Here is you best introduction to the man who owned Rising before and after the Conquest

Stigand – priest, bishop, opportunist
© Norman Fahy 2010

This study was prompted by the knowledge that Rising, a subordinate part of the Norfolk manor of Snettisham at the time of the Norman Conquest was recorded as such in the Domesday Survey of 1086 (Morris 1984: Castle Rising 2,4. Rising 8.35; 8,36) The manor was once held by Stigand, a notorious and controversial figure in the early medieval church who held the see, or bishopric, of East Anglia intermittently from 1040 before his elevation to Winchester in 1047.
So who exactly was Stigand and where did he come from? How do the early texts help us to trace his rise from confidant of key historical figures such as Cnut, Harold Harefoot and Edward the Confessor, to ‘usurper’ Archbishop of Canterbury, as famously depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry?
Stigand was born in Norwich c.990 (retrieved 29th August 2006 from stigand.htm) and seems to have first been favored for high office by the Danish king Cnut. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (p.155), henceforth referred to as ‘the Chronicle’, records Cnut’s arrival in England in 1020 and his subsequent journey to Assatun (Ashingdon, Essex), the scene of the great battle against Edmund Ironside in 1016. Following his victory, Cnut ordered a stone church to be built on the site for the souls of the men slain there. The church was given to Stigand along with the position of personal chaplain to the new king. As a young cleric in his mid-twenties, Stigand must have greatly impressed Cnut to have been granted such a position. And following the demise of Cnut, according to Barlow (p.32), Stigand continued as chaplain to Harold ‘Harefoot’. He obtained the see of East Anglia in 1040, but trouble lay ahead following the death of Harefoot’s successor Hardicanute.

The Chronicle (pp.162-3) inaccurately records the coronation of Edward, later to be known as ‘the Confessor’, and the promotion of Stigand to Elmham in 1043. Edward was actually crowned in 1042, by which time Stigand had already been bishop of Elmham for two years. The same text, however, correctly states that Stigand ‘was later deprived of his see and all his possessions confiscated by the king’. What was the cause of this sudden fall from grace? Stenton (2001, p.426) explains the reasons for the tension between King Edward and bishop Stigand in the autumn of 1043.
After the death of Edward’s father Æthelred, his mother Emma, daughter of Richard ‘the Fearless’, third Duke of Normandy, had married the Danish invader Cnut I. Upon the death of her only son from that union, Hardicanute, Emma had failed to promote her eldest son Edward as the preferred heir to the English throne. She was accused of inviting Magnus of Norway to invade England instead, and of and making her wealth available to him for the purpose, and not to Edward. However, Magnus had difficulties of his own to deal with at home, and was content to allow Edward to claim the throne unchallenged in 1042. The new king immediately expressed his displeasure with his mother by seizing all her property and landholdings. Stigand, who was Emma’s principal advisor at the time as well as bishop of Elmham, suffered the consequences of that connection by being temporarily relieved of his East Anglian bishopric. Again, the Chronicle (pp.165-7) is inaccurate in giving 1044 as the date of Stigand’s re-instatement as East Anglian bishop. He was actually re-united with his office in 1043.
Barlow (1988, p.32) refers to Stigand as head of Edward’s Scriptorium (Chancery) early in the king’s reign (1042-1066). He describes how, following the coronation of Edward, this ‘opportunist clerk’ was promoted to Elmham in 1043, then onwards to Winchester in 1047 (ibid pp.60-1). The date of his elevation to Winchester in 1047 concurs with other reliable sources.
One valuable primary source regarding Stigand’s history is Liber Eliensis (The Book of Ely, Fairweather 2005), henceforth referred to as ‘Liber’, the first three volumes of which span the period from the seventh to the twelfth centuries. The monastic texts chart many aspects of life from the time of Etheldreda, the saintly founder of the original monastery, through to 1072 when Thurstan, the last Saxon abbot died, and then onwards to 1107 when Richard Fitz Richard de Clare died as the last abbot of Ely. At that point, Ely was promoted to the status of cathedral. The Victorian scholar R.J. King (1862) lists the early bishops thus: Hervé (or Harvey) le Breton, who held the bishopric from 1109-1131, was followed by Nigel (1133-1190).

