Doomsday (1070-1087)

Doomsday (1070-1087)


Whatever the consequence of the Battle of Hastings, writes Harriet Harvey Wood, “one fact is undisputed: it wiped out overnight a civilisation that, for its wealth, its political arrangements, its arts, its literature and its longevity, was unique in Dark Age Europe, and deserves celebration. In the general instability, lawlessness and savagery of the times, Anglo-Saxon England stood out as a beacon.” (180)


Let us now turn to the consequences of the battle for England, beginning with her Church.


The Papist Reformation of the English Church


In the week after Pascha, writes Thierry, “there arrived in England pursuant to William`s request, three legates from the apostolic see, viz. Ermenfeni, Bishop of Sienna, and the cardinals John and Peter. The Norman founded his great designs on the presence of these envoys from his ally the pope; and kept them about him for a whole year, honouring them (says an old historian) as if they had been angels of God. in the midst of the famine, which in many places was destroyed the Saxons by thousands, brilliant festivals were celebrated in the fortified palace of Winchester; there the Roman priests, placing the crown afresh on the head of the foreign king, effaced the vain malediction which Eldred [Aldred], Archbishop of York had pronounced against him.


“After the festivals, a great assembly of the Normans, laymen or priests, enriched by the lands of the English, was held at Winchester. At this assembly the Saxons were summoned to appear, in the name (of the authority) of the Roman Church, by circulars, the style of which might forewarn them of the result of this great council (as it was called) to themselves. `Although the church of Rome,` said the envoys, `has a right to watch the conduct of all Christians, it more especially belongs to her to inquire into the morals and way of life – you whom she formally instructed in the faith of Christ – and to repair in you the decay of that faith which you hold from her. In order to exercise over your person this salutary inspection, we ministers of blessed Peter the apostle, and authorised representatives of our lord, Pope Alexander, have resolved to hold a council with you, that we may inform ourselves of the bad things which have sprung up in the vineyard of the Lord, and may plant in it things profitable both for the body and for the soul.`

“The true sense of these mystical words was, that the conqueror, in accordance with the pope, wished to strip the whole body of the higher clergy of English origin; and the mission of the legates from Rome was to give the colour of religion to a measure purely political. The prelate whom they first struck was Stigand, Archbishop of Canterbury, who had dared to appear in arms against the foreigner, and had refused to anoint him king. These were his crimes; but the sentence which degraded him was ground on other causes – on more `honest` pretexts (to use the language of the old historians). Three ecclesiastical grievances were found against him, which rendered his ordination null and void. He was turned out of the episcopacy – first, for having taken the archbishopric during the life of the Norman Archbishop Robert, whom the Saxons had driven away; secondly, for having said mass in the pontifical habit or `pallium` worn by the said Robert, and left by him at Canterbury; lastly, for having received his own pallium from the hands of Benedict X, who had been degraded, and afterwards excommunicated, by a victorious competitor. As soon as the friend of King Harold and of his country was, according to the language of the time, `struck by the canonical axe`, his lands were seized and divided between the Norman king, the Norman queen, and the Bishop of Bayeux. The same blow was aimed at those English bishops who could not be reproached with any violation of the canons. Alexander prelate of Lincoln, Egelmar prelate of East Anglia, Egelric prelate of Sussex, several other bishops, and the abbots of the principal monasteries, were degraded all at once. When the sentence of degradation was pronounced against them, they were compelled to swear on the Gospel that they considered themselves as deprived of their dignities lawfully, and for ever; and that, whoever their successors might be, they would not protest against them. They were then conducted by an armed guard into some fortress or monastery, which became their prison. Those who had formerly been monks were forcibly taken back to their old cloisters, and it was officially published, that, disgusted with the world, it had pleased them to go and revisit the friends of their youth. Thus it was that foreign power mingled derision with violence. The members of the Saxon clergy dared not to struggle against their fate: Stigand fled into Scotland; Egelsig, an abbot of St. Augustine`s, embarked for Denmark, and was demanded as a `fugitive du roi`, by a rescript from the Conqueror. Only one bishop, Egelwin [Ethelwine] of Durham, when on the point of departing into exile, solemnly cursed the oppressors of his country; and declared them separated for ever from the communion of Christians, according to the grave and gloomy formula in which that separation was pronounced. But the sound of these words fell in vain on the ear of the Norman: William had priests to give the lie to priests, as he had swords to ward off swords…” (181)

Ethelwine, who, as we have seen, joined Hereward at Ely but was captured and died of hunger in prison at Abingdon, was not the only bishop to defy the papists. His brother Ethelric, who had retired as Bishop of Durham in 1056 to make way for his brother, was brought from Peterborough, condemned for “piracy” and imprisoned in Westminster Abbey. There he lived for two more years “in voluntary poverty and a wealth of tears” (182), and was never reconciled with William. He died on 5th October, 1072, was buried in the chapel of St. Nicholas, and was very soon considered a saint, miracles being wrought at his tomb. (183) For “those who had known him when living,” writes William of Malmesbury, “transmitted his memory to their children, and to this day [c. 1120] neither visitors nor supplicants are wanting at his tomb.” (184)

Having silenced the last true bishops, the papists now turned to the monks. Few were those. Like Frederic of St. Albans, who resisted them. Among the few were three who occupied a dependency of Ely`s at St. Neot`s, Huntingdonshire. When the Norman Gilbert of Clara came to expel them, they refused to move, and could not be expelled either by hunger or the lash. Finally, they were physically transported across the Channel to the Norman monastery of Bec, where they remained in prison, as far as we can surmise, to the end of their lives. (185)

In 1083 it was the turn of the most venerable of England`s holy places, Glastonbury, to suffer the ravages of the “Christian” pagans. The occasion was an argument between the monks and their new Norman abbot, Thurstan, who insisted on substituting a new form of chanting from Dijon for the old-style Gregorian chanting to which the monks were accustomed. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that “the monks made an amicable complaint to him [Thurstan] about it, and asked him to rule them justly and have regard for them, and in return they would be faithful and obedient to him. The abbot, however, would have none of it, but treated them badly, threatening them with worse. One day the abbot went onto the chapter, and spoke against the monks, and threatened to maltreat them. He sent for laymen, who entered the chapter fully armed against the monks. Not knowing what they should do, the monks were terrified and fled in all directions. Some ran into the church and locked the doors against them, but their pursuers went after them into the monastic church, determined to drag them out since they were afraid to leave. Moreover a pitiful thing took place there that day, when the Frenchmen broke into the choir and began pelting the monks in the direction of the altar where they were. Some of the men-at-arms climbed up to the gallery, and shot arrows down into the sanctuary, so that many arrows stuck in the cross which stood above the altar. The wretched monks lay around the altar and some crept underneath, crying aloud to God, desperately imploring His mercy when none was forthcoming from men. What more can we find to say except to add that they showered arrows, and their companions broke down the doors to force an entrance, and struck down and killed some of the monks, wounding many therein, so that their blood ran down from the altar on to the steps, and from the steps on to the floor. There of the monks were done to death, and eighteen wounded.” (186)

William of Malmesbury adds that the Glastonbury monks refused to accept the chant of William of F`ecamp because “they had grown up in the practice of the Roman Church”. This shows that the Old English Church preserved the old traditions of Orthodox Rome, which had now been superseded on the continent.

