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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.)
PredecessorThomas II
SuccessorWaltheof of Melrose
Ordination6 June 1115
by Ranulf Flambard
Consecration19 October 1119
by Pope Callixtus II
Personal details
Bornc. 1070
Died6 February 1140 (aged c. 69)
Pontefract, Yorkshire, England
ParentsAnger and Popelina

Thurstan[a] 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,[b] 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.

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. ^ a b Hollister Henry I p. 242–244
  3. ^ Spear "Norman Empire and the Secular Clergy" Journal of British Studies p. 5
  4. ^ a b Keats-Rohan Domesday Descendants p. 151
  5. ^ Nicholl Thurstan p. iv
  6. ^ a b c d e f 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. ^ a b c d e Greenway "Archbishops" British History Online Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066-1300: Volume 6: York
  9. ^ Barlow English Church p. 83
  10. ^ a b Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 281
  11. ^ Mason "Flambard, Ranulf" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  12. ^ a b c Bartlett England Under the Norman and Angevin Kings p. 394
  13. ^ Barlow English Church pp. 39–44
  14. ^ a b c Cantor Church, Kingship, and Lay Investiture pp. 305–309
  15. ^ a b c Hollister Henry I pp. 269–273
  16. ^ LoPrete "Anglo-Norman Card" Albion p. 588
  17. ^ a b 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. ^ a b Appleby Troubled Reign pp. 106–107
  32. ^ King, King Stephen, p. 126
  33. ^ Greenway "Archdeacons: Richmond" Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066–1300: Volume 6: York


  • Appleby, John T. (1995). The Troubled Reign of King Stephen 1135–1154. New York: Barnes & Noble. ISBN 1-56619-848-8.
  • Barlow, Frank (1979). The English Church 1066–1154: A History of the Anglo-Norman Church. New York: Longman. ISBN 0-582-50236-5.
  • Barlow, Frank (1988). The Feudal Kingdom of England 1042–1216 (Fourth ed.). New York: Longman. ISBN 0-582-49504-0.
  • Bartlett, Robert C. (2000). England Under the Norman and Angevin Kings: 1075–1225. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-822741-8.
  • Burton, Janet (1994). Monastic and Religious Orders in Britain: 1000–1300. Cambridge Medieval Textbooks. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-37797-8.
  • Burton, Janet (2004). "Thurstan (c.1070–1140)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/27411. Retrieved 11 November 2007. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  • Cantor, Norman F. (1958). Church, Kingship, and Lay Investiture in England 1089–1135. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. OCLC 186158828.
  • Davis, R. H. C. (1990). King Stephen 1135–1154 (Third ed.). New York: Longman. ISBN 0-582-04000-0.
  • Dawtry, Anne (1982). "The Benedictine Revival in the North: The Last Bulwark of Anglo-Saxon Monasticism". In Mews, Stuart (ed.). Studies in Church History 18: Religion and National Identity. Oxford, UK: Basil Blackwell. pp. 87–98.
  • Duggan, Charles (1965). "From the Conquest to the Death of John". In Lawrence, C. H. (ed.). The English Church and the Papacy in the Middle Ages (1999 Reprint ed.). Stroud, UK: Sutton Publishing. pp. 63–116. ISBN 0-7509-1947-7.
  • Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I. (1996). Handbook of British Chronology (Third revised ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-56350-X.
  • Greenway, Diana E. (1968). "Prebendaries: Cantlers". Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066-1300. Vol. 1: St. Paul's, London. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 14 September 2007.
  • Greenway, Diana E. (1968). "Prebendaries: Consumpta-per-Mare". Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066-1300. Vol. 1: St. Paul's, London. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 14 September 2007.
  • Greenway, Diana E. (1999). "Archbishops". Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066–1300. Vol. 6: York. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 14 September 2007.
  • Greenway, Diana E. (1999). "Archdeacons: Richmond". Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066–1300. Vol. 6: York. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
  • Hollister, C. Warren (2001). Frost, Amanda Clark (ed.). Henry I. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-08858-2.
  • Huscroft, Richard (2005). Ruling England 1042–1217. London: Pearson/Longman. ISBN 0-582-84882-2.
  • Keats-Rohan, K. S. B. (1999). Domesday Descendants: A Prosopography of Persons Occurring in English Documents, 1066–1166: Pipe Rolls to Cartae Baronum. Ipswich, UK: Boydell Press. ISBN 0-85115-863-3.
  • King, Edmund (2010). King Stephen. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-11223-8.
  • Lawrence, C. H. (1965). "The Thirteenth Century". In Lawrence, C. H. (ed.). The English Church and the Papacy in the Middle Ages (1999 reprint ed.). Stroud: Sutton Publishing. pp. 117–156. ISBN 0-7509-1947-7.
  • LoPrete, Kimberly A. (Winter 1990). "The Anglo-Norman Card of Adela of Blois". Albion. 22 (4): 569–589. doi:10.2307/4051390. JSTOR 4051390.
  • Mason, J. F. A. (2004). "Flambard, Ranulf (c.1060–1128)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/9667. Retrieved 21 January 2008. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  • Nicholl, Donald (1964). Thurstan: Archbishop of York (1114 - 1140). York: Stonegate Press. OCLC 871673.
  • Poole, Austin Lane (1955). From Domesday Book to Magna Carta, 1087–1216 (Second ed.). Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-821707-2.
  • Powell, J. Enoch; Wallis, Keith (1968). The House of Lords in the Middle Ages: A History of the English House of Lords to 1540. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
  • Rose, R. K. (1982). "Cumbrian Society and the Anglo-Norman Church". Studies in Church History. 18: 119–135. doi:10.1017/S0424208400016089. S2CID 183905987.
  • Richardson, H. G.; Sayles, G. O. (1963). The Governance of Mediaeval England. Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Spear, David S. (Spring 1982). "The Norman Empire and the Secular Clergy, 1066-1204". Journal of British Studies. XXI (2): 1–10. doi:10.1086/385787. JSTOR 175531. S2CID 153511298.
  • Tapper, James (3 February 2024). "'Unambiguous Proof': Medieval Archbishop Revealed as Lost English Saint". The Guardian.

Further reading

  • Baker, L. G. D. (1969). "The Genesis of English Cistercian Chronicles: The Foundation-history of Fountains Abbey I". Analecta Cisterciensia. 25: 14–41.
  • Baker, L. G. D. (1975). "The Genesis of English Cistercian Chronicles: The Foundation-history of Fountains Abbey II". Analecta Cisterciensia. 31: 179–212.

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