Confusingly, the first entry of interest in the Liber (ii, p.94) relates to the consecration of abbot Wulfric at Winchester by ‘Archbishop’ Stigand in 1045. At that date Stigand actually held Elmham only, and was yet to rise to Winchester and, ultimately, Canterbury. However, the next useful text (ibid, ii, p.98) reveals much about the character of this career-driven Saxon cleric. Abbot Wulfric of Ely died sometime after Stigand’s elevation to Winchester in 1047. Stigand promptly appointed himself abbot of Ely, thus adding to his expanding portfolio of abbacies which included Winchester, Glastonbury, St Albans and St Augustine’s at Canterbury – all of which must have earned him a large fortune.

Following his self-appointment as abbot at Ely, Stigand appears to have ruffled feathers in two ways. Firstly, the Liber reports that he prevented the monastery from ‘having pastors of their own’;this meant that he took upon himself the power of selection and dismissal – as would be later demonstrated by his appointment of Thurstan as abbot, despite the fact that the post had already been filled by the monks themselves. Thurstan was consecrated by Stigand sometime between the coronation of Harold in January and his death in October 1066 (ibid ii p.118). Secondly, he seized the church’s best properties for himself, an act which occasioned a severe financial loss to the religious community of Ely.

On the other hand, Stigand demonstrated extreme generosity towards those he sought to exploit. In the case of Ely, he donated various liturgical vessels of gold and silver which would later lost during William’s plunder of monastic treasure-houses. He also commissioned a large cross, plated with silver, and featuring a life-size figure of Christ flanked by bronze images of Mary and St John. Probably the greatest of his donations to Ely was a collection of ritual vestments. Apart from the alb – a plain, long, white shirt – the gift also included a hooded chorister’s cloak or cope. But the greatest treasure was without question the chasable – an over-garment which was universally renowned for its expense and decoration. This was inevitably removed to the Conqueror’s personal collection, never to be retrieved. Many other valuable items would also be taken away following Bishop Nigel’s elevation after 1133.

Stigand’s next promotion came courtesy of the dispute between King Edward and the powerful Godwin family which seems partly to have been prompted by the king’s favouring Norman clerics. Stenton (pp.465-6) discusses the events which unfolded in 1051 beginning with the elevation of Robert of Jumièges from his bishopric of London to Canterbury upon the orders of the Confessor. The Chronicle (pp.180-1) credits Stigand with helping to heal the subsequent rift between Edward and the exiled earl Godwin. Stenton (2001, p.568) points out that, at the time of his mediation in the exchange of hostages at the conclusion of this conflict, Stigand is regarded as bishop of Winchester and not Canterbury, so the mediation must have occurred before Stigand’s elevation to the archbishopric.

The return of Godwin on September 14th 1052 triggered a political move to purge England of the Norman influence in church matters which was exemplified by the removal of Archbishop Robert de Jumièges from Canterbury by the witana gemot or king’s council. (The newly-appointed bishop Ulf of Dorchester was similarly replaced by a Saxon cleric). The Chronicle entry for 1051 (pp.183-4) records how Archbishop Robert was outlawed and that bishop Stigand of Winchester succeeded him to the see of Canterbury whilst still holding his position at Winchester. This situation was met with universal condemnation by churchmen on the Continent and prompted complaints from the Duke of Normandy directly to Pope Leo IX. The exiled Robert headed to Rome to air his grievance and was officially re-instated to his see by the pope, but failed to make good his claim due to Saxon resistance. Leo summoned Stigand to Rome to face various charges of misconduct and finally excommunicated the false archbishop in his absence. Subsequent Popes Victor II and Stephen IX supported the judgement handed-down by Leo, but Robert never reclaimed his see, and returned to his native Jumièges and died on 26th May 1055 (retrieved 20th October 2003 from

Barlow (p.32) describes the various threads which would eventually combine to seal Stigand’s fate. Some years after his ‘acquisition’ of the see of Canterbury with the apparent blessing of Edward, Stigand applied to Benedict X in Rome for his appropriate sign of office – a simple white woollen shawl known as the pallium. However, upon the discovery that Benedict was also a usurper (i.e. the ‘anti-pope’, who unlawfully held the papal throne between 1058 and 1059), Stigand was widely discredited in the English church. His false elevation to Canterbury in 1053 is starkly recorded in the Chronicle (pp. 183-4): ‘In this year, there was no (lawfully constituted) archbishop in this land, although bishop Stigand occupied the see of Canterbury in Christ church.’

