§ 22. The Conflict of the Hierarchy in England. William the Conqueror and Lanfranc.
The Domesday or Doomesday Book (Liber judicii; Book of judgment; Liber de Wintonia, because deposited in the cathedral at Winchester, now in the Charter House at Westminster, published in facsimile, 1783 and 1861).
It was prepared between 1080 and 1086 by the "justiciaries" of William the Conqueror for the purpose of ascertaining the taxable wealth and military strength of the conquered country and securing a full and fair assessment. It contains, among other things, a list of the bishops, churches, religious houses, great men, etc. See Freeman’s Norman Conquest, V. 1–52 and 733–740. He says (Preface, viii.): "The stores of knowledge in Domesday are boundless" (for secular history, rather than church history).—The Gesta Wilhelmi by William of Poitiers, a chaplain and violent partisan of the Conqueror. Also the chronicles of William of Jumièges, Ordericus Vitalis, in Migne, 188, Eng. Trans. 4 vols. Bohn’s Libr.
The conflict between the pope and the emperor for supremacy was repeated, on a smaller scale, in England, between the archbishop of Canterbury and the king, and was settled for a season in favor of the hierarchy, several years before the Concordat of Worms. The struggle for the freedom of the Church was indirectly also a struggle for the freedom of the State and the people from the tyranny of the crown. Priestcraft prevailed over kingcraft, then aristocracy over absolute monarchy in the Magna Charta, and at last the people over both.
The Anglo-Saxon kings and nobles enriched the Church of England, their alma mater, by liberal grants of real estate amounting to about one-third of the land, and thus conferred upon it great political influence. The bishops ranked with the nobles, and the archbishops with princes, next to the king. The archbishop of Canterbury was usually intrusted with the regency during the absence of the sovereign on the Continent.
But for this very reason the British sovereigns of the different dynasties tried to keep the Church in a state of dependence and subserviency, by the election of bishops and the exercise of the right of investiture. They filled the vacant bishoprics with their chaplains, so that the court became a nursery of prelates, and they occasionally arrogated to themselves such titles as "Shepherd of Shepherds," and even "Vicar of Christ." In one word, they aspired to be popes of England long before Henry VIII. blasphemously called himself, "Supreme Head of the Church of England."
Under the later kings of the Saxon line the Church had degenerated, and was as much in need of reform as the churches on the Continent. The ascetic reforms of Dunstan took no deep root and soon passed away. Edward the Confessor (1042–1066) was a monastic saint, but a stranger and shadow in England, with his heart in Normandy, the home of his youth. The old Saxon literature was forgotten, and the clergy was sunk in ignorance.96 No ecclesiastical synod broke the slumber. The priests were married or lived in concubinage. Simony was freely exercised.
The Norman Conquest aroused England to new life and activity. It marks the greatest change in English history since the Anglo-Saxon conquest. It left its impress upon the language, literature, architecture, laws and institutions of the country, without, however, breaking the continuity. The Normans, though a foreign, were yet a kindred race, of Teutonic stock, Romanized and Gallicanized in France. From savage pirates they had been changed into semi-civillized Christians, without losing their bravery and love of adventure, which they showed in the crusades and the conquest of England. They engrafted the French language and manners upon the Anglo-Saxon trunk, and superinduced an aristocratic element on the democratic base. It took a long time for the two nationalities and languages to melt into one.
The amalgamation was an enrichment. The happy combination of Saxon strength and endurance with Norman enterprise and vivacity, in connection with the insular position and the capacity for self-government fostered thereby, prepared the English race for the dominion of the seas and the founding of successful colonies in all continents.97
The Norman kings were as jealous of their rights and as much opposed to papal superiority as the German emperors. Their instincts and interests were caesaropapistic or Erastian. But the Church kept them in check. The Hildebrandian ideas of reform were advocated and carried out in part by two of the most eminent scholars and monks of the age, Lanfranc (1005–1089) and Anselm (1033–1109), who followed each other in the see of Canterbury. They were both of Italian birth,—one from the Lombard city of Pavia, the other from Aosta,—and successively abbots and teachers of the famous convent of Bee in the diocese of Rouen.
