Ralph d’Escures was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1114 to 1122. Unlike previous appointments he was elected by a meeting of both churchmen, the King and the barons. He had, like Lanfranc and Anselm, studied at the Abbey at Bec. From here he moved to England and was appointed Bishop of Rochester in 1108. d’Escures time as Archbishop saw Canterbury assert itself as the primary bishopric of the British Isles. He was forceful in his defence of the English Church but clashed with Pope on occasions.
Ralph d’Escures is not as well known as his Norman predecessors as Archbishop of Canterbury. His primacy was relatively short and for the latter part he was infirm following a stroke. Under his leadership the church continued to refuse to pay homage to the laity. He had in fact moved to England partly due to problems caused by his refusal to pay homage to nobles in Normandy.
He had influence over the senior bishoprics of Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The Canterbury-York issues continued though. He refused to consecrate Thurstan as Archbishop of York unless Canterbury’s supremacy was recognised: something that was not forthcoming. He also refused to enforce taxation, in the form of St Peter’s Pence, demanded by Rome.
The primacy of Ralph d’Escures sees the relationship between the English Church, the Monarchy and the Papacy begin to take shape. It marks the beginning of a period in which the balance of power between the three becomes, for a time, clearer. It is a compromise position.
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The Norman Church
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