However, the same source for the year 1058 records the death of Pope Stephen and the subsequent consecration of Benedict in his place. It records that Stigand then consecrated Æthelric bishop of Sussex and, when Abbot Wulfric of St Augustine’s at Canterbury died, the king appointed Æthelsige to the abbey under the advice of Stigand. There may have been a sense of general disapproval based upon the number of bishops consecrated by Stigand; in fact he is credited as conducting just a single ceremony between 1052 and 1066, despite being in receipt of the pallium. Barlow (p.27) recounts that Stigand was not allowed to perform archiepiscopal functions for seven years (1059-1066) owing to papal displeasure, but was present at the death of the Confessor (ibid p.75).

The exclusion of Robert would give William of Normandy one more reason for invading England, apart from his claim to the throne. Following Benedict’s expulsion, both Popes Nicholas II and Alexander II supported Stigand’s state of excommunication and it was Alexander who in 1066 eventually gave William Duke of Normandy support in his campaign for the English throne.
The Saxon cleric is famously depicted on the Bayeux tapestry conducting the coronation of Harold in 1066. However, Harold, mindful of Stigand’s discredited position at Canterbury, decided instead to be crowned by a safer bet, Archbishop Ældred of York. Therefore the coronation scene may be interpreted as a blatant propaganda exercise on the part of the Normans (Humble p.200).
Alternatively, Stigand may be shown as simply ‘presenting’ the sovereign-elect in a ceremony known as collaudatio on the 6th January 1066 (Brooke p.34).
However, the Norfolk ecclesiologist Paul Jefferies has keenly observed that Stigand is dressed as an ordinary priest in the Bayeux depiction (see Appendix 1) (Fig.1). Any, interpretation of this image today cannot alter the events which led to and included the Battle of Hastings on 14th October of that year.
The figure missing from the panel is Ældred, Archbishop of York, who actually performed the consecration. Stigand was in a state of disgrace, having little regard for the ‘new order’ at Rome and seemingly oblivious to the disapproval of his fellow English churchmen towards his pluralism (Stenton pp.465-6). Barlow (pp.60-1) highlights an interesting irony. Stigand’s acquisition of Canterbury, and his obvious ‘pluralism’ regarding the retention of multiple ecclesiastical finances, caused embarrassment to both Edward the Confessor and Harold Godwinson. However, Ældred, the archbishop of York who is credited in various primary sources as crowning Harold, was in fact equally pluralistic, holding both the archbishopric of York and bishopric of Worcester.

Barlow (p.79) also accurately pin-points events which led to the conquest; the Norman abhorrence of the coronation of Harold was aggravated by the efforts of Gilbert, archdeacon of Lisieux, who reminded William of Edward’s promise of the English crown in 1051-2, and of Harold’s oath to that effect given upon holy relics in 1064-5. (Gilbert is also credited as making a great issue regarding the consecration of Harold by the discredited and excommunicated Stigand.) Taking advice, William helped secure the Pope’s support for his claim by promising resumption of the papal tax known as ‘Peter’s Pence’ or Romescot.

Stenton (p.586) elaborates upon the subsequent complaints presented by William to Rome. Pope Alexander II judged in favour of the Norman cause and sent the papal banner as a sign of his support. Rome hoped that a Norman invasion would result in an improvement in the conduct of English church matters, and expedite the expulsion of the errant Archbishop of Canterbury. Following the Battle of Hastings, Stigand’s opportunistic nature is clearly illustrated during William’s advance towards London via Wallingford, near Oxford. The cleric originally led the Æthling forces opposing the Norman vanguard but, perhaps predictably, suddenly switched sides.