William I. of Normandy, surnamed "the Conqueror," the natural son of, "Robert the Devil" and the daughter of a tanner, and the first king of the Norman dynasty (1066–1087), enforced his pretension to the English throne under the consecrated banner of Pope Alexander II. by the defeat of Harold in the battle on the hill of Senlac, near Hastings, Oct. 14, 1066. Five years afterwards he made Lanfranc archbishop of Canterbury. He had formerly banished him from Normandy for opposing his marriage with Matilda of Flanders, as being within the forbidden degrees. He overtook the abbot as he was leaving the convent on a lame horse, and hurried him on. The abbot said, "Give me a better horse, and I shall go faster." This cool request turned the duke’s wrath into laughter and good-will. He was reconciled, and employed him to obtain the pope’s sanction of the marriage, and the removal of the interdict from his territories.
Lanfranc was a moderate Hildebrandian. He had been the chief promoter of the doctrine of transubstantiation in the Berengarian controversy; while Hildebrand protected Berengar as long as he could.98 He was zealous for clerical celibacy, substituted monks for secular canons in cathedrals, and prohibited, through the Council of Winchester in 1076, the ordination of married priests, but allowed the rural clergy to retain their wives. He did not fully sustain the pope’s claim to temporal authority, and disobeyed the frequent summons to appear at Rome. He lived, upon the whole, on good terms with the king, although he could not effect anything against his will. He aided him in his attempt to Normanize the English Church. He was intrusted with the regency when the duke was absent on the Continent. He favored the cause of learning, and rebuilt the cathedral of Canterbury, which had burnt down.
William was a despot in Church and State, and rather grew harder and more reckless of human suffering in his later years. His will was the law of the land. Freeman places him both "among the greatest of men" and "among the worst of men."99 His military genius and statesmanship are undoubted; but he was utterly unscrupulous in the choice of means. He had a strong sense of religion and reverence for the Church, and was liberal to her ministers; he did not, like his son, keep the benefices vacant and rob her revenues; he did not practise simony, and, so far, he fell in with the Hildebrandian reform.100 But he firmly insisted on the right of investiture. He declared that he would not allow a single bishop’s staff to pass out of his hands. He held his own even against Hildebrand. He felt that he owed his crown only to God and to his own sword. He was willing to pay Peter’s pence to the pope as alms, but not as tribute, and refused to swear allegiance to Gregory VII.
He made full use of the right of a victor. He subjected the estates of the Church to the same feudal obligations as other lands. He plundered religious houses. He deposed Archbishop Stigand and other Saxon bishops to make room for Norman favorites, who did not even understand the language of the people. These changes were not begun till 1070, when Stigand was tried before the papal legates who had placed the crown on William’s head. The main charges were simony and that he had received the pall from the usurping pope, Benedict X. William left only one Englishman, the simple-minded Wulfstan of Worcester, in possession of his see. He gradually extended the same system to abbacies and lower dignities. He allowed no synod to convene and legislate without his previous permission and subsequent confirmation of its decrees, no pope to be acknowledged in England without his will, no papal letters to be received and published without his consent. No ecclesiastic was to leave the kingdom without his permission, and bishops were forbidden to excommunicate a noble for adultery or any capital crime without the previous assent of the king. In these ways the power of the clergy was limited, and a check put upon the supremacy of Rome over the English Church. Lanfranc seems to have fully sympathized with these measures. For after the death of Alexander II., who had been his pupil at Bec, he seems to have treated the popes, especially Gregory VII., coolly. Gregory wrote him several letters threatening him with suspension and for his absence from the synods which were convening in Rome.101
On the other hand, the law was passed in William’s reign remanding ecclesiastical suits to separate tribunals,102 a law which afterwards gave occasion for much contention. The bishops’ court henceforth used the canon law instead of the common English law used in the shire courts. Another important movement in William’s reign, sanctioned by synodal authority,103 was the removal of episcopal seats to larger towns, the Church conforming itself to the changes of geography. Chichester took the place of Selsey, Salisbury of Sherborne, Chester of Lichfield, Lincoln of Dorchester, 1085, Bath of Wells, 1088, and Norwich of Thetford, 1094, which had taken the place of Elmham, 1078. Osmund, bishop of Salisbury, nephew of the Conqueror, prepared the liturgical service called the Sarum use, which was adopted in other dioceses than his own, and later became one of the chief sources of the Book of Common Prayer.