Again, William writes that one of the arrows pierced an image of the crucified Lord, which suddenly gushed blood. “At this sight the perpetrator of the crime became unbearably confused and at once became mad, so that when he got outside the church he fell to the ground, broke his neck and died. As soon as the others saw this they hastened to leave the monastery lest they should suffer similar punishments. But the rod of Divine justice did not allow them to escape retribution since it knew that they had been accomplices in the perpetration of evil. For some were affected internally and some externally, either their minds or their bodies being rendered impotent, and they paid a just penalty.” (187)

Thus did the Normans dare to do what even the pagan Saxons and Danes had not dared: to defile the oldest and holiest shrine in Britain, the meeting-place in Christ of Jew and Greek, Roman and Celt, Saxon and Dane…


Even the holy relics of the English saints were subjected to desecration. For, as Thierry writes: “the hatred which the clergy of the conquest bore to the natives of England, extended to the saints of English birth; and in different places their tombs were broken open and their bones scattered about.” (188) thus Archbishop Lanfranc refused to consider St. Alphege of Canterbury (+1012) a hieromartyr, although the truth of his martyrdom was witnessed by his incorrupt body; and he demoted St. Dunstan`s day to the rank of a third-class feast, and “reformed” certain other feasts of the English Church. (189) Again, as George Garnett writes, “Warin, abbot of Malmesbury, piled up the relics of many local saints `like a heap of rubbish, or the remains of worthless hirelings, and threw out of the door`. He even mocked them: “Now,” he said, “let the most powerful of them come to the aid the rest!” Paul, the new abbot of St. Alban`s and Lanfranc`s nephew, destroyed the tombs of former abbots, whom he described as `yokels and idiots`, and even refused to transfer to the new church the body of the abbey`s founder, King Offa of Mercia.” (191)


Then the monks of Evesham, heartened, went on the offensive: they took the relics of their major saint, Bishop Egwin of Worcester (+709), on a fund-raising tour of the country, during which miracles were reported as far afield as Oxford, Dover, Winchester and the river Trent. (192)

Another such incident is recorded by John Hudson: “Possibly in the middle of the 12th century, a writer at Abingdon, Berkshire, described with great relish the fate of the monastery`s first abbot after the Conquest, Adelelm, a monk from Jumie`ges. The abbot displayed a marked disrespect for pre-Conquest saints, notably planning to replace the church built by St. Aethelwold. Once , while dining with his relatives and friends, Adelelm was abusing Aethelwold, saying that the church of English rustics should not stand but be destroyed. After the meal he left to relieve himself, and there cried out. Those who came running found him dead. Clearly the writer saw such a death as fitting.” (193)

In the decades that followed, the discoveries of the incorrupt relics of several English saints proved the sanctity of the old traditions, leading to a “restoration” of their veneration in the Anglo-Norman Church. (194) These saints included St. Mildburga at Much Wenlock in 1079, St. Theodore at Canterbury in 1091, St. Edmund at Bury St. Edmunds in 1095, St. Edward the Confessor at Winchester in 1102, St. Cuthbert at Durham in 1104, St. Alphege at Canterbury in 1105 and St. Etheldreda in 1106.

Gradually, however, as the pre-revolutionary days of Anglo-Saxon England receded – or rather, were violently blotted out – from the popular memory, the old traditions were lost. William of Malmesbury could still write, early in the twelfth century: “Does not the whole island blaze with so many relics that you can scarcely pass a village of any consequence without hearing the name of some new saint?” But then he added: “And of how many have all records perished?” (195)

Moreover, as Garnett writes, “within fifty years of 1066 every English cathedral church and most major abbeys had been razed to the ground, and rebuilt in a new continental style, known to architects as `Romanesque`… In a very literal sense, this rebuilding was one aspect of the renewal of the English church of which Duke William appears to have pledged himself early in 1066, in order to secure papal backing for the Conquest. No English cathedral retains any masonry above the ground which dates from before the Conquest . Wulfstan, bishop of Worcester, was the only English bishop to survive the wholesale renewal (or, differently expressed, purge) of the English hierarchy during the first decade of the reign, and its replacement with prelates of continental – chiefly Norman – extraction. He was said to have wept as he watched the demolition of the old cathedral church at Worcester: `We wretches destroy the work of the saints, thinking in our insolent pride that we are improving them… How many holy and devout men have served God in this place!` He was not simply giving voice to nostalgia. To an Englishman, it seems, a church was itself a relice, sanctified by those who had once worshipped in it…” (196)

But all this could have been borne if only the English themselves had kept their faith, and their membership of the One True church. However, on 29th August, 1070, the day of the beheading of St. John the Forerunner and a strict fast day in the Orthodox Church, the first Roman Catholic archbishop of Canterbury, Lanfranc of Bec, was consecrated in the place of Stigand. Truly the forerunners of Christ, the preachers of repentance, had fallen in England.

Immediately Lanfranc demanded, and eventually obtained, a profession obedience from the archbishop-elect of York, Thomas, in spite of the fact that York had been a separate ecclesiastical province throughout the history of English Church.

The Anglo-Saxon text of the Parker (A) text of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle ends at this point, continuing in Latin. For truly, the English Church had now become Latin both in language and in theology… (197)

Lanfranc also set about reforming the canon law of the English Church to bring it into line with the new code of the Roman papacy. In this he received the full support of William, who said: “I have ordained that the Episcopal laws be amended, because before my time they were not properly administered in England according to the precepts of the holy canon.” These canons, which had already been put into effect in Normandy and other parts of Western Europe, concerned such matters as the respect due to the Roman see, simony, the separation of secular and ecclesiastical courts, and the marriage of the clergy.