Bearing in mind William’s exploitation of the expulsion of Robert to gain papal approval for his expedition, it is surprising indeed that Stigand maintained his erroneous position at Canterbury following the conquest. Barlow (p.87) observes that William the Conqueror not only retained Stigand as Archbishop, but also entrusted him as one of his court advisors. After the conquest, Stigand was even allowed to consecrate Remigius as bishop of Dorchester in 1067 (ibid p.597). Clearly, the Conqueror recognised how much influence Stigand held over his countrymen and, despite the usurper’s position chose to retain him, probably with the policy of ‘retention equated to stability’ in mind.

Events following the conquest are carefully recorded by the Ely Liber (ii p.101); for instance how William, like Harold before him, preferred to be consecrated at Westminster by Ældred, Archbishop of York, rather than Stigand, and how the invading Normans showed great cruelty against the conquered English. The Liber also describes how William replaced Saxon churchmen with chosen Normans and how he ordered all monasteries to be searched and relieved of their wealth, and the proceeds to be deposited in his personal treasury.

The Chronicle (p.200) graphically describes the coronation of William in 1066 and recounts how, in the spring of the following year, the Conqueror returned to Normandy accompanied by his errant Archbishop, together with Æthelnoth (abbot of Glastonbury), prince Edgar (Atheling) and earls Edwin, Morcar, and Waltheof, along with various other members of the Saxon nobility. Stenton (p.623) adds that in that year Stigand was co-signatory together with other Saxon earls of various important charters in agreement with Norman nobles such as the Conqueror’s half-brothers Odo of Bayeux and count Robert of Mortain, as well as Geoffrey of Coutances and earl Fitz Osbern. Douglas’ analysis of Norman social classification before and after 1066 (1999 p.45) reveals that after the Conquest Stigand not only held the position of archbishop but was also recognised as dapifer or steward to King William. During Stigand’s awkward time in office, he was even allowed to consecrate Remigius as bishop of Dorchester. But, despite the appearance of Saxon compliance with Norman rule, Stenton (ibid p.624) describes how William witnessed a rebellion in church matters in the shape of Æthelwine of Durham.
Liber (ii p.113) recounts how upon the death of abbot Thurstan, William sent orders that Ely should be stripped of its riches and that the spoils be placed in his own treasury; this included the hoard of silver and gold found near the monastery at Wentworth, together with the outstanding vestments donated by Stigand as described above. Following this plunder the king then summoned Theodwine Gemesciens from Normandy and appointed him abbot of Ely. However, upon his appointment the Norman cleric demanded that all the treasures previously taken from Ely be returned before he would accept the abbacy. This was done, but Stigand’s vestments were never returned.
Before 1066, Stigand held many lands and was designated king’s thegn of numerous manors in southern and eastern England (retrieved 1st October 2006 from ) but afterwards was relieved of many holdings and some passed to William’s half-brother Odo (Bishop of Bayeux and Earl of Kent). Amongst the various lands which once delivered regular tithes to Stigand was the manor of Snettisham, of which Rising was classed as beurite or outlying part.
Stenton (p.659) describes how in 1069 William alerted Rome to Stigand’s pluralism together with that of other clerics; but it was probably the death of Ældred of York which initiated the Pope’s actions to reclaim Canterbury. The subsequent council representing Alexander II in 1070 was presided over by Ermenfrid, bishop of Sion, accompanied by two cardinals. It seems Stigand’s deposition (ibid p.660) was part of a wider remit of the Papal legates and that his fate was accurately predicted. He offered no defence but, according to Stenton (ibid p. 624), the deposed cleric accused King William of ‘bad faith’.

Liber (ii 101) records how the council of Winchester not only demoted Stigand from his position at Canterbury, but also his brother Æthemaer who had succeeded him as bishop of East Anglia. It also recounts that many Saxon abbots were replaced by Norman clerics, and how a specific group were relieved of their honours and sentenced to life imprisonment. The same source (ii 103) illustrates a vivid sequence of events. Stigand was on the run from William, fleeing from place to place and hiding wherever he could. Eventually, he made his way to Ely with the entire contents of his own treasury. Knowing how much danger he was in, Stigand secretly instructed Ecgfrith, abbot of St Alban’s, to join him, bringing the saint’s relics and the church treasures, until the outcome of Stigand’s trial was revealed.

