Wulfstan (died 1095)

For other uses, see Wulfstan (disambiguation).
Bishop of Worcester
Appointed 1062
Term ended January 1095
Predecessor Ealdred
Successor Samson
Other posts Prior of Worcester
Consecration 8 September 1062
by Ealdred
Personal details
Born 1008
Long Itchington, Warwickshire
Died January 1095
Denomination Catholic
Feast day 19 January
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church; Anglican Communion
Canonized 14 May 1203
by Pope Innocent IIII
Attributes Bishop
Patronage vegetarians and dieters

Wulfstan (c. 1008 – 20 January 1095) (sometimes Wulfstan II, also known as Wolstan, Wulstan and Ulfstan), Bishop of Worcester, was the last surviving pre-Conquest bishop and the only English-born bishop after 1075. Wulfstan is a Christian saint.


His denomination as Wulfstan II is to indicate that he is the second Bishop Wulfstan of Worcester. This, however, does not prevent confusion, since the first Bishop Wulfstan is also called Wulfstan II to denote that he was the second Archbishop of York called Wulfstan. To make matters worse, Wulfstan II, Archbishop of York, was the maternal uncle of Wulfstan II, Bishop of Worcester.


Wulfstan was born about 1008 at Long Itchington in the English county of Warwickshire.[1] His family lost their lands around the time King Cnut of England came to the throne.[2] He was probably named after his uncle, Wulfstan II, Archbishop of York. Through his uncle's influence, he studied at monasteries in Evesham and Peterborough, before becoming a clerk at Worcester. During this time, his superiors, noting his reputation for dedication and chastity, urged him to join the priesthood. Wulfstan was ordained shortly thereafter, in 1038, and soon joined a monastery of Benedictines at Worcester.

Wulfstan served as treasurer and prior of Worcester.[3] When Ealdred, the bishop of Worcester as well as the Archbishop of York, was required to relinquish Worcester by Pope Nicholas, Ealdred decided to have Wulfstan appointed to Worcester. In addition, Ealdred continued to hold a number of the manors of the diocese.[4] Wulfstan was consecrated Bishop of Worcester on 8 September 1062,[5] by Ealdred. It would have been more proper for him to have been consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, whose province Worcester was in.[4] Wulfstan had deliberately avoided consecration by the current archbishop of Canterbury, Stigand, since Stigand's own consecration had been uncanonical. Wulfstan still acknowledged that the see of Worcester was a suffragan of Canterbury. He made no profession of obedience to Ealdred, instead offering a profession of obedience to Stigand's successor Lanfranc.[6]

Wulfstan was a confidant of Harold Godwinson, who helped secure the bishopric for him.[7]

A social reformer, Wulfstan struggled to bridge the gap between the old and new regimes, and to alleviate the suffering of the poor. He was a strong opponent of the slave trade, and together with Lanfranc, was mainly responsible for ending the trade from Bristol.[8]

After the Norman conquest of England, Wulfstan was the only English-born bishop to retain his diocese for any significant time after the Conquest (all others had been replaced or succeeded by Normans by 1075). William noted that pastoral care of his diocese was Wulfstan's principal interest.

In 1072 Wulfstan signed the Accord of Winchester. In 1075, Wulfstan and the Worcestershire levy put down the rebellion known as 'The Bridal of Norwich' of Ralph de Guader, Earl of Norfolk, Roger de Breteuil, 2nd Earl of Hereford and the Saxon Waltheof, Earl of Northumbria, against William the Conqueror.

Wulfstan founded the Great Malvern Priory, and undertook much large-scale rebuilding work, including Worcester Cathedral, Hereford Cathedral, Tewkesbury Abbey, and many other churches in the Worcester, Hereford and Gloucester areas. After the Norman Conquest, he claimed that the Oswaldslow, a "triple hundred" administered by the bishops of Worcester, was free of interference by the local sheriff. This right to exclude the sheriff was recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086. Wulfstan also administered the diocese of Lichfield when it was vacant between 1071 and 1072.[9]

As bishop, he often assisted the archbishops of York with consecrations, as they had few suffragan bishops. In 1073 Wulfstan helped Thomas of Bayeux consecrate Radulf as Bishop of Orkney, and in 1081 helped consecrate William de St-Calais as Bishop of Durham.[4]

Wulfstan was responsible for the compilation by Hemming of the second cartulary of Worcester.[10] He was close friends with Robert Losinga, the Bishop of Hereford, who was well known as a mathematician and astronomer.[9]

Wulfstan died 20 January 1095 after a protracted illness, the last surviving pre-Conquest bishop.[11] After his death, an altar was dedicated to him in Great Malvern Priory, next to Cantilupe of Hereford and King Edward the Confessor.

At Easter of 1158, Henry II and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine visited Worcester Cathedral and placed their crowns on the shrine of Wulfstan, vowing not to wear them again.

Soon after Wulfstan's death, a hagiography, or saint's life, was written about him in English by his former chancellor Colman. It was translated into Latin by the medieval chronicler and historian William of Malmesbury.[12] Wulfstan was canonized on 14 May 1203 by Pope Innocent III.[3] One of the miracles attributed to Wulfstan was the curing of King Harold's daughter.


  1. Walsh A New Dictionary of Saints p. 631
  2. Fleming Kings & Lords p. 41
  3. 1 2 British History Online Bishops of Worcester accessed on 3 November 2007
  4. 1 2 3 Williams English and the Norman Conquest p. 150
  5. Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 224
  6. Flanagan "High-kings" p. 904
  7. Fleming Kings & Lords p. 79
  8. Mason "Wulfstan"
  9. 1 2 Williams English and the Norman Conquest p. 149
  10. Williams English and the Norman Conquest p. 145
  11. William of Malmesbury, Saints' lives: Lives of SS. Wulfstan, Dunstan, Patrick, Benignus and Indract pp 141–143
  12. Williams English and the Norman Conquest p. 170


Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Bishop of Worcester
Succeeded by
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