of Cantlers. Another son of Anger, Audoen, was later Bishop of Évreux. [1] [2] [3] [4] Thurstan's mother was named Popelina. [4] Thurstan was born sometime about 1070 in Bayeux, [5] in the Bessin region of Normandy. Before 1104 the father was given the prebend of Cantlers by Maurice, Bishop of London, and the family moved to England. [6]

Early in his career, Thurstan held the prebendary of Consumpta per mare in the diocese of London, [7] and served both William Rufus and Henry I as a royal clerk. [8] At some point in Thurstan's early career, he visited Cluny, where he vowed to become a Cluniac monk later in his life. [6] Thurstan also served Henry as almoner, [9] and it was Henry who obtained Thurstan's election as Archbishop of York in August 1114. [10] He was ordained a deacon in December 1114 and ordained a priest on 6 June 1115 [8] by Ranulf Flambard, who was Bishop of Durham. [11]

Controversy and exile

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Ralph d'Escures, refused to consecrate Thurstan unless the archbishop-elect made a profession of obedience to the southern see. [12] This was part of the long-running Canterbury-York dispute, which started in 1070. [13] Thurstan refused to make such a profession, [12] and asked the king for permission to go to Rome to consult Pope Paschal II. Henry I refused to allow him to make the journey, but even without a personal appeal from Thurstan, Paschal decided against Canterbury. At the Council of Salisbury in 1116 the English king ordered Thurstan to submit to Canterbury, but instead Thurstan publicly resigned the archbishopric. [14] On his way to the council, Thurstan had received letters from Paschal II that supported York and commanded that he should be consecrated without a profession. Similar letters had gone to Ralph d'Escures from the pope, ordering Ralph, as Archbishop of Canterbury, to consecrate Thurstan. After the news of the letters became public, Thurstan's resignation was ignored, and he continued to be considered the archbishop-elect. [2]

Over the next three years, the new popes, Gelasius II and Calixtus II, championed Thurstan's case, and on 19 October 1119 he was consecrated by Calixtus at Reims. [8] [15] Calixtus had earlier promised Henry that he would not consecrate Thurstan without the king's permission, which had still not been granted. [15] Enraged at this, the king refused to allow the newly consecrated archbishop to enter England, and Thurstan remained for some time on the continent in the company of the pope. [12] While he was travelling with the pope, he also visited Adela of Blois, King Henry's sister, who was also Thurstan's spiritual daughter. At about this same time, Calixtus issued two bulls in Thurstan's favor: one released York from Canterbury's supremacy forever, and the other demanded the king allow Thurstan to return to York. The pope threatened an interdict on England as a punishment if the papal bull was not obeyed. [15] At length, Thurstan's friends, including Adela, succeeded in reconciling him with Henry, and he rejoined the king in Normandy. [14] At Easter 1120, he escorted Adela to the monastery of Marcigny, where she retired from active secular affairs. [16] He was recalled to England in early 1121. [14]


One of the main weaknesses of the see of York was its lack of suffragan bishops. [17] Thurstan managed to secure the resurrection of the Diocese of Galloway, [6] or Whithorn, in 1125. [17] It is possible that he compromised with Fergus of Galloway, who was the lord or sub-king of Galloway, in what is now Scotland. In this Thurstan secured another suffragan, and Fergus gained a bishop in his lordship, where previously ecclesiastical matters in his subkingdom had been handled by Scottish bishops. The first bishop was the native Galwegian  Gilla Aldan. [6] This provoked the wrath of Wimund, Bishop of the Isles, who had previously had jurisdiction over Galloway; but the new bishopric survived, and York had a new suffragan, an important step in the battle between York and Canterbury over the primacy, which was mainly a battle over the prestige of their respective sees. The number of bishops subject to either archbishop was an important factor in the reputation of each. [18] In 1133, Thurstan, who had received papal permission to found an entirely new diocese, consecrated Æthelwold as the first bishop of the new see of Carlisle. [6]

Thurstan refused to accept that the new Archbishop of Canterbury, William de Corbeil, was his superior, and did not help with William's consecration. The dispute between the two continued, and both archbishops carried their complaints in person to Rome twice. In 1126, Pope Honorius II ruled in favour of York. [19] The pope based his decision on the fact that Canterbury's supporting documents had been forged. [20]

A monument at the site of the Battle of the Standard, where the troops Thurstan had mustered defeated the Scots. Battle of the Standard.jpg
A monument at the site of the Battle of the Standard, where the troops Thurstan had mustered defeated the Scots.

