1902 Encyclopedia > Lanfranc

Italian prelate in England
(c. 1006 - 1089)

LANFRANC (c. 1005-1089), thirty-fourth archbishop of Canterbury, and first after the Conquest, one of the ablest churchmen and scholars of his time, was the son of Hambald or Hanbald, one of the principal citizens of Pa via, and was born there about the year 1005. Deprived of his father at an early age, he seems to have been educated at Pavia with a view to taking his hereditary place in the governing class, but to have developed a love of learning for its own sake, which induced him to visit other schools ; on his return, after a long absence, he became teacher of jurisprudence in his native town. About 1039, drivenfrom home by the disturbances then prevalent in Italy, and attracted by what he had heard of the need and demand for a supply of competent scholars in Normandy, he with some learned companions migrated thither and set up a school at Avranches, which met with great success. Some three years afterwards (1042), having formed the resolution to become a monk, he suddenly withdrew from his promis-ing career as a secular teacher. The causes which led to this change in the plan of his life are not known. Hook thinks it was suggested by the death of his wife, which there is some reason to believe happened about this time; but, however it may have been occasioned, the fact that a man of his energy and strength of will should, although somewhat late in life, have transferred himself to a career which not only was universally supposed to involve great spiritual advantages, but must also have been seen to offer a peculiarly favourable field for the exercise of his special talents and acquirements, need cause no surprise. After a lengthened novitiate of ascetic humiliation and seclusion in the Benedictine monastery of Bee, then under the presidency of abbot Herluin, Lanf ranc was at last called upon to resume the work of teaching; his fame speedily attracted numerous pupils, and it became necessary to enlarge the conventual buildings. He now became prior, with full control of the internal discipline of the establishment (1046). Among those who became his pupils about this time are mentioned Witmund (afterwards bishop of Aversa), Anselm of Aosta (afterwards of Canterbury), and Anselm of Lucca (after-wards Pope Alexander II.). It was during his priorship at Bee that Lanfranc began to figure somewhat prominently in the eucharistic controversy associated with the name of Berengarius of Tours. This able but unfortunate controversialist, while maintaining the doctrine of a real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, had denied that presence to be one of essence, or the change effected to be one of sub-stance. In doing so he had placed himself in an attitude of opposition not so much to the lately formulated theory of Paschasius Badbertus as to the entire current of ecclesiastical opinion then prevalent. The earliest extant letter of Berengarius to Lanfranc implies a previous friend-ship, but is written in a tone of remonstrance, beseeching the latter not to treat as heretics those who had Scripture on their side and could also claim the support of Ambrose, Augustine, and Jerome. It is to be regretted that we are not in possession of more of the correspondence, and especially that we are left entirely to conjecture with regard to the circumstances which occasioned it. It seems to have been somewhat compromising to Lanfranc, for at the Easter synod held at Eome in 1050, which he had been summoned to attend, the prior of Bee was, after the condemnation of the absent Berengarius, called upon to vindicate his own orthodoxy by a public confession of his faith. He had no difficulty, however, in thus purging himself of all suspicion of heretical pravity, and was after-wards present in September, by special request, at the synod of Vercelli, where Berengarius, again absent, was excommunicated. A personal controversy was renewed by Berengarius from time to time, but, so far as we know, Lanfranc's share in it came to an end with the composition (probably some time between 1063 and 1069) of his Liber de Corpore et Sanguine Domini Nostri contra Berengarium. Other events of much more exciting and absorbing personal interest to him had meanwhile intervened. In 1053 William of Normandy, in spite of the express prohibition of the council of Bheims (1049), had married his cousin Matilda, daughter of Baldwin, duke of Flanders,—a defiance of ecclesiastical authority which involved the highest ecclesiastical censures. The now powerful prior of Bee was not slow7 to express his condemnation, which he further accentuated by his contemptuous treatment of Herfast, the duke's chaplain, who had been sent on some errand of conciliation. Peremptorily ordered to leave the duchy, Lanfranc, when setting out on his journey into exile on an excessively lame horse, whether by accident or design came across the path of William; some genial touch of humanity and good humour suddenly converted them (such is the import of the Chronicles) into firm friends; the prior accompanied the duke to his castle, and shortly afterwards undertook a mission to Borne for a papal dispensation which should legalize the obnoxious marriage. This was obtained in 1059; Lanfranc's influence with William and Matilda steadily increased, and soon the abbeys of St Stephen and of the Holy Trinity at Caen— part of the price of the papal grace—began to rise. In 1062 the former building was sufficiently far advanced to be fit for use, and, at the urgent request of the founder, Lanfranc became its first abbot. In this position he was one of the most intimate advisers of William during the anxious times which immediately preceded and followed the Conquest. Already destined for the more splendid if more arduous see of Canterbury, he, doubtless with the royal approval, declined that of Boueri, which had been put within his reach in 1067. In 1070 he was, at the Whitsungemot held at Windsor, chosen to the primacy of England, vacant by the deposition of Stigand; and, at a synod in Normandy where the legates of the pope were present, he was constrained to accept, vainly pleading " his weakness and unworthiness, his ignorance of a foreign tongue, and the barbarism of the nations he was thus com-pelled to visit." His consecration took place on August 29, 1070, in a temporary structure raised on the site of the cathedral which had been destroyed by fire three years before; and in the following year he went to Borne to receive the pallium from his former pupil Alexander II. The pope received him with great cordiality, giving him a second pallium for old friendship's sake; but he did not thereby succeed in attaching the new archbishop to the ultramontane policy; during the nineteen years of the primacy of the brilliant Lombard it became ever more apparent that neither Hildebrand's, nor Lanfranc's, but William's was the master mind in England. Lanfranc ably seconded the Conqueror in the line of action which resulted in the subordination of York to Canterbury, and also in the gradual removal from power of all English prelates and abbots, and their replacement by foreigners, until at last Wolfstan of Worcester was the only Anglo-Saxon left undisturbed; but, if these measures were fitted in some ways to denationalize the English Church, and bring it into closer relation with the central authority at Eome, any such tendency was more than counterbalanced by the legislation, also supported by Lanfranc, which placed the royal supremacy on a footing which it had never before attained. Thus it was enacted that bishops, like barons, were to pay homage to the crown, and the clergy were to acknowledge no one as pope until the royal consent had first been obtained; that no letters from Borne were to be published till approved by the king ; that no council was to pass laws or canons except such as should be agreeable to the king's pleasure; that no bishop was to implead or punish any of the king's vassals without the king's pre-cept; and that no ecclesiastic was to leave the country with-out leave obtained. As regarded church discipline the Hildebrandine reforms were followed, but with wisdom and moderation; thus strict regulations against simony were enforced, but with respect to clerical celibacy a distinction was drawn between the parochial and the capitular clergy, the former being permitted to retain their wives. A striking illustration of the recognized ecclesiastical independence of England under William and his able minister is furnished in the fact that, in the very year (1076) of the synod of Winchester at which so important a modification of the decrees of a Boman council had been resolved on, Lanfranc along with Thomas of York and Bemigius of Dorchester presented themselves at the holy see in a mission from the king to seek a confirmation of certain ancient privileges, and that they were successful in their application. No less eloquent is the fact that, after William's rejection of Gregory's demand for his homage, Lanfranc had the courage to refuse the papal summons to appear at the threshold of the apostles. After his return from Rome in 1076 and the consecration of the new buildings at Bee in which he took part in 1077, he does not appear to have again left England. As regards his administration of his own diocese, Lanfranc's principal achievements were the rapid rebuilding of the metropolitan church (1072-79), the reforms he introduced among the monks of Christ Church, and his successful recovery of the estates of the see, which had been encroached on by the king's brother bishop Odo, earl of Kent. Lanfranc died at Canterbury in May 1089.

