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A Letter from Thomas of York to Lanfranc, in a Collection of Letters

A Letter from Thomas of York to Lanfranc, in a Collection of Letters

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1105

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Vespasian E IV

Item number: f. 205v

Length: 22

Width: 15.5

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated Manuscript

Medieval monasteries copied letters as a means of preserving records of privileges granted them or other actions which affected their status and also as records of theological discussions. This manuscript has some letters relating to churches in Worcester in the 11th and 12th centuries.

This page has parts of two letters, one (top) written by Lanfranc, archbishop of Canterbury (1070-1089) to bishops of Ireland, Worcester and Chester, and the other by Thomas, archbishop of York (1070-1101), to Lanfranc. In the letter, Thomas addresses the archbishop of Canterbury on a matter concerning his jurisdiction over clergy from the Orkneys, Dorchester and Worcester. It was written in the context of of an ongoing power struggle between York and Canterbury. At one point in 1071 it went all the way to Rome, where Pope Alexander II decided in favour of Canterbury, declaring the Humber the southern boundary of the see of York. A national council was held at Winchester the next year, with Thomas submitting to Lanfranc a few months later at Windsor. He gave up Worcester, Lindsey and Lincoln to Canterbury. Later the Northern Isles and Scotland were also removed from York. The power struggle persisted until the mid-14th century when Innocent II confirmed the primacy of the archbishop of Canterbury.

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