Thurstan supported King Stephen after Henry I's death in 1135, and appeared at Stephen's first court at Easter held at Westminster. [21] Thurstan negotiated a truce at Roxburgh in 1138 between England and Scotland. It was Thurstan who mustered the army which defeated the Scots at the Battle of the Standard on 22 August 1138 near Northallerton, Yorkshire. [22] [23] Thurstan did not take direct part in the battle., but he created the standard that gave the battle its name, by putting a ship's mast in a cart and hanging the banners of Saint Peter of York, Saint John of Beverley, and Saint Wilfrid of Ripon on the mast. The Scots had invaded, attempting to aid the Empress Matilda, the daughter of Henry I and Stephen's rival for the throne. [24] On 21 January 1140 Thurstan resigned his see and entered the order of the Cluniacs at Pontefract [8] and he died there on 6 February 1140. [10] He was buried in the church at Pontefract. [6]


In 2024 evidence emerged that Thurstan had been acclaimed as a saint: his name was found, associated with a feast day of 6 February, in an ancient catalogue of saints' days at Pontefract Priory. At the time the pope's approval was not needed for sainthood; the monks at Pontefract exhumed his body two years after his death and, finding it well-preserved, acclaimed him as a saint. This detail was lost in the destruction of monasteries' possessions during the Reformation. [25]


Thurstan gave land to many of the churches of his diocese and founded several religious houses. He founded the first nunnery in Yorkshire when he founded St Clement's between 1125 and 1133. [26] He obtained for Whitby Abbey a papal privilege of protection as well as giving his privilege to the abbey. [27] He also helped found the Cistercian Abbey of Fountains, [8] by giving the site to monks who had been expelled from the Abbey of St. Mary's, York. [28] Thurstan helped the hermitess Christina of Markyate at several points in her career, and tried to persuade her to become the first prioress of his foundation of St. Clement's. [29] He was a patron to the Augustinian Hexham Priory, founded by his predecessor at York, as well as helping the foundation of Bridlington Priory, another Augustinian house. [30] He was a sincere reformer and opposed to the election of unfit men to the episcopacy. When Pope Innocent II asked Thurstan's opinion on the elevation of Anselm of St Saba, who was Abbot of Bury St. Edmunds, to become Bishop of London, Thurstan replied, "If we consider his life and reputation, it would be much more fitting to remove him from his abbacy than to promote him to be bishop of London." [31] Anselm was not confirmed as bishop. [31]

Thurstan is described by the historian Edmund King as "a bishop like no other. Thurstan and the baronage of Yorkshire had been partners in a common enterprise, their security in this world and their salvation in the next, and to all aspects of his role he had shown a complete commitment." His death occurred during The Anarchy of the civil war between Stephen and Matilda and led to a breakdown in order. [32]

Thurstan's nephew was Osbert de Bayeux, who became an archdeacon at York, and in 1154 was accused of the murder of William of York, one of Thurstan's successors at York. [33]


  1. This name was basically the old Norse name Thorsteinn, meaning 'Thor's stone'; there are different spellings of it : Toustain, Tostain, Toutain, still existing today as Norman surnames. Thurstan is its anglicised version.
  2. Anger or Auger former Norman first name, today surname Anger (without -s, Angers with -s means a native of Angers), some Auger, all from Ásgeir, Norse name, the same as Oscar or Ōs-gār.