The extant works of Lanfranc are not voluminous. The Epis-tolarum Liber contains fifty-five of his own letters, many of them of considerable interest and importance, as well as some of those of his distinguished correspondents,—Berengarius, William, Popes Alexander II. and Gregory VII. The short Oratioin concilio habita represents his argument before the synod of Winchester in 1072 in support of his claims to the primacy. Statuta pro orcline Benedicti are an adaptation and expansion of the ordinary Benedictine rules, written, when he was primate, especially for his own monks ; Sermo sive Sententim also relates to the duties of monks. Libellas de celanda confessione has no special interest. Commentarius in B. Pauli epístolas seems rather to be a collection of some student's notes than to have been prepared for publication by himself. Elucidarium sire dialogus de summa totius Christians theologise, the most voluminous of all the works assigned to him, is of more than doubtful genuineness, but it certainly is an adequate sketch of the scholastic theology in its infantile stage. Most important is the Tractatus de Corpore et Sanguine Domini, a vigorous and even violent defence of the dogma of transubstantiation, for which it helped to secure currency and permanency, but it adds little to what had already been said by Paschasius Radbertus.

The Benedictine edition of the works of Lanfranc by D'Achery, in one folio volume (Paris, 1648), was reprinted at Lyons in 1677. A new edition by Giles appeared at Oxford in two octavo volumes in 1844. The authorities for the life and times of Lanfranc are the Chronicon Beccense, and Vita Abbatum Beccensium (which arc printed in both editions of the Opera), and the Historia Ecctesiastica of Ordericus Vitalis. See Hook, Lives of the Archbishops of Canterbury, vol. ii., and Freeman's Norman Conquest, vols, ii.-v. (J. S. BL.)

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