It was the latter decree that caused the greatest disturbances, both on the continent and in England; and sadly we find the English bishop Wulfstan on the side of the uncanonical onslaught on Holy matrimony. Thus we read that “the sin of incontinence he abhorred, and approved continence in all men, and especially in clerks in holy orders. If he found one wholly given to chastity he took himself and loved him as a son. Wedded priests he brought under one edict, commanding them to renounce their fleshly desires or their churches. If they loved chastity, they would remain and be welcome: if they were the servants of bodily pleasures, they must go forth in disgrace. Some there were who chose rather to go without their churches than their women: and of these some wandered about till they starved; others sought and at last found some other provision…” (198)

For his obedience to the king, and strict enactment of the papal decrees Wulfstan received great honour from the world`s mighty ones, and by the 1080s he was one of the very few bishops of English origin still in possession of their sees. But we can only lament the fall of a great ascetic and wonderworker, who was reduced to separating by force those whom God had lawfully joined together. If only he had paid heed to the true canons accepted by the Seven Ecumenical Councils on the marriage of the clergy. (199) If only he had paid heed to the correspondence of the great eighth-century English apostle of Germany, St. Boniface, in which he would have read that Pope Zachariah, in a letter to Boniface, upheld the marriage of priests. (200)

And even if the English Church in its latest phase did at times declare against the marriage of priests, as in Ethelred`s code of 1008, at other times it was explicity permitted, as in Archbishop Wulfstan `Law of Northumbrian Priests;` and `never` were lawfully married priests forced to separate from their wives in pre-Conquest England. But there was an unbalanced streak in Wulfstan`s asceticism which combined an almost Manichean zeal for chastity with some surprising improprieties. (201) And he had a papist understanding of obedience that ignored the word: “Neither is a wicked king any longer a king, but a tyrant; nor a bishop oppressed with ignorance a bishop, but falsely so called.” (202)

However, it must be said in Wulfstan`s favour that once, during a synod held at Westminster in the king`s presence, he defied Lanfranc`s order that he give up his pastoral staff and ring on the grounds that he was supposedly “an ignorant and unlearned man”.

The story is told by Ailred of Rievaulx (in Cardinal Newman`s paraphrase) that he rose up and said that he would give up his staff only to King Edward the Confessor, who had conferred it upon him. “With these words he raised his hand a little, and drove the crosier into the stone which covered the sacred body: `Take this, my master,` he said, `and deliver it to them thou will`; and descending from the altar, he laid aside his pontifical dress, and took his seat, a simple monk, among the monks. But the staff, to the wonder of all, remained fast embedded in the stone. They tried to draw it out, but it was immovable. A murmur ran through the throne; they crowded round the spot in astonishment, and you might see them in their surprise, approaching a little, then stopping, stretching out their hands and withdrawing them, now throwing themselves on the floor, to see how the spike was fastened in the stone, now rising up and gathering into little groups to gaze. The news was carried to where the synod was sitting. Lanfranc sent the Bishop of Rochester to the tomb, to bring the staff; but was unable to withdraw it. The archbishop in wonder, sent for the king, and went with him to the place; and after having prayed, tried to move it, but in vain. The king cried out, and Lanfranc burst into tears… When the archbishop had withdrawn his deposition, Wulfstan withdrew the staff from the tomb… (203)


The Gregorian Revolution


Who was the real ruler of the English Church at this time – William or the Pope?


In order to answer that question we need to turn to the revolution in Church-State relations that was taking place on the continent of Europe


At almost the same time that the English autocracy was being destroyed, the Byzantine Empire suffered a disastrous defeat at the hands of the Seljuk Turks, Manzibert in 1071. Most of Antolia, the heartland of Byzantine strength, was conceded to the Turks. In the same year, the last Byzantine stronghold in southern Italy, Bari, fell to the Normans, after which Byzantium was never again able to exert significant influence on events on the West.


As Orthodox autocracy reeled under these hammer blows from East and West, a new form of despotism, Christian in form but pagan in essence, entered upon the scene.


Canning writes: “The impact of Gregory VII`s pontificate was enormous: for the church nothing was to be the same again. From his active lifetime can be traced the settling of the church in its long-term direction as a body of power and coercion; the character of the papacy as a jurisdictional and governmental institution… There arises the intrusive thought , out of bounds for the historian: this was the moment of the great wrong direction taken by the papacy, one which was to outlast the Middle Ages and survive into our own day. From the time of Gregory can be dated the deliberate clarification of the church based on the notion that the clergy, being morally purer, were superior to the laity and constituted a church which was catholic, chaste and free. There was a deep connection between power and a celibacy which helped distinguish the clergy as a separate and superior caste, distanced in the most profound psychological sense from the family concerns of the laity beneath them. At the time of the reform papacy the church became stamped with characteristics which have remained those of the Roman Catholic church was, in Gregory`s words, the `mother and mistress` (mater et magistra) of all churches,`” (204)


Hildebrand, Pope Gregory VII, was a midget in physical size. (205) But having been elected to the papacy “by the will of St. Peter” in 1073, he set about ensuring that no ruler on earth would rival him in grandeur. Having witnessed the Emperor Henry III`s deposition of Pope Gregory VI, with whom he went into exile, he took the name Gregory VII in order to emphasise a unique mission: as Peter de Rosa writes, “he had seen an emperor dethrone a pope; he would dethrone an emperor regardless.

“Had he put an emperor in his place, he would have been beyond reproach. He did far more. By introducing a mischievous and heretical doctrine [of Church-State relations], he puts himself in place of the emperor… He claimed to be not only Bishop of bishops but King of kings. In a parody of the gospels, the devil took him up to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world, and Gregory VII exclaimed: These are all mine.

“As that most objective of historians, Henry Charles Lea, wrote in `The Inquisition in the Middle Ages.` `To the realization of this ideal [of papal supremacy], he devoted his life with a frenzy zeal and unshaken purpose that shrank from no obstacle, and to it he was ready to sacrifice not only the men who stood in his path but also the immutable principles of truth and justice.`

“… The Bishop of Trier saw the danger. He charged Gregory with destroying the unity of the Church. The Bishop of Verdun said that the pope was mistaken in his unheard-of arrogance. Belief belongs to one`s church, the heart belongs to one`s country. The pope, he said, must not filch the heart`s allegiance. This was precisely what Gregory did. He wanted all; he left emperors and princes nothing. The papacy, as he fashioned it, by undermining patriotism, undermined the authority of secular rulers; they felt threatened by the Altar. At the Reformation, in England and elsewhere, rulers felt obliged to exclude Catholicism from their lands in order to feel secure…

“The changes Gregory brought about were reflected in language. Before him, the pope`s traditional title was Vicar of St. Peter. After him, it was Vicar of Christ. Only `Vicar of Christ` could justify his absolutist pretensions, which his successors inherited in reality not from Peter or from Jesus but from him.” (206)

Gregory`s position was based on a forged collection of canons and a false interpretation of two Gospel passages: `Matthew` 16.18-19 and John 21.15-17. According to the first passage, in Gregory`s interpretation, he was the successor of Peter, upon whom the Church had been founded, and had plenary power to bind and to loose. And according to the second, the flock of Peter over which he had jurisdiction included all Christians, not excluding emperors. As he wrote. “Perhaps [the supporters of the emperor] imagine that when God commended His Church to Peter three times, saying, `Feed My sheep`, He made an exception of kings? Why do they not consider, or rather confess with shame that when God gave Peter, as the ruler, the power of binding and loosing in heaven and on earth, he excepted no-one and withheld nothing from his power?”

