The Archbishops of Canterbury


The Archbishops of Canterbury, A Tale of Church and State by John Butler.

The office of Archbishop of Canterbury is the oldest continuous institution in Britain – older than the English crown and much older than parliament. For over fourteen hundred years, from Augustine in the 6th century to Justin in the 21st, successive Archbishops have been caught up in the profound transformation of the country from a collection of feudal Saxon kingdoms ruled by warrior kings to a modern industrial state with a democratic parliament and an established Church. Theirs is a story of faith and power, wisdom and folly, high principle and craven self-interest. The names of some are etched deeply into English and European history: Augustine, Dunstan, Lanfranc, Becket, Anselm, Langton, Cranmer, Pole, Laud. Others have long since faded from the nation’s memory: Tatwine, Ethelnoth, Sigeric, Islip, Grindal, Abbot, Herring, Hutton.
Over the centuries, three Archbishops of Canterbury have been executed by the state and a further two have met violent deaths at the hands of lawless mobs. Some have held office for decades, others for only a few days. Almost all have had to confront the profound tension between on the one hand their responsibility to lead the Church and proclaim the gospel, and on the other their obligation to serve the interests of the state and its rulers. Some Archbishops have managed the tension with courage and skill, others have been overwhelmed by it. This is the story of them all - the great and the good, the timid and the weak, the brave and the strong, the vain and the humble. All have helped, in some degree, to shape the destiny of the English Church and all deserve to have their lives acknowledged.

John Butler is an emeritus professor at the University of Kent and a guide at Canterbury Cathedral. He is the author of the acclaimed The Quest for Becket’s Bones and the prize-winning The Red Dean of Canterbury.

112 pages softback with colour illustrations throughout. 9.5 x 7.5" / 24 x 19.5 cms.



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