Æthelnoth (archbishop of Canterbury)

This article is about the 11th-century archbishop. For other uses, see Æthelnoth.
Archbishop of Canterbury
Appointed 1020
Term ended 1038
Predecessor Lyfing
Successor Eadsige
Other posts Dean of Canterbury
Consecration 13 November 1020
Personal details
Died 28, 29, 30 October or 1 November 1038
Buried Canterbury Cathedral
Parents Æthelmær the Stout
Feast day 30 October
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church[1] Eastern Orthodox Church
Canonized Pre-Congregation[1]

Æthelnoth (also Ethelnoth, Ednoth, or Eadnodus;[2] died 1038) was a medieval Archbishop of Canterbury. Descended from an earlier English king, Æthelnoth became a monk prior to becoming archbishop. While archbishop, he travelled to Rome and brought back saint's relics. He consecrated a number of other bishops who came from outside his archdiocese, leading to some friction with other archbishops. Although he was regarded as a saint after his death, there is little evidence of his veneration or of a cult in Canterbury or elsewhere.

Early life

Æthelnoth was a son of the Æthelmær the Stout and a grandson of Æthelweard the Historian,[3] who was a great-great-grandson of Æthelred I. In the view of the historian Frank Barlow, Æthelnoth was probably the uncle of Godwin of Wessex.[4] He was baptised by Dunstan, and a story was told at Glastonbury Abbey that as the infant was baptised, his hand made a motion much like that an archbishop makes when blessing. From this motion, Dunstan is said to have prophesied that Æthelnoth would become an archbishop.[3]

Æthelnoth became a monk at Glastonbury, then was made dean of the monastery of Christ Church Priory, at Canterbury, the cathedral chapter for the diocese of Canterbury.[5] He was also a chaplain to King Cnut of England and Denmark as well as Dean of Canterbury when on 13 November 1020 Æthelnoth was consecrated as Archbishop of Canterbury.[6] Æthelnoth's elevation probably was a gesture of appeasement, as Æthelnoth's brother Æthelweard had been executed in 1017 by Cnut, who also banished a brother-in-law named Æthelweard in 1020. A later story stated that Cnut favoured Æthelnoth because Æthelnoth had bestowed chrism on the king. This may be a garbled account of Æthelnoth's participation in Cnut's confirmation as a Christian in 1016 or his coronation in 1017.[3] There are some indications that he was a student of Ælfric of Eynsham, the homilist.[7]

Archbishop of Canterbury

In 1022 Æthelnoth went to Rome to obtain the pallium,[8] and was received by Pope Benedict VIII. On his return trip, he bought a relic of St Augustine of Hippo for 100 silver talents and one gold talent.[3] He gave the relic to Coventry Abbey.[9] He also presided over the translation of the relics of Ælfheah, his predecessor at Canterbury who was regarded as a martyr and saint.[10] In 1022 Æthelnoth consecrated Gerbrand as bishop for the Diocese of Roskilde,[11] which was in Scandinavia. The archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen was the metropolitan of Roskilde, and the fact that Gerbrand was consecrated by an English archbishop later caused friction between the bishop and his metropolitan.[10] Cnut was forced to concede that in the future he would not appoint bishops in Bremen's archdiocese without the metropolitan's advice.[12] A later tradition held that Æthelnoth consecrated two Welsh bishops, one at Llandaff and one at St. David's.[12]

The medieval chronicler William of Malmesbury praised Æthelnoth's wisdom. A story of doubtful authenticity tells how he refused to crown King Harold Harefoot,[13] as he had promised Cnut to crown none but a son of the king by his wife, Emma.[3]

Death and legacy

Æthelnoth died in 1038, on either 28 October,[3][6] 29 October,[6][1] 30 October,[2] or 1 November.[3][6] Prior to his death, some of his episcopal functions were performed by a royal priest, Eadsige. He was buried in Canterbury Cathedral.[3] He is considered a saint,[1] with a feast day of 30 October. While he is listed in Jean Mabillon's Lives of the Benedictine Saints and in the Acta Sanctorum, there is no contemporary or later evidence of a cult being paid to him at Canterbury or elsewhere.[2]


  1. 1 2 3 4 Walsh New Dictionary of Saints p. 184
  2. 1 2 3 Farmer Oxford Dictionary of Saints p. 181
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Mason "Æthelnoth" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  4. Barlow Godwins p. 21
  5. Knowles, et al. Heads of Religious Houses p. 33
  6. 1 2 3 4 Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 214
  7. Barlow English Church 1000–1066 pp. 72–73
  8. Ortenberg "Anglo-Saxon Church and the Papacy" English Church and the Papacy p. 49
  9. Smith, et al. "Court and Piety" Catholic Historical Review p. 575
  10. 1 2 Brooks Early History of the Church of Canterbury pp. 290–298
  11. Stenton Anglo-Saxon England p. 463
  12. 1 2 Barlow English Church 1000–1066 pp. 232–234
  13. O'Brien Queen Emma and the Vikings pp. 167–168


  • Barlow, Frank (1979). The English Church 1000–1066: A History of the Later Anglo-Saxon Church (Second ed.). New York: Longman. ISBN 0-582-49049-9. 
  • Barlow, Frank (2003). The Godwins: The Rise and Fall of a Noble Dynasty. London: Pearson/Longman. ISBN 0-582-78440-9. 
  • Brooks, Nicholas (1984). The Early History of the Church of Canterbury: Christ Church from 597 to 1066. London: Leicester University Press. ISBN 0-7185-0041-5. 
  • Farmer, David Hugh (2004). Oxford Dictionary of Saints (Fifth ed.). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-860949-0. 
  • Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I. (1996). Handbook of British Chronology (Third revised ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-56350-X. 
  • Knowles, David; London, Vera C. M.; Brooke, Christopher (2001). The Heads of Religious Houses, England and Wales, 940–1216 (Second ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-80452-3. 
  • Mason, Emma (2004). "Æthelnoth (d. 1038)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/8912. Retrieved 7 November 2007. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  • O'Brien, Harriet (2005). Queen Emma and the Vikings: A History of Power, Love and Greed in Eleventh-Century England. New York: Bloomsbury USA. ISBN 1-58234-596-1. 
  • Ortenberg, Veronica (1965). "The Anglo-Saxon Church and the Papacy". In Lawrence, C. H. The English Church and the Papacy in the Middle Ages (1999 reprint ed.). Stroud: Sutton Publishing. pp. 29–62. ISBN 0-7509-1947-7. 
  • Smith, Mary Frances; Fleming, Robin; Halpin, Patricia (October 2001). "Court and Piety in Late Anglo-Saxon England". The Catholic Historical Review. 87 (4): 569–602. doi:10.1353/cat.2001.0189. JSTOR 25026026. 
  • Stenton, F. M. (1971). Anglo-Saxon England (Third ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-280139-5. 
  • Walsh, Michael J. (2007). A New Dictionary of Saints: East and West. London: Burns & Oats. ISBN 0-86012-438-X. 
Christian titles
Preceded by
Archbishop of Canterbury
Succeeded by

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