For “who could doubt that the priests of Christ are considered the fathers and masters of kings, princes and all the faithful?” this meant that he had power both to excommunicate and depose the emperor. Nor did the emperor`s anointing give him any authority in Gregory`s eyes. For “greater power is conceded to an exorcist, when he is made a spiritual emperor for expelling demons than could be given to any layman for secular domination”. Indeed, “who would not know that kings and dukes took their origin from those who, ignorant of God, through pride, rapine, perfidy, murders and, finally, almost any kind of crime, at the instigation of the devil, the prince of this world, sought with blind desire and unbearable presumption to dominate their equals, namely other men?” (207)

Hildebrand`s attitude to political power was almost Manichaean in its negative intensity. Indeed, as de Rosa writes of a later Pope who faithfully followed Hildebrand`s teaching, “this was Manicheeism applied to relations between the church and state. The church, spiritual, was good; the state, material, was essentially the work of the devil. This naked political absolutism undermining the authority of kings. Taken seriously, his theories would lead to anarchy”. (208)

Of course, the idea that the priesthood was higher than the kingship was not heretical, and could find support in the Holy Fathers. However, the Fathers always allowed that emperors and kings had supremacy of jurisdiction in their own sphere, and had always insisted that the power of secular rulers comes from God and is worthy of the honour that befits every Godestablished institution. What was new, shocking and completely unpatristic in Gregory`s words was his disrespect for the kingship, his refusal to allow it any dignity or holiness – still more, his proto-communist implication that `rulers had no right to rule¬ without the Pope`s blessing.

The corollary of this, of course, was that `the only rightful ruler was the Pope.` For “if the holy apostolic see, through the princely power divinely conferred upon it, has jurisdiction over spiritual things, why not also over secular things?” Thus to the secular rulers of Spain Gregory wrote in 1077 that the kingdom of Spain belonged to St. Peter and the Roman Church “in rightful ownership”. And to the secular rulers of Sardinia he wrote in 1073 that the Roman Church exerted “a special and individual care” over them – which meant, as a later letter of 1080 demonstrated, that they would face armed invasion if they did not submit to the pope`s terms.

Again, in 1075 he threatened King Philip of France with excommunication, having warned the French bishops that if the king did not amend his ways he would place France under ban: “Do not doubt that we shall, with God`s help, make every possible effort to snatch the kingdom of France from this possession.” (209) This was no empty threat – Gregory had the ability to compel submission. He demonstrated this when he wrote to one of King Philip` vassals, Duke William of Aquitane, and invited him to threaten the king. The king backed down…

This power was demonstrated to an even greater extent in his famous dispute with Emperor Henry IV of Germany. It began with a quarrel between the pope and the emperor over who should succeed to the see of Milan. This was the see, significantly, whose most famous bishop, St. Ambrose, had excommunicated (but not deposed) an emperor, but had also declared that Rome had only “a primacy of confession, not of honour”. (210) Gregory expected Henry to back down as King Philip had done. But he did not, no doubt because the see of Milan was of great importance politically in that its lands and vassals gave it control of the Alpine passes and therefore of Henry`s access to his Italian domains. Instead, in January, 1076, he convened a Synod of Bishops at Worms which addressed Gregory as “brother Hildebrand”, demonstrated that his despotism had introduced mob rule into the Church, and refused all obedience to him: “since, as you publicly proclaimed, none of us has been to you a bishop, from now on you will be Pope to none of us”. (211)

Gregory retaliated in a truly revolutionary way. In a Synod in Rome in February he declared the emperor deposed. Addressing St. Peter, he said: “I withdraw the whole kingdom of the Germans and of Italy from Henry the King, son of Henry the Emperor. For he has risen up against thy Church with unheard of arrogance. And I absolve all Christians from the bond of the oath which they have made to him or shall make. And I forbid anyone to serve him as King…” (212) By absolving subjects of their oath of allegiance to their king, Gregory “effectively,” as Robinson writes, “sanctioned rebellion against the royal power…” (213)

That Lent Gregory wrote `Dictatus Papae`, which left no doubt about the revolutionary political significance of his actions, and which must be counted as one of the most megalomaniac documents in history: “The Pope can be judged by no one; the Roman church has never erred and never will err till the end of time; the Roman Church was founded by Christ alone; the Pope alone can depose bishops and restore bishops; he alone can make new laws, set up new bishoprics, and divide old ones; he alone can translate bishops; he alone can call general councils and authorize canon law; he alone can revise his own judgements; he alone can use the imperial insignia; he can depose emperors; he can absolve subjects from their allegiance; all princes should kiss his feet; his legates, even though in inferior orders, have precedence over all bishops; an appeal to the papal court inhibits judgement by all inferior courts; a duly ordained Pope is undoubtedly made a saint by the merits of St. Peter.” (214)

Robinson continues: “The confusion of the spiritual and the secular in Gregory VII`s thinking is most marked in the terminology he used to describe the laymen whom he recruited to further his political aims. His letters are littered with terms. `the warfare of Christ`, the service of St. Peter`, `the vassals of St. Peter`…, Military terminology is, of course, commonly found in patristic writings.. St. Paul had evoked the image f the soldier of Christ who waged an entirely spiritual war… [But] in the letters of Gregory VII, the traditional metaphor shades into literal actually… For Gregory, the `warfare of Christ` and the `warfare of St. Peter` came to mean, not the spiritual struggles of the faithful, nor the duties of the secular clergy, nor the ceaseless devotions of the monks; but rather the armed clashes of feudal knights on the battlefields of Christendom…” (215)

This was power politics under the guise of spirituality; but it worked. Although, at a Synod in Worms in 1076, some bishops supported Henry, saying that “the bishops have been deprived of their divine authority”, and that “the Church of God is in danger of destruction”, (216) Henry began to lose support, and in 1077 he was forced to march across the Alps and do penance before Gregory, standing for three days in the snow outside the castle of Canossa. Gregory restored him to communion, but not to his kingship…

Soon rebellion began to stir in Germany as Rudolph, Duke of Swabia, was elected anti-king. For a while Gregory hesitated. But then, in 1080, he definitely deposed Henry, freed his subjects from their allegiance to him and declared that the kingship was conceded to Rudolph. However, Henry recovered, convened a Synod of bishops that declared Gregory deposed and then convened another Synod that elected an anti-pope, Wibert of Ravenna. In October, 1080, Rudolph died in battle. Then in 1083 Henry and Wibert marched on Rome. In 1084 Wibert was consecrated Pope Clement III and in turn crowned Henry as emperor. Gregory fled from Rome with his Norman allies and died in Salerno in 1085. (217)

