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Gregory the Great as ‘Apostle of the English’ in Post-Conquest Canterbury


Offering a new interpretation of the sermon ‘De ordinatione beati Gregorii anglorum apostoli’, a text preserved in Eadmer's ‘personal manuscript’ (Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, MS 371), this article argues that the cult of St Gregory the Great was promoted by Archbishop Lanfranc (1070–89) and Archbishop Anselm (1093–1109) in order to undermine the pretensions to apostolic rank of St Augustine's Abbey, Canterbury. It draws attention to the existence of a hitherto unrecognised but major conflict over apostolic authority that took place in England after the Norman Conquest; a conflict that involved the king as well as Canterbury's most important churchmen. In so doing, this essay contributes, more generally, to our understanding of the roles that the cult of saints and its rhetorical structures played in battles over status and rank order.

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AASS=Acta sanctorum, ed. J. Bolland and others, Antwerp 1643– ; Bodl. Lib.=Bodleian Library, Oxford; BHL=Bibliotheca hagiographica latina, antiquae et mediae aetatis, ed. Socii Bollandiani (Subsidia Hagiographica vi, 1898–9) with Novum supplementum, ed. H. Fros (Subsidia Hagiographica lxx, 1986); BN=Bibliothèque nationale, Paris; HBS=Henry Bradshaw Society; CCCC=Corpus Christi College, Cambridge; MGH=Monumenta germaniae historiae; OMT=Oxford Medieval Texts; RRAN=Regesta regum anglo-normannorum, 1066–1154, ed. H. W. C. Davis and others, Oxford 1913–69; RS=Rolls Series
The author wishes to thank Christopher Brooke for reading and commenting on the present paper.
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The Journal of Ecclesiastical History
  • ISSN: 0022-0469
  • EISSN: 1469-7637
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-ecclesiastical-history
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