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Saint Wulfstan
Born 1008, Long Itchington, Warwickshire
Died 1095, Worcester, Worcestershire
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church; Anglican Communion
Canonized 14 May 1203 by Pope Innocent III
Major shrine Worcester Cathedral (destroyed)
Feast 19 January
Attributes Bishop
Patronage vegetarians and dieters
Denomination Catholic
Senior posting
See Diocese of Worcester
Title Bishop of Worcester
Period in office 1062–1095
Predecessor Ealdred
Successor Samson
Religious career
Previous post Prior of Worcester
Date of birth 1008
Place of birth Long Itchington, Warwickshire
Date of death January 1095

Saint Wulfstan (? – 20 January 1095) (sometimes Wulfstan II, also known as Wolstan, Wulstan and Ulfstan), Bishop of Worcester, was the only bishop who maintained his office under William the Conqueror after the Norman conquest. Wulfstan is a Christian saint.



His denomination as Wulfstan II is to indicate that he is the second Bishop Wulfstan of Worcester. This, however, does not prevent confusion, since the first Bishop Wulfstan is also called Wulfstan II to denote that he was the second Archbishop of York called Wulfstan. To make matters worse, Wulfstan II, Archbishop of York, was the maternal uncle of Wulfstan II, Bishop of Worcester.


Wulfstan was born about 1008 at Long Itchington in the English county of Warwickshire.[1] His family lost their lands around the time King Cnut of England came to the throne.[2] He was probably named after his uncle, Wulfstan II, Archbishop of York. Through his uncle's influence, he studied at monasteries in Evesham and Peterborough, before becoming a clerk at Worcester. During this time, his superiors, noting his reputation for dedication and chastity, urged him to join the priesthood. Wulfstan was ordained shortly thereafter, in 1038, and soon joined a monastery of Benedictines at Worcester.

Wulfstan served as treasurer and prior of Worcester.[3] When Aldred, the bishop of Worcester as well as the Archbishop of York, was required to relinquish Worcester by Pope Nicholas, Aldred decided to have Wulfstan appointed to Worcester. In addition, Aldred continued to hold a number of the manors of the diocese.[4] Wulfstan was consecrated Bishop of Worcester on 8 September 1062,[5] by Aldred, the Archbishop of York. It would have been more proper for him to have been consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, whose province Worcester was in.[4] Wulfstan was a confidant of Harold Godwinson, who helped secure the bishopric for him.[6]

A social reformer, Wulfstan struggled to bridge the gap between the old and new regimes, and to alleviate the suffering of the poor. After the Norman conquest of England, Wulfstan was the only bishop allowed to keep his old post by William I of England. William noted that pastoral care of his diocese was Wulfstan's principal interest.

In 1072 Wulfstan signed the Accord of Winchester. In 1075, Wulfstan and the Worcestershire levy put down the rebellion known as 'The Bridal of Norwich' of Ralph de Guader, Earl of Norfolk, Roger de Breteuil, 2nd Earl of Hereford and the Saxon Waltheof, Earl of Northumbria, against William the Conqueror.

Wulfstan founded the Great Malvern Priory, and undertook much large-scale rebuilding work, including Worcester Cathedral, Hereford Cathedral, Tewkesbury Abbey, and many other churches in the Worcester, Hereford and Gloucester areas. After the Norman Conquest, he claimed that the Oswaldslow, a "triple hundred" administered by the bishops of Worcester, was free of interference by the local sheriff. This right to exclude the sheriff was recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086. Wulfstan also administered the diocese of Lichfield when it was vacant between 1071 and 1072.[7]

As bishop, he often assisted the archbishops of York with consecrations, as they had few suffragan bishops. In 1073 Wulfstan helped Thomas of Bayeux consecrate Radulf as Bishop of Orkney, and in 1081 helped consecrate William de St-Calais as Bishop of Durham.[4]

Wulfstan was responsible for the compilation by Hemming of the second cartulary of Worcester.[8] He was close friends with Robert Losinga, the Bishop of Hereford, who was well known as a mathematician and astronomer.[7]

Wulfstan died 20 January 1095 after a protracted illness.[9] After his death, an altar was dedicated to him in Great Malvern Priory, next to Cantilupe of Hereford and King Edward the Confessor.

At Easter of 1158, Henry II and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine visited Worcester Cathedral and placed their crowns on the shrine of Wulfstan, vowing not to wear them again.

Soon after Wulfstan's death, a hagiography, or saint's life, was written about him in English by his former chancellor Colman. It was translated into Latin by the medieval chronicler and historian William of Malmesbury.[10] Wulfstan was canonized on 14 May 1203 by Pope Innocent III.[3] One of the miracles attributed to Wulfstan was the curing of King Harold's daughter.

Notable dedications

St Wul(f)stan's is the name of several notable churches:

In popular culture

On screen, Wulfstan was portrayed by actor Michael Rose in the two-part BBC TV play Conquest (1966), part of the series Theatre 625.


  1. ^ Walsh A New Dictionary of Saints p. 631
  2. ^ Fleming Kings & Lords p. 41
  3. ^ a b British History Online Bishops of Worcester accessed on 3 November 2007
  4. ^ a b c Williams English and the Norman Conquest p. 150
  5. ^ Powicke Handbook of British Chronology p. 260
  6. ^ Fleming Kings & Lords p. 79
  7. ^ a b Williams English and the Norman Conquest p. 149
  8. ^ Williams English and the Norman Conquest p. 145
  9. ^ William of Malmesbury, Saints' lives: Lives of SS. Wulfstan, Dunstan, Patrick, Benignus and Indract. 2002. pp 141–3.
  10. ^ Williams English and the Norman Conquest p. 170


  • Attwater, Donald and Catherine Rachel John. The Penguin Dictionary of Saints. 3rd edition. New York: Penguin Books, 1993. ISBN 0-140-51312-4.
  • British History Online Bishops of Worcester accessed on 3 November 2007
  • Fleming, Robin (2004). Kings & Lords in Conquest England (Reprint ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-52694-9.  
  • Mason, Emma St. Wulfstan of Worcester, 1008–95
  • Powicke, F. Maurice and E. B. Fryde Handbook of British Chronology 2nd. ed. London:Royal Historical Society 1961
  • Walsh, Michael A New Dictionary of Saints: East and West London: Burns & Oates 2007 ISBN 08601-2438-X
  • William of Malmesbury. The Life of St Wulstan
  • Williams, Ann (2000). The English and the Norman Conquest. Ipswich: Boydell Press. ISBN 0-85115-708-4.  

External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Bishop of Worcester
Succeeded by


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