“I have loved righteousness and hated iniquity, therefore I die in exile,” said Gregory as he lay dying. But a monk who waited on him replied: “In exile thou canst not be, for God hath given thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” This Scripture refers to Christ, not a simple man. But then such distortion and blasphemy was becoming commonplace now; for, as Archimandrite Justin Propovich put it: “Human history has had three main falls: that of Adam, that of Judas, and that of the Pope… The fall of the Pope consists in  seeking to replace the God-man with man.” (218)

The King and the Church


Less spectacular than his struggle with Henry, but no less instructive, was Gregory`s contest with King William I of England. As we have seen, William had conquered England with Hildebrand`s blessing. And shortly after his bloody pacification of the country he imposed the new canon law of the reformed papacy upon the English Church. This pleased Gregory, who was therefore prepared to overlook the fact that William considered that he owed his kingdom to his sword  and God alone: “The king of the English, although in certain matters he does not comport himself as devoutly as we might hope, nevertheless in that he has neither destroyed nor sold the Churches of God [!]; that he taken pains to govern his subjects in peace and justice [!!!]; that `he has refused his assent to anything detrimental to the apostolic see`, even when solicited by certain enemies of the cross of Christ; and that he has compelled priests on oath to put away their wives and laity to forward the tithes they were withholding from us – in all these respects he has shown himself more worthy of approbation and honour than other kings…”

The “other kings” Gregory was referring to included, first of all, the Emperor Henry IV of Germany, who, unlike William, did not support the Pope`s “reforms”. If William had acted like Henry, then there is no doubt that Pope Gregory would have excommunicated him, too. And if William had refused to co-operate with the papacy, then there is equally no doubt that the Pope would have incited his subjects to wage a “holy war” against him, as he did against Henry. For, as an anonymous monk of Hersfeld wrote: “[The Gregorians] says that it is a matter of the faith and it is the duty of the faithful in the Church to kill and to persecute those who communicate with, or support the excommunicated King Henry and refuse to promote the efforts of [the Gregorian] party.” (219)


But William, by dint of brute force within and subtle diplomacy without, managed to achieve the most complete control over both Church and State that any English ruler had ever achieved, while at the same time paradoxically managing to remain on relatively good terms with the most autocratic Pope in history. For totalitarian rulers only respect rivals of the same spirit. Thus did the papocaesarist totalitarian of Hildbrand beget the caesaropapist totalitarianism of Hildebrand beget the caesaropapist totalitarianism of William the Bastard…

The absolute nature of William`s control of the Church was vividly expressed by Eadmer of Canterbury: “Now, it was the policy of King William to maintain in England the usages and laws which he and his fathers before him were accustomed to have in Normandy. Accordingly he made bishops, abbots and other nobles throughout the whole country of persons of whom (since everyone knew who they were, from what estate that had been raised and to what they had been promoted) it would be considered shameful ingratitude if they did not implicitly obey his laws, subordinating to this every other consideration; or if any one of them presuming upon the power conferred by any temporal dignity dared raise his head against him. Consequently, all things, spiritual and temporal alike, waited upon the nod of the King… He would not, for instance, allow anyone in all his dominion, except on his instructions, to recognize the established Pontiff of the City of Rome or under any circumstance to accept any letter from him, if it had not first been submitted to the King himself. Also he would not let the primate of his kingdom, by which I mean the Archbishop of Canterbury, otherwise Dobernia, if he were presiding over a general council of bishops, lay down any ordinance or prohibition unless these were agreeable to the King`s wishes and had been first settled by him. Then again he would not allow any one of his bishops, except on his express instructions, to proceed against or excommunicate one of his barons or officers for incest or adultery or any other cardinal offence, even when notoriously guilty, or to lay upon him any punishment of ecclesiastical discipline.” (220) Again, in a letter to the Pope in reply to the latter`s demand for fealty, William wrote: “I have not consented to pay fealty, nor will I now, because I never predecessors.” (221) And in the same letter he pointedly called Archbishop Lanfranc “my vassal” (i.e. not the Pope`!).


On the other hand, he agreed to the Pope`s demand for the payment of “Peter`s Pence”, the voluntary contribution of the English people to Rome which had now become compulsory – for to squeeze the already impoverished English meant to diminution in his personal power. The Popes therefore had to wait until William`s death before gradually asserting their personal control over the English Church. In any case, William had already broken the back of the English people both physically and spiritually; and the totalitarian structure of Anglo-Norman government, combing secular and ecclesiastical hierarchies under the king, needed only the man at the top to change to make it a perfectly functioning cog in the ruthless machine of the “Vicar of Christ”.

We can express this in another way by saying that as a result of the Norman Conquest, England became a feudal monarchy. For R.H.C. Davies explains that feudal monarchy was in fact “a New Leviathan, the medieval equivalent of a socialist state. In a socialist state, the community owns, or should own, the means of production. In a feudal monarchy, the king did own all the land – which in the terms of medieval economy might fairly be equated with the means of production”.

“The best and simplest example of a feudal monarchy is to be found in England after the Norman Conquest. When William the Conqueror defeated Harold Godwineson at the battle of Hastings (1066), he claimed to have established his legitimate right to succeed Edward the Confessor as King of England, but, owing to Harold`s resistance, he was also able to claim that he had won the whole country by right of conquest. Henceforward, every inch of land was to be his, and he would dispose of it ad he thought fit. As is well known, he distributed most of it to his Norman followers, but he did not give it to them in absolute right…

“ Conqueror`s ownership of the land was firmly established in Domesday Book,” (222) which thereby became the record of the day of doom of the Orthodox Christian autocracy in the West. As Professor Nevereux writes, “Like Christ on the Day of Judgement examining the actions of all men, the King of England would know all the inhabitants and all the properties in his kingdom… No other document of this kind has been preserved in Western Europe, nor was any ever made…” (223)


The English Diaspora


What influence did the Norman-Papist Conquest of England have on the destiny of the neighbouring British Orthodox Churches? And what was the destiny of those English Orthodox who fled beyond the sea?


