Lyfing (Archbishop of Canterbury)

Archbishop of Canterbury
Appointed 1013
Term ended 12 June 1020
Predecessor Ælfheah
Successor Æthelnoth
Other posts Abbot of Chertsey Abbey
Bishop of Wells
Consecration 1013
Personal details
Birth name Ælfstan
Died 12 June 1020
Buried Canterbury Cathedral

Lyfing (died 12 June 1020) was an Anglo-Saxon Bishop of Wells and Archbishop of Canterbury.


Lyfing was born "Ælfstan" and took his ecclesiastical name from leof-carus (= "darling").

Lyfing was abbot of Chertsey Abbey from about 989.[1][2] He became Bishop of Wells in 998 or 999,[3] and in 1013 King Æthelred the Unready appointed him to the see of Canterbury.[4] Lyfing was taken captive by Vikings and held prisoner for a time, but he was released in time to attend the Witenagemot in 1014, and he started repairs of the damage the Vikings had done to Canterbury Cathedral.

Lyfing was unable to go to Rome for his pallium during King Æthelred's reign, for every bishop that was consecrated during the remainder of the king's reign was consecrated by Archbishop Wulfstan of York.[5] By 1018, however, he was named as archbishop, having returned to England from Rome with letters from Pope Benedict VIII.[6] As Archbishop of Canterbury, Lyfing crowned two English kings: Ethelred's son Edmund Ironside in 1016 and Cnut the Great in 1017.[1] He seems to have gone to Rome on behalf of Cnut at least once.[7]

Lyfing died on 12 June 1020.[4] He was buried in Canterbury Cathedral, near the altar of St. Martin.[1] The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle called him "a sagacious man, both before God and before the world".[8]


  1. 1 2 3 Mason "Lyfing" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  2. Knowles, et al. Heads of Religious Houses pp. 38, 244
  3. Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 222
  4. 1 2 Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 214
  5. Williams Æthelred the Unready p. 111
  6. Brooks Early History of the Church of Canterbury pp. 287–290
  7. O'Brien Queen Emma and the Vikings p. 122
  8. Quoted in Barlow English Church 1000–1066 p. 66


  • Barlow, Frank (1979). The English Church 1000–1066: A History of the Later Anglo-Saxon Church (Second ed.). New York: Longman. ISBN 978-0-582-49049-9. 
  • Brooks, Nicolas (1984). The Early History of the Church of Canterbury: Christ Church from 597 to 1066. London: Leicester University Press. ISBN 978-0-7185-0041-2. 
  • Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I. (1996). Handbook of British Chronology (Third revised ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-56350-5. 
  • Knowles, David; London, Vera C. M.; Brooke, Christopher (2001). The Heads of Religious Houses, England and Wales, 940–1216 (Second ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-80452-3. 
  • Mason, Emma (2004). "Lyfing (d. 1020)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/16798. 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 978-1-58234-596-3. 
  • Williams, Ann (2003). Aethelred the Unready: The Ill-Counselled King. London: Hambledon & London. ISBN 978-1-85285-382-2. 
Christian titles
Preceded by
Bishop of Wells
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Archbishop of Canterbury
Succeeded by
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