Stephen Langton

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Stephen Langton (d. 1228) Archbishop of Canterbury (1207-28) was an English theologian who had been active predominately in Paris when chosen by his friend, pope Innocent III to be Archbishop of Canterbury after a disputed election there. This was against the wishes of King John who preferred a man of less independent character; and become a continuation of the struggle between Crown and Church for the rights of clerical investiture.

The ensuing row between king and pontiff resulted in Stephen languishing in France for the next six years, the banishment of the monks who had supported him, the issuing of a papal interdict that banned most ecclesiastical services in England (1208-1213) and even the excommunication of the king himself – which was lifted by Stephen when he returned to Canterbury in 1213. A busy man and a brave one, he supported the barons in their struggle with John and was a major influence in the events that culminated in the Magna Carta in 1215.

He was committed to the ecclesiastical independence of the church in England and fought not only against attempted interference by the Crown, but decisions by the pope that he saw as diluting the “Englishness” of the institution. He was recalled to Rome in 1216, returned in 1218, and gave crucial support to the young king Henry III. His work in the next few years secured for the church the basis for many of the ecclesiastical freedoms it has subsequently enjoyed.

Reference: "Makers of the Realm" Arthur Bryant

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