Soon the Norman-Papist malaise spread to other parts of the British Isles. Scotland welcomed many of the English exiles fleeing from William, but it proved to be a temporary and illusory refuge. For King Malcolm`s wife Margaret, though a very pious woman and an English princess of the Old Wessex dynasty, became a spiritual daughter of Lanfranc, and hence the chief instrument of the normanization and papalization of the Scottish Church. However, according to Lucy Menzies, “it was not till the time of David I, son of Malcolm and Margaret, that the authority of the Church of Rome was fully accepted in Scotland and the Celtic Church, as such, disappeared from the mainland, the Culdees being driven out.” (224)

Wales did not fare much better. After William`s “pilgrimage” there in 1081, a struggle took place between the Gregorian and nationalist parties whose outcome was easy to foresee. It seems likely that the last independent Orthodox bishop in Britain was Rhyddmarch of St. David`s, sons of Sulien the Wise, who reposed in 1096 and of whom the Annals of St. Davids say that he was “one without an equal or second, excepting his father, for learning wisdom and piety. And after Rhyddmarch instruction for scholars ceased at Menevia…” (225)

Early in the next century the Irish, too, suffered Papist “reformation”, and, in 1172 – a Norman invasion. Their reaction to the news that their land had already been granted to the Normans by the English Pope Adrian IV is not recorded. For in his `Metalogicus` of 1156 John of Salisbury writes of Adrian: `At my solicitation he granted Ireland to Henry II, the illustrious King of England, to hold by hereditary right, as his letter to this day testifies. For all Ireland of ancient right, according to the Donation of Constantine, was said to belong to the Roman Church which he founded.” (226)


Thus perished that Church which had been so important in the evangelization of England, and which, in the person of St. Columbanus of Luxeuil, had given a classic rebuke to a heritical Pope: “[If you err], then those who have always kept the Orthodox Faith, whoever they may have been, even if they seem to be your subordinates,..  shall be your judges.. And thus, even as your honour is great in proportion to the dignity of your see, so great care is needed for you, lest you lose your dignity through some mistake. For power will be in your hands just as long as your principles remain sound; for he is the appointed keybearer of the Kingdom of heaven, who opens by true knowledge to the worthy and shuts to the unworthy; otherwise if he does the opposite, he shall be able neither to open nor to shut…” (227)

Fr. Andrew Phillips writes that “Alsin, Abbot of St. Augustine`s at Canterbury, took refuge in Norway. Sweden, where English missionaries had long been at work was another destination and Finland too, It was, however, Denmark which proved to be the most popular destination. It was from here that King Swein had thought to mount invasions in 1070 and 1075. These were supported in England, especially in the North and the East where Danish sympathies were strong…”

“Many churchmen also fled abroad, their places taken by the feudal warrior-bishops and clergy of the Normans, such as Odo of Bayeux, who fought at Hastings. Scandinavia seems to have been their main destination.”


“Other exiles went to the Continent, to Flanders, France and Italy. King Harold`s daughter, Gytha, moved further still. She was to marry the Grand-Prince of Kiev, Vladimir, and lived in Kiev, then a great centre of Christian civilization. Here, having been made welcome, she gave birth to several children, of whom the eldest son was named Harold like his grandfather, but also received the Slavic name, Mstislav. (228)


“Possibly the greatest emigration, however, was elsewhere; the Old English were attracted above all by the most mystical name of Constantinople, fixed they believed, as Constantine had believed before them, at the middle of the Earth, joining East and West (which Kipling wrongly said would never meet). It is certain that from the Conquest on, and especially during the 1070`s but right on into the middle of the twelfth century, huge numbers of English emigrated to the New Rome. Moreover, this emigration was an emigration of the elite of the country. The great scholar Sir Frank Stenton has discovered that several noble families simply disappeared after the Conquest and they were not all killed at Hastings – they emigrated. It particularly the young who left to seek a better future elsewhere. In historical terms this emigration is comparable only to the emigration of the Russian elite and nobility in 1017 when confronted by the Bolshevik terror. So great was this emigration, especially it seems from the West Country, the Fens and East Anglia, and so long did it continue, that we must assume that it occurred with the approval of William I and his successors. It seems almost certain that it was their method of ridding themselves of the rebellious Old English ruling class and their supporters among the people. Exile, organised by the State, was after all a bloodless elimination of those who opposed William and the new order. It is no coincidence that the exodus continued right into the twelfth century. Why did they choose Constantinople? First, because probably already in the Confessor`s reign (let us not forget that he was also half-Norman) discontented elements seem already to have left for Constantinople where the Emperor needed men to fight in his armies, especially against the Turks, who posed a threat in the East. Secondly, many Danes and other Scandinavians (such as Harold Hardrada) had formed the elite `Varangian Guard` there and found fame and fortune; news of this had certainly reached England. Thirdly, what was the future for a young English noble in Norman England? We know that in 1070 a certain Rafailis, an Imperial agent or `prospatharios` came to England recruiting for the Imperial Army. Young Englishmen and Anglo-Danes, especially those of noble birth, would certainly have been attracted. All the more so, since though the Emperor faced the Turks in the East, in the West, especially in Southern Italy, Sicily and Dalmatia, he faced the hated Normans; what better way for an Englishman of avenging himself? Fourthly, there were those who did not like the new order in the Church or in the State under the Normans. Spiritually they could find refuge in Constantinople and the freedom to continue to live in the ritual and the spirit of the Old English Church in the imperial Capital. Perhaps unconsciously their instincts and feelings drew them to that City which symbolised the unity of Christendom through the Old English period and which had had so many connections with the Apostles of the English, Gregory and Augustine…” (229)

The contribution of the English exiles was immediately felt. Thus Stephen Lowe writes: “Nikephoros Bryennios, writing in the first half of the twelfth century, describes a palace coup in 1071. Emperor Romanos Diogenes owed his position to being stepfather to the legitimate Emperor Michael VII Doukas. After Romanos was defeated and captured by Seljuk Turks at the disastrous battle of Manzikert, Michael seized the throne on his own account. Varangian guards were used as bullyboys to over-awe the opposition, and Bryennios implies that these palace guards were Englishmen `loyal from of old to the Emperor of the Romans`. (230)

In 1075, continues Phillips, “a fleet of 350 ships (according to another source 325) left England for exile in `Micklegarth`, the Great City, Constantinople. The commander of this fleet was one Siward (or Sigurd), called Earl of Gloucester. It is not impossible that he is identical with Siward Barn who had taken part in the Fenland uprising of 1071 with Hereward. With him sailed two other earls and eight high-ranking nobles. If, at a conservative estimate, we accept the figure of 235 ships and place forty people in each ship, this would indicate an exodus of nearly 10,000 people, and this was only one group – albeit by far the largest – which left these shores after 1066… When they arrived in Constantinople they found the city under siege and, we are told, thereupon relieved the inhabitants, scattering the Turks before them. This `relief`, and it occurred, earned the gratitude of the Emperor and the English were granted lodging and places in the imperial Army. The English were particularly valued since they were mostly young, many were of noble birth and they loathed the Normans. The elite showed such loyalty that they entered the Imperial Household and formed the Emperor`s bodyguard. Their exemplary loyalty to the Emperor of the Romans echoed the loyalty of the Old English to the Pre-Conquest Papacy, to St. Gregory the Great, Pope of the Romans.

