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Archbishop of Canterbury
Enthroned unknown
Reign ended 12 June 1020
Predecessor Alphege
Successor Æthelnoth
Consecration 1013
Personal details
Birth name Aelfstan
Died 12 June 1020
Buried Canterbury Cathedral

Lyfing (died 12 June 1020) was an Anglo-Saxon bishop of Wells and Archbishop of Canterbury.



Lyfing was born "Aelfstan" and took his ecclesiastical name from leof-carus (= "darling").

He was abbot of Chertsey Abbey from about 989.[1][2] He became Bishop of Wells in 998 or 999,[3] and in 1013 King Ethelred the Unready appointed him to the see of Canterbury.[4] Lyfing was taken captive by Vikings and held prisoner for a time, but he was released in time to attend the Witenagemot in 1014, and he started repairs of the damage the Vikings had done to Canterbury Cathedral.

Lyfing was unable to go to Rome for his pallium during King Ethelred's reign, for every bishop that was consecrated during the remainder of the king's reign was consecrated by Archbishop Wulfstan of York.[5] By 1018, however, he was named as archbishop, having returned to England from Rome with letters from Pope Benedict VIII.[6] As Archbishop of Canterbury, Lyfing crowned two English kings: Ethelred's son Edmund Ironside in 1016 and Canute the Great in 1017.[1] He seems to have gone to Rome on behalf of Canute at least once.[7]

He died on 12 June 1020.[4] He was buried in Canterbury Cathedral, near the altar of St. Martin.[1] The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle called him "a sagacious man, both before God and before the world".[8]


  1. ^ a b c Mason "Lyfing (d. 1020)" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  2. ^ Knowles, et al. Heads of Religious Houses p. 38, 244
  3. ^ Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 222
  4. ^ a b Fryde Handbook of British Chronology p. 214
  5. ^ Williams Æthelred the Unready p. 111
  6. ^ Brooks Early History of the Church of Canterbury p. 287-290
  7. ^ O'Brien Queen Emma and the Vikings p. 122
  8. ^ Quoted in Barlow, English Church 1000–1066 p. 66


  • Barlow, Frank (1979). The English Church 1000–1066: A History of the Later Anglo-Saxon Church (Second ed.). New York: Longman. p. 66. ISBN 0-582-49049-9.  
  • 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.  
  • 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). "Lyfing (d. 1020)" (fee required). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press.   Accessed 7 November 2007
  • O'Brien, Harriet. 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.  
  • Williams, Ann (2003). Aethelred the Unready: The Ill-Counselled King. London: Hambledon & London. ISBN 1-85285-382-4.  

External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Bishop of Wells
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Archbishop of Canterbury
Succeeded by


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