The Archbishop of Canterbury is the most senior bishop of the state Church of England and of the worldwide Anglican Communion, outranking the other English archbishop, the Archbishop of York. His episcopal see is the Diocese of Canterbury and his episcopal chair ('cathedra') is at Canterbury Cathedral. He functions as the Metropolitan of the Province of Canterbury and as the Primate of All England. His see is considered one of the "five great sees," the others being York, London, Durham and Winchester. His diocese covers Eastern Kent. Like the incumbents of the other "great sees," the Archbishop of Canterbury is, ex officio, a member of the House of Lords.
Since Henry VIII broke with Rome the Archbishops of Canterbury have been selected by the English (latterly British) monarch. These days the choice is made in his or her name by the prime minister, from a shortlist of two selected by a committee of clergy and laity.
The current Archbishop of Canterbury, the 104th, is the Most Reverend Rowan Douglas Williams, previously Archbishop of Wales. Dr Williams succeeded Dr George Leonard Carey in 2003.
The first Archbishop of Canterbury was Saint Augustine who arrived in Kent in 597. He was appointed by King Ethelbert, on his conversion to Christianity, about the year 598. Since then the Archbishops of Canterbury have been referred to as occupying the Chair of St Augustine.
Before the break with Papal authority in the 16th Century the Church of England could also be understood as being part of the Roman Catholic Church. As an established national church it still considers itself part of the broader Western Catholic tradition and also the 'Mother Church' of the international Anglican Communion.
Before the invasion of England by the Saxons, the Christian Britons had three Archbishops, seated in London, York, and Caerleon, an ancient city of South Wales. The Archbishop of London became extinct when the Britons were driven out of eastern and southern Great Britain. When Pope Gregory the Great sent Augustine to convert the Saxons, the archbishopric was located at Canterbury, which was the capital of the Kingdom of Kent. King Ethelbert was baptised at Canterbury, and embraced the doctrines of Christianity before the rest of the Heptarchy. The Archbishopic of Caerleon was relocated to St David's in Pembrokeshire, and was later absorbed into the See of Canterbury.
The Archbishop of Canterbury exercises metropolitical (or supervisory) jurisdiction over the Province of Canterbury, which encompasses thirty of the forty-four dioceses of the Church of England. (The remaining fourteen dioceses, in northern England, fall within the Province of York.) Formerly, the four dioceses of Wales were also under the Province of Canterbury; in 1920, however, the Welsh dioceses transferred from the established Church of England to the disestablished Church in Wales.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has a ceremonial provincial curia, or court, consisting of some of the senior bishops of his province. The Bishop of London—the most senior cleric of the Church with the exception of the two Archbishops—serves as Canterbury's Provincial Dean, the Bishop of Winchester as Chancellor, the Bishop of Lincoln as Vice-Chancellor, the Bishop of Salisbury as Precentor, the Bishop of Worcestor as Chaplain and the Bishop of Rochester as Cross-Bearer.
The question of whether the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Archbishop of York should take precedence was once a cause of a long struggle. The dispute was temporarily resolved in 1071 after Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Thomas of Bayeaux , Archbishop of York, submitted the matter to the Pope. Pope Alexander II decided that Canterbury was to have precedence, and that future Archbishops of York would have to be consecrated by, and swear allegiance to, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
In 1119, however, the Archbishop-Elect of York, Thurstan, refused to acknowledge the pre-eminence of Canterbury. As a consequence, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Ralph d'Escures, refused to consecrate him. When Thurstan appealed to Rome, Pope Callixtus II not only personally consecrated him, but also issued a papal bull repudiating the supremacy of Canterbury. The matter was finally settled by Pope Innocent VI during the fourteenth century. Under Pope Innocent's arrangement, which lasts to this day, the Archbishop of Canterbury would be recognised as superior to the Archbishop of York. The former would be acknowledged as "Primate of All England", and the latter as "Primate of England". The pre-eminence of the Archbishop of Canterbury is acknowledged by an Act of Parliament passed during the reign of Henry VIII.
The Archbishop of Canterbury also has a precedence of honour over the other archbishops of the Anglican Communion. He is recognised as primus inter pares, or first amongst equals. The Archbishop of Canterbury, however, does not exercise any direct authority in the provinces outside England.
Style and privileges
Both the Archbishops of Canterbury and York are styled "The Most Reverend"; retired Archbishops as "The Right Reverend". Archbishops are, by convention, appointed to the Privy Council, and may therefore also use "The Right Honourable" for life. In formal documents, the Archbishop of Canterbury is referred to as "The Most Reverend Father in God, [Forenames], by Divine Providence Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of All England and Metropolitan". In debates in the House of Lords, the Archbishop is referred to as "The Most Reverend Primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury". "The Right Honourable" is not used in either instance. He may also be formally addressed as "Your Grace" - or, more often these days, simply as "Archbishop", "Father" or "Dr Williams" (in the current instance).
The surname of the Archbishop of Canterbury is not used in formal documents; only the forenames and see are mentioned. The Archbishop is legally permitted to sign his name as "Cantuar" (from the Latin for Canterbury). He shares the right to use only a title in the signature with the Archbishop of York, other bishops and Peers of the Realm.
In the order of precedence, the Archbishop of Canterbury is ranked above all individuals in the realm, with the exception of the Sovereign and Royal Family. Immediately below him is the Lord Chancellor, and only then comes the Archbishop of York.
The Archbishop of Canterbury's official residence in London is Lambeth Palace. Until the 19th century, the Archbishops also had major residences at Croydon Palace and then Addington Palace. The following Archbishops have died at Lambeth: Wittlesey, in 1375; Kemp, 1453; Dean, 1504; all buried in Canterbury Cathedral: Cardinal Pole, 1558, after lying in state here 40 days was buried at Canterbury; Parker, 1575, buried in Lambeth Chapel; Whitgift, 1604, buried at Croydon; Bancroft, 1610, buried at Lambeth; Juxon, 1663, buried in the chapel of St. John's College, Oxford; Sheldon, 1667, buried at Croydon; Tillotson, 1694, buried in the church of St. Laurence Jewry, London; Tennison, 1715; and Potter, 1747, both buried at Croydon; Seeker, 1768; Cornwallis, 1783, and Moore, 1805, all buried at Lambeth. In 1381, the Archbishop, Simon of Sudbury, fell a victim to Wat Tyler and his followers, when they attacked Lambeth Palace.
Last updated: 08-17-2005 13:58:20