“We read of English troops fighting at Dyrrachium (Durazzo) in 1081, where they suffered heavy losses against the Normans. Again in the 1080`s the Emperor granted the English land on the Gulf of Nicomedia, near, Nicaea to build a fortified town known as Civotus. (231) We are told that from the great fleet of 1075 some 4,300 English settled in the City itself, which at that time was the most populous, advanced and cosmopolitan city in the world. Further we read that the English sent priests to Hungary, which was then in close contact with Constantinople, for them to be consecrated bishops, since the English preferred the Latin rite to the Greek rite of `St. Paul`. According to the sources, far more English than the 4,300 who settled in the city went further still. With the blessing of Emperor Alexis, these went on to recolonise territories lost by the Empire. It is said that they sailed on from the city to the North and the East for six days. Then they arrived at `the beginning of the Scythian country`. Here they founded towns and having driven out the invaders, they reclaimed them for the Empire. Moreover, they renamed the towns `London`, `York` and called others after the towns where they had come from…

“After painstaking research it has been discovered that medieval maps… list no fewer than six towns with names suggesting English settlements. These settlements on maps of the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries are located along the northern coast of the Black Sea. One of the names appears as `Susaco`, possibly from `Saxon`. Another town, situated some 100 miles/177km to the east of the Straits of Kerch near the Sea of Azov appears variously as `Londia`, `Londin` and `Londina`. On the twelfth century Syrian map the Sea of Azov itself is called the `Varang` Sea, the Sea of the Varangians, a name used for the English in Constantinople at this period. It is known that in the thirteenth century a Christian people called the `Saxi` and speaking a language very similar to Old English inhabited this area, and that troops of the `Saxi` served in the Georgian army in the twelfth century. There seem to be too many coincidences for us to think that the Sea of Azov was not then the first `New England`. (232)

Stephen Lowe writes: “Joscelin`s Miracula Sancti Augustini Episcop Cantuariensis tells of an Englishman of high rank from Canterbury who `obtained such favour with the emperor and empress… that he received a dukedom over wise soldiers and a large part of the auxiliaries`. He married a rich woman of high family, and had a church built in Constantinople dedicated to Saints Nicholas and Augustine of Canterbury. This church was popular with the English in Byzantium and became a chapel of the Varangians. (233) Another report tells of a monk of Canterbury named Joseph, who visited Constantinople in about 1090, on his return from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He found there a number of his own countrymen, and recognised friends of his own among them. They were now in the Imperial household, and were friends of the officer in charge of guarding holy relics. The Historia Monasterii de Abingdon records that in the reign of Henry I, an Englishman named Ulfric (from Lincoln in the Danelaw) arrived on a mission from Emperor Alexis – the purpose is not stated, but it may have been a further attempt to hire mercenaries.

“The Byzantine chronicler Kinnamos, writing about 1180-3 of the actions of Emperor John II at the battle of Beroe of 1122, describes `axe-bearers who stood around him (they are a Brittanic people who of old served the Roman Emperors)…` Inglinoi [English] were present at the disastrous battle of Myriokephalon in 1185 (?). However, by this late stage these Englishmen, whom Emperor Manuel describes as `some of the leading men of the nobility of England` were more likely to have been Anglo-Normans than Saxon exiles.

“In 1204 the Frankish army of the Fourth Crusade, diverted from its original aim to attack Muslim Egypt, instead besieged and captured Christian Constantinople. Niketas Choniates was a Roman chronicler of the fighting that led to the City`s fall. He writes that an attempted landing near the Palace of Vlachernai was repulsed by Pisan mercenaries and `axe-bearing barbarians`. (the Fourth Crusade attack on Constantinople was organized by the Dogue of Venice who wanted vengeance against Constantinople whose citizens had attacked Venetians who had an unfair privileged position with trade which caused deep resentment, the Dogue died there whose tomb is in the Church of Hagia Sophia which is ironic).

“The Frankish eyewitness and chronicler Robert de Clari describing the battle tells of the `English, Danish and Greeks` defending the towers `with axes and swords`. The Frankish Crusader de Villehardouin reports the walls being manner by English and Danes – and that the fighting was very violent with axes and swords. One of the negotiators sent to the Emperor, de Villehardoiun describes walking past Englishmen and Danes, fully armed with their axes, posted at the gates of the city and all the way along to the Palace. (234)

“There are few mentions of the Varngian Guard after the City`s fall, and it is thought they dwindled to a shadow of their former glory. However, traces of the English Varangians still remained. Emperor Michael VIII (1261-1282) who recaptured Constantinople after the Frankish `Empire` collapsed. Refers to the active and repeated use of his `Englinovarangoi` in defending his reduced Byzantine realm.


“The fourteenth-century De Officiis of Pseudo-Codinus, states that English was used in the acclamation to the Emperor at the Imperial banquet at Christmas – after the Genoese, Pisans and Venetians, came the Inglinisti, clashing their weapons with a loud noise.” (235)

Philllips continues: “As for those thousands of Old English who settled in the Great City itself, they may have lived in a quarter known as `Vlanga` [from `Varangian`], near the Sea of Marmara…” (236) In Constantinople we know of a church of St. Olaf, though this was probably for Scandinavians, rather than Anglo-Danes. (237)


Perhaps the most lasting image of the English Orthodox in exile is Anna Comnena`s description of their last stand against the Normans at the battle of Durazzo (present-day Albania) in 1081. “The axe-bearing barbarians from the Isle of Thule”, as Anna called them, thrust back an attack on their part of the line, and then pursued the Normans into the sea up to their necks. But they had advanced too far, and a Norman cavalry attack threw them back again. “It seems that in their tired condition they were less strong than the Kelts [Normans]. At any rate the barbarian force was massacred there, except for survivors who fled for safety to the sanctuary of the Archangel Michael; all who could went inside the building: the rest climbed to the roof and stood there, thinking that would save their lives. The Latins merely set fire to them and burned the lot, together with the sanctuary…” (238)

Thus did the chant of the English Orthodox warriors, “Holy Cross! Holy Cross!” fall silent on earth. And thus did the Lord accept their sacrifice as a whole-burnt offering to Himself in heaven. “May Michael the standard-bearer lead them into the holy Light, which Thou didst promise of old to Abraham and his seed.” (239)




Returning, finally, to England, the scene towards the end of William`s reign in 1087 is one of almost unrelieved gloom. As Eadmer writes: “How many of the human race have fallen on evil days! The sons of kings and dukes and the proud ones of the land are fettered with manacles and irons, and in prison and in goal. How many have lost their limbs by the sword or disease, have been deprived of their eyes, so that when released from prison the common light of the world is a prison for them! They are the living dead for whom the sun – mankind`s greatest pleasure – now has set. Blessed are those who are consoled by eternal hope; and afflicted are the unbelieving, for, deprived of all their goods and also cut off from heaven, their punishment has now begun…” (240)


