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Æthelnoth (archbishop of Canterbury)

Æthelnoth[a] (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.

Archbishop of Canterbury
Term ended1038
Other postsDean of Canterbury
Consecration13 November 1020
Personal details
Died28, 29, 30 October or 1 November 1038
BuriedCanterbury Cathedral
ParentsÆthelmær the Stout
Feast day30 October
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church[1] Eastern Orthodox Church


Early lifeEdit

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 CanterburyEdit

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 legacyEdit

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. ^ Also Ethelnoth, Ednoth, or Eadnodus[2]


  1. ^ a b c d Walsh New Dictionary of Saints p. 184
  2. ^ a b c Farmer Oxford Dictionary of Saints p. 181
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Mason "Æthelnoth" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  4. ^ Barlow Godwins p. 21
  5. ^ Knowles, et al. Heads of Religious Houses p. 33
  6. ^ a b c d 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. ^ a b Brooks Early History of the Church of Canterbury pp. 290–298
  11. ^ Stenton Anglo-Saxon England p. 463
  12. ^ a b 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. (ed.). 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.

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