The Anglo-Norman Territories


The Anglo-Norman Church


Font, limestone, Magneville  (Manche), 11-12th c.The baptism of the Viking chief Rollo is generally considered to mark the birth of Normandy. The leader of the Normans, a duke from the beginning of the 11th century, a king after 1066, always relied on ecclesiastical institutions. From their accession to power the former pagan leaders had favoured and restored the most important sanctuaries of the Norman church. Their successors reorganised the dioceses. The princes, but also lords of lesser standing, gave their support to monastic orders which they helped to restore destroyed abbeys or to establish new foundations. The Dukes of Normandy attracted to their entourage the greatest religious authorities of their time, but they also kept control of an institution of which the members were not all exemplary as priests.

On becoming King of England, under the protection of the banner of St Peter, the Duke of Normandy was determined to keep ecclesiastical organisation under his control. This situation was the source of numerous confrontations between the king and the pope. Under the duke-king’s authority and in support of his interests, the Anglo-Norman church became powerful and respected. It participated in the division of populations into parishes and it was the pioneer of the progress manifested with such brilliancy in architecture, the arts and culture. The cathedrals and monasteries erected in England express the power of the conquerors without succeeding in totally effacing the ancient beliefs of the insular church while at the same time, there appeared and developed new religious ideas as part of the constant search for reform which would realise the Christian ideal.

The princes of the Church
Monks and monasteries
The parish
Bishops, saints and pilgrims
The Monastic revival in Anglo-Norman England
Parishes and parish churches in Anglo-Norman England

previous page  The Anglo-Norman Territories  next page