  1. Greenway Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066-1300: Volume 1: St. Paul's, London: Prebendaries: Cantlers
  2. 1 2 Hollister Henry I p. 242–244
  3. Spear "Norman Empire and the Secular Clergy" Journal of British Studies p. 5
  4. 1 2 Keats-Rohan Domesday Descendants p. 151
  5. Nicholl Thurstan p. iv
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Burton "Thurstan" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  7. Greenway "Prebendaries: Consumpta-per-Mare" Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066-1300: Volume 1: St. Paul's, London
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 Greenway "Archbishops" British History Online Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066-1300: Volume 6: York
  9. Barlow English Church p. 83
  10. 1 2 Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 281
  11. Mason "Flambard, Ranulf" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  12. 1 2 3 Bartlett England Under the Norman and Angevin Kings p. 394
  13. Barlow English Church pp. 39–44
  14. 1 2 3 Cantor Church, Kingship, and Lay Investiture pp. 305–309
  15. 1 2 3 Hollister Henry I pp. 269–273
  16. LoPrete "Anglo-Norman Card" Albion p. 588
  17. 1 2 Rose "Cumbrian Society" Studies in Church History p. 124
  18. Barlow English Church pp. 40–41
  19. Duggan "From the Conquest to the Death of John" English Church and the Papacy p. 98
  20. Poole Domesday to Magna Carta p. 184
  21. Powell and Wallis House of Lords p. 64
  22. Barlow Feudal Kingdom p. 211
  23. Huscroft Ruling England p. 73
  24. Davis King Stephen pp. 36–37
  25. Tapper "'Unambiguous proof'" The Guardian
  26. Bartlett England Under the Norman and Angevin Kings p. 438
  27. Dawtry "Benedictine Revival" Studies in Church History 18 p. 91
  28. Burton Monastic and Religious Orders p. 70
  29. Barlow English Church p. 203
  30. Burton Monastic and Religious Orders p. 48
  31. 1 2 Appleby Troubled Reign pp. 106–107
  32. King, King Stephen, p. 126
  33. Greenway "Archdeacons: Richmond" Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066–1300: Volume 6: York

Related Research Articles

William de Corbeil or William of Corbeil was a medieval Archbishop of Canterbury. Very little is known of William's early life or his family, except that he was born at Corbeil, south of Paris, and that he had two brothers. Educated as a theologian, he taught briefly before serving the bishops of Durham and London as a clerk and subsequently becoming an Augustinian canon. William was elected to the See of Canterbury as a compromise candidate in 1123, the first canon to become an English archbishop. He succeeded Ralph d'Escures who had employed him as a chaplain.

Ralph d'Escures was a medieval abbot of Séez, bishop of Rochester, and then archbishop of Canterbury. He studied at the school at the Abbey of Bec. In 1079 he entered the abbey of St Martin at Séez and became abbot there in 1091. He was a friend of both Archbishop Anselm of Canterbury and Bishop Gundulf of Rochester, whose see, or bishopric, he took over on Gundulf's death.

Gerard was Archbishop of York between 1100 and 1108 and Lord Chancellor of England from 1085 until 1092. A Norman, he was a member of the cathedral clergy at Rouen before becoming a royal clerk under King William I of England and subsequently his son King William II Rufus. Gerard was appointed Lord Chancellor by William I, and he continued in that office under Rufus, who rewarded him with the Bishopric of Hereford in 1096. Gerard may have been with the king's hunting party when William II was killed, as he is known to have witnessed the first charter issued by the new king, Henry I of England, within days of William's death.

Geoffrey Ridel was the nineteenth Lord Chancellor of England, from 1162 to 1173.

Philip of Poitou was Bishop of Durham from 1197 to 1208, and prior to this Archdeacon of Canterbury.

