Archbishop Lanfranc

Lanfranc was an Italian Scholar. He moved to France at an early age and then to Normandy, where he established a school at Bec Abbey. Lanfranc held strict views on the way the church was organised and the manner in which it’s sacraments were delivered. He initially disapproved of the marriage of William of Normandy due to the nature of the match and very nearly was exiled for it. In 1070, after already turning down the position at Rouen, Lanfranc was appointed as Archbishop of Canterbury. He set about a reform programme for the see and the Christian church in Norman England.


Lanfranc was highly influential. When Edward the Confessor passed away, it was Lanfranc who obtained the Papal seal of approval for the invasion of England. It is though by some historians that the Pope had been one of Lanfranc’s pupils.

As Archbishop of Canterbury Lanfranc set about reforming the English church. He met with the Pope and received the authority to instigate changes. In 1075 and 1076 the church council met. Here the supremacy of Canterbury over York was established, though not realised in practise at the time. Reforms were based around the ascetic code of conduct that Pope Gregory VII preferred.

The reforms included:

  • Only unmarried men could be ordained as priests.
  • A vow of celibacy would be taken, though priests who were already married were exempt from this.
  • Simony, the act of roles being bought, was forbidden.
  • Nepotism was also forbidden, meaning that the children of wealthy benefactors could not just be granted positions.

Lanfranc also spent time looking at the material fabric of the English church. As a result, some of the largest buildings were rebuilt, redesigned or repaired. The results of this building programme can still be seen at Durham Cathedral and York Minster.

The Normanisation of the church was both a reform programme in support of the church and a means of imposing Norman rule over society.

Pope Gregory VII’s reform programme looked to keep power of appointments within the church. On this matter, Lanfranc made little attempts to force change.

The Normans

Find out about the Norman monarchs and key features of Society during the Norman era from the menu below.
Harold's death as depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry
Click on the image for Teaching Resources on the Norman Conquest
The Normans
William the ConquerorWilliam RufusKing Henry I
King Stephen
Claimants to the throneBattle of FulfordBattle of Stamford Bridge
The Battle of Hastings
The Norman Church
Robert of JumiegesStigandOdo of Bayeux
LanfrancAnselmRalph d’Escures
William de CorbeilTheobaldArticle: Anglo-Norman Church
Love Learning?

Subscribe to our Free Newsletter, Complete with Exclusive History Content