“Judgement begins at the House of God” (I Peter 4.17), and God`s judgement was indeed very heavy on the formerly pious English land, especially on the North, which had refused to help Harold and which was devastated with extraordinary cruelty by William. But then God takes His vengeance even on the instruments of His wrath (Isaiah 10.15). Thus when William was dying, as the Norman monk Ordericus Vitalis recounts, his conscience tormented for his deeds: “I appoint no one my heir to the crown of England, but leave it to the disposal of the eternal Creator, Whose I am, and Who ordereth all things. For I did not obtain that high honour by hereditary right, but wrestled it from the perjured King in a desperate battle, with much effusion of human blood; and it was by the slaughter and banishment of his adherents beyond all reason. Whether gentle or simple, I have cruelly oppressed them; many I unjustly disinherited; innumerable multitudes, especially in the country of York, perished through me by famine or the sword. Thus it happened: the men of Deira and other people beyond the Humber called in the troops of Sweyn, King of Denmark, as their allies against me, and put to the sword Rober Comyn and a thousand soldiers within the walls of Durham, as well as others, my barons and most esteemed knights, in various places. These events inflamed me to the highest pitch of resentment, and I fell on the English of the northern shires like a ravening lion. I commanded their houses and corn, with all their implements and chattels, to be burnt without distinction, and large herds of cattle and beasts of burden to be butchered wherever they were found. It was thus that I took revenge on the multitudes of both sexes by subjecting them to the calamity of a cruel famine; and by so doing – alas! – became the barbarous murderer of many thousands, both young and old, of that fine race of people. Having, therefore, made my way to the throne of that kingdom by many crimes, I dare not leave it to anyone but God alone, lest after my death worse should happen by my means…” (241)


But this confession evidently was not enough to expiate his guilt in the eyes of God. For, as Thierry writes, following ordericus Vitalis, the events surrounding his burial showed that the mark of Cain was on him still. “His medical and other attendants, who had passed the night with him, seeing that he was dead, hastily mounted their horses and rode off to take care of their property. The serving-men and vassals of inferior rank, when their superiors had fled, carried off the arms, vessels, clothes, linen, and other movables, and fled likewise, leaving the corpse naked on the floor. The king`s body was left in this situation for several hours… At length some of the clergy, clerks and monks, having recovered the use of their faculties, and collected their strength, arrayed a procession. Clad in the habits of their order, with crosses, tapers, and censors, they approached the corpse, and prayed for the soul of the deceased. The Archbishop of Rouen, named Guillaume, ordered the king`s body to be conveyed to Caen, and buried in the basilica of St. Stephen, the first martyr, which he had built in his lifetime. But his sons, his brothers – all his relatives – were afar off: not one of his officers was present – not one offered to take charge of his obsequies; and an obscure countryman named Herluin, through pure good nature, and for the love of God (say the historians), took upon himself the trouble and expense. He hired a cart and barge down the river, and by sea to Caen. Gilbert, Abbot of St. Stephen`s, with all his monks, came to meet the coffin; and was joined by many clerks and laymen; but a fire suddenly appearing, broke up the procession… The inhumation of the great chief – the famous baron – as the historians of the time all him – was interrupted by fresh occurrences. On that day were assembled all the bishops and abbots of Normandy. They had the grave dug in the church, between the altar and the choir; the mass was finished, and the body was about to be lowered, when a man rose up amid the crowd, and said, with a loud voice – `Clerks, and bishops, this ground is mine – upon it stood the house of my father. The man for whom you pray wrested it from me to build on it his church. I have neither sold my land, nor pledged it, nor forfeited it, nor given it. It is my right. I claim it. In the name of God. I forbid you to put the body of the of the spoiler there, or to cover it with my earth.` He who thus lifted up his voice as Asselin son of Arthur; and all present confirmed the truth of his words. The bishops told him sixty sols as the price of the place of sepulture only, and engaged to indemnify him equitably for the rest of the ground. On this condition it was the corpse of the vanquisher of the English was received into the ground dug for its reception. At the moment of letting it down, it was discovered that the stone was too narrow; the assistants attempted to force the body, and it burst. Incense and perfumes were burned in abundance, but without avail: the people dispersed in disgust; and the priests themselves, hurrying through the ceremony, soon deserted the church…” (242)




Many have believed that the Norman Conquest was good for England; for it was from that time that the country began her slow ascent to prominence and power in European and world affairs. However, `as Scripture points out, it is bastards who are spoiled, the legitimate sons, who are able to carry on the family tradition, are punished (Hebrews 12.8).” (243) As an Orthodox nation, England had been constantly stretched on the rack of suffering by successive waves of pagan invaders; as a fallen and heretical nation, while suffering what all men suffer through living in a fallen world, the English nevertheless did not suffer what the great Messianic Christian nations – the Jews of the Old Testament, the Greeks of the Byzantine Empire and under the Turkish yoke, the Russians to the present day – have suffered in bearing the cross of the true confession of faith. There were no more catastrophic defeats, no more successful invasions from abroad to rouse the people from their spiritual sleep. For “why should ye be stricken any more? Ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint…” (Isaiah 1.5)

For some time, the more sensitive of the English did indeed feel that they were spiritually bastards who had lost the family tradition of the Orthodox Church and kingdom. Thus an anonymous English poet wrote in the early twelfth century: “The teachers are lost, and many of the people, too.” (244) And as late as 1383 John Wyclif wrote: “The pride of the Pope is the reason why the Greeks are divided from the so-called faithful… It is we westerners, too fanatical by far, who have been divided from the faithful Greeks and the Faith of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (245)


But no action followed upon this correct intuition. Occasional appeals were made to what was thought to be the faith of the Anglo-Saxon Church. (246) But there was little consciousness of the fact that the Norman Conquest marked an ecclesiastical, as well as a political, revolution. For, as Edward Freeman wrote in his massive nineteenth-century history of the Norman Conquest, “so far from being the beginning of our national history, the Norman Conquest was the temporary overthrow of our national being.” Again, more recently R.H.C. Davies has written: “Apparently as the result of one day`s fighting (14th October 1066), England received a new royal dynasty, a new aristocracy, a virtually new Church, a new art, a new architecture and a new language.” (247)


England was now part of the great pseudo-Christian empire of the papacy, which, theoretically at least, had the power to depose her kings, close her churches (which it did in King John`s reign) and enrol her soldiers in crusades against the Muslims and Orthodox Christians around the world. Little was said or done about returning to union with the Orthodox. Even the visit of one of the Byzantine emperors to England to enlist English help in the defence of Constantinople against the Turks failed to arouse interest in the ancestral faith and church.