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The Church

The ChurchFor much of his reign, King John was in dispute with Pope Innocent III over the struggle to elect a new archbishop of Canterbury. When King John refused to recognise the papal nominee, Stephen Langton, the dispute intensified. In 1208 the pope placed an interdict on England prohibiting priests from celebrating mass, conducting marriages in church and burying the dead in consecrated ground. John retaliated by seizing the lands and income of the church, but in 1209 the pope excommunicated him, turning him into a spiritual outcast overnight.

By 1212, facing the threat of a French invasion, John was forced to make peace with the church. He accepted Langton as archbishop in 1213, compensated the church for the revenues he had plundered and made the pope feudal overlord of England. This capitulation after years of bitter struggle proved to be a shrewd political act that paid off for King John after he was coerced into granting Magna Carta.

Within weeks, John sent envoys to Innocent III and, before most of the charter's terms could be properly implemented, the pope declared Magna Carta null and void on 24 August 1215.


Archbishop in vestments
Archbishop in vestments