Thomas II was a medieval archbishop of York.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gisa (bishop of Wells)</span> 11th-century Bishop of Wells

Gisa was Bishop of Wells from 1060 to 1088. A native of Lorraine, Gisa came to England as a chaplain to King Edward the Confessor. After his appointment to Wells, he travelled to Rome rather than be consecrated by Stigand, the Archbishop of Canterbury. As bishop, Gisa added buildings to his cathedral, introduced new saints to his diocese, and instituted the office of archdeacon in his diocese. After the Norman Conquest, Gisa took part in the consecration of Lanfranc, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, and attended Lanfranc's church councils. His tomb in Wells Cathedral was opened in the 20th century and a cross was discovered in his tomb.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Roger de Pont L'Évêque</span> 12th-century Norman Archbishop of York

Roger de Pont L'Évêque was Archbishop of York from 1154 to 1181. Born in Normandy, he preceded Thomas Becket as Archdeacon of Canterbury, and together with Becket served Theobald of Bec while Theobald was Archbishop of Canterbury. While in Theobald's service, Roger was alleged to have committed a crime which Becket helped to cover up. Roger succeeded William FitzHerbert as archbishop in 1154, and while at York rebuilt York Minster, which had been damaged by fire.

Henry Murdac was abbot of Fountains Abbey and Archbishop of York in medieval England.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Reginald Fitz Jocelin</span> 12th-century Bishop of Bath

Reginald Fitz Jocelin was a medieval Bishop of Bath and an Archbishop of Canterbury-elect in England. A member of an Anglo-Norman noble family, he was the son of a bishop, and was educated in Italy. He was a household clerk for Thomas Becket, but by 1167 he was serving King Henry II of England. He was also a favourite of King Louis VII of France, who had him appointed abbot of the Abbey of Corbeil. After Reginald angered Becket while attempting to help negotiate a settlement between Becket and the king, Becket called him "that offspring of fornication, that enemy to the peace of the Church, that traitor." When he was elected as a bishop, the election was challenged by King Henry's eldest son, Henry the Young King, and Reginald was forced to go to Rome to be confirmed by Pope Alexander III. He attended the Third Lateran Council in 1179, and spent much of his time administering his diocese. He was elected Archbishop of Canterbury in 1191, but died before he could be installed.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hervey le Breton</span> 12th-century Bishop of Ely and Bangor

Hervey le Breton was a Breton cleric who became Bishop of Bangor in Wales and later Bishop of Ely in England. Appointed to Bangor by King William II of England, when the Normans were advancing into Wales, Hervey was unable to remain in his diocese when the Welsh began to drive the Normans back from their recent conquests. Hervey's behaviour towards the Welsh seems to have contributed to his expulsion from his see. Although the new king, Henry I wished to translate Hervey to the see of Lisieux in Normandy, it was unsuccessful.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Simon of Apulia</span> Italian-born prelate of the Catholic Church in England (died 1223)

Simon of Apulia was an Italian-born canon lawyer who served as Bishop of Exeter in Devon, England, from 1214 until his death in 1223.

Simon Langton was an English medieval clergyman who served as Archdeacon of Canterbury from 1227 until his death in 1248. He had previously been Archbishop-elect of York, but the election was quashed by Pope Innocent III.

Godfrey was a medieval Bishop of Bath.

Æthelwold was the first Bishop of Carlisle in medieval England.

Reynelm was a medieval Bishop of Hereford.

Geoffrey de Clive was a medieval Bishop of Hereford.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Robert Foliot</span> 12th-century Bishop of Hereford

Robert Foliot was a medieval Bishop of Hereford in England. He was a relative of a number of English ecclesiastics, including Gilbert Foliot, one of his predecessors at Hereford. After serving Alexander, Bishop of Lincoln as a clerk, he became a clerk of Henry of Blois, the Bishop of Winchester and brother of King Stephen of England. He attended the Council of Reims in 1148, where another relative, Robert de Chesney, was elected as Bishop of Hereford. Chesney then secured the office of Archdeacon of Oxford for Foliot.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Henry of Sully (died 1189)</span> Abbot of Fécamp

Henry de Sully was Abbot of Fécamp and Bishop-designate of Salisbury and Archbishop-elect of York.

William Cumin was a bishop of Durham, and Justiciar of Scotland.


Further reading

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Archbishop of York
Succeeded by