Along with two monks of his order, Ecgfrith did as instructed and placed the bier of St Alban in a small church in Ely where it lay for almost six months. Stigand was inevitably deposed from Canterbury and Lanfranc appointed as his replacement. In his turn, Ecgfrith was also deposed of his abbacy of St Alban’s, to be replaced by Paul. Clearly embittered, Ecgfrith felt his best form of revenge would be to hit the Norman church authorities hardest by removing the very economic essence of St Alban’s abbey, namely the relics. Ecgfrith and Thurstan eventually reached an agreement stating that the remains of St Alban should be laid alongside those of St Ethelthryth, founder of Ely. The translation was performed to large crowds and with great ecclesiastical ceremony.
Bevan (1908, p.87) sums up Stigand’s two final years;
‘At William's request, in 1070 the Papal Legates were sent to England, and brought the following charges against Stigand: that he had usurped the Archbishopric during the lifetime of Robert, and used his pallium ; that he had received his own pallium from an anti-pope ; and that he had retained the Bishopric of Winchester after his appointment to Canterbury. Stigand was condemned, deprived of his dignities, and imprisoned at Winchester, where he died in 1072’.
Finally, Stenton (p.661) concurs with Bevan and recounts that both Stigand and his brother Æthemaer, bishop of Elmham, were relieved of their positions without any reason being given in the official records. The same source (ibid) also remarks upon various references to Stigand’s subsequent imprisonment and death in 1070, counter to the documentary evidence of Annales Monastici (Rolls Series. ii, pp. 29, 30.) which records his death in 1072, a date which clearly accords with the Ely record of the demise of this great opportunist.


Barlow, F., 1988. The Feudal Kingdom of England 1042 – 1216. Longman. London.

Bevan, G. M.,1908. Portraits of the Archbishops of Canterbury. A.R. Mowbray & Co. Ltd. Oxford.

Brooke, C., 1973. The Saxon and Norman Kings. Fontana/Collins.

Douglas, D. C., 1999. William the Conqueror. Yale.

Fairweather, J., (trans.) 2005. Liber Eliensis. Boydell & Brewer. Woodbridge. Suffolk.

Garmonsway, G.N., (trans.) 1978. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Dent. London.

Humble, R., 1980. The Saxon Kings. Book Club Associates. London.

King, R.J., 1862. Handbook to the Cathedrals of England. John Murray. Albemarle Street, Ely.

Morris, J. (ed.), 1984. Domesday Book (Norfolk). Vols. 1 & 2. Phillimore. Chichester.

Stenton, F.M., 2001. Anglo Saxon England. Oxford.


I wish to thank Julie Thorne for her generous contribution in editing the original draft of this work.

Appendix 1.
Pers. Comm. Paul Jefferies (16th February 2006): ‘I can only add this to your query about Stigant which seems to prove the point made about the absent mitre. Mass vestments evolved slowly from everyday wear in Rome. The chasuble began life as a slave's poncho-like raincoat, the alb was a basic long T-shirt, maniple and stole were waiter's napkins or towels. When secular fashions changed by the twelfth century, vestments became stylised, made of silk and adorned with braids and jewels, and assumed their more medieval form. Bishops, if they wore any distinguishing headgear from an ordinary priest, wore a white linen head-dress similar to that of the old Jewish temple priests. By medieval times this had become the pointed horned mitre we know today. The cope was originally just a long outdoor cloak, and remains today clerical wear for outdoor processions. Stigant, with his clerical tonsure, is shown vested for Mass as an ordinary priest. Note his maniple in one hand and the archaic pose of the “orans” position, the ancient Roman attitude of prayer as seen in the catacombs.

Sadly, Paul Jefferies died unexpectedly on Sunday 7th of January 2007.