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Thomas of Bayeux
(Died 1100)

Archbishop of York
Died: 18th November 1100


Thomas of Bayeux was the first Norman Archbishop of York. His father was a priest; and Thomes, with his brother Sampson who afterward became Bishop of Worcester, were taken under the protection of Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, by whom they were sent to study at Liege and elsewhere. Thomas accompanied Odo to England, where he was made one of the King's chaplains and was raised, in 1070, to the Archiepiscopal See of York. He was appointed at Easter, but could not be consecrated until after Lanfranc, in August of the same year, became Archbishop of Canterbury.

Thomas made a vain attempt to preserve the independence of his see, but was compelled to promise subjection to Lanfranc himself, though not to his successors. In 1071, both Archbishops went to Rome to receive their palls, accompanied by Remigius, Bishop of Dorchester-on-Thames (he afterwards removed the centre of the see to Lincoln). At Rome, and afterwards in England, the controversy between York and Canterbury was duly considered. At a synod held in the presence of the Conqueror, it was settled that the Humber should be the southern boundary of the Province of York. The northern archbishops should swear allegiance to Canterbury and should be consecrated in Canterbury Cathedral. Worcester also, which for a short time had been subjected to York, was for the future subordinated to Canterbury.

Archbishop Thomas had found his new archdiocese still suffering from the devastation inflicted on it by the Conqueror. Much of the city of York, including the Minster, with its famous library, had been destroyed by fire and every monastery in the north had perished. Thomas rebuilt his cathedral and remodelled its Constitution. The number of canons had hitherto been seven. They were now increased and instead of an "Abbas," as their superior had been called, a dean was appointed. The Archbishop supported and assisted the restoration of Whitby Abbey and St. Mary's at York; Benedictine houses, which had become ruinous and deserted.

Archbishop Thomas was present, in 1075, at the Council of London and at the funeral of Lanfranc, at Canterbury, in 1089. He officiated, occasionally, in the southern province during the vacancy (1089-1093) between the death of Lanfranc and the appointment of Anselm and consecrated the latter prelate; first insisting that the words "Primate of all England," inserted in Anselm's petition for consecration should be removed. The words "Metropolitan of Canterbury" were accordingly substituted. Although Malmesbury and some other chroniclers assert that Thomas crowned King Henry I, the real facts, as recorded by Hugh the Chantor, were that Henry, fearing delay, caused himself to be crowned by certain of the southern bishops before Thomas could reach him. The Archbishop paid his homage and returned at once to York, where he died in November of the same year, 1100. He was subsequently buried in his cathedral there.

Malmesbury describes him as of noble presence, of great excellence of life and possessed of very unusual learning. He was also an excellent Musician and the verses on the tomb of the Conqueror were composed were composed by him.

Edited from Richard John King's "Handbook to the Cathedrals of England: Northern Division" (1903).

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