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Bishop of Selsey
Appointedc. 1039
Term ended1047
PredecessorÆthelric I
Personal details
BuriedChrist Church Priory Canterbury

Grimketel[b] (died 1047) was an English clergyman[c] who went to Norway as a missionary and was partly responsible for the conversion of Norway to Christianity. He initiated the beatification of Saint Olaf.[d] On his return to England he became Bishop of Selsey and also for a time Bishop of Elmham. He was accused, by some, of being guilty of simony.


Little is known of Grimketel's background.[5]

The Norwegian Viking Olaf Haraldson spent several years in England supporting Æthelred the Unready against the Danish King Cnut. While in England Olaf was in contact with many Christians who seemed to have influenced him into converting to Christianity. Olaf was baptised at Notre-Dame, Rouen in 1012. When Olaf returned to Norway, with the intention of restoring power to his family, he took a group of English priests and advisors with him. One of his principle advisors was Grimketel. Olaf became King of Norway and Grimketel became the Bishop of Nidaros.[e][6]

Olaf and Grimketel proclaimed the earliest Norwegian church laws in about 1020 at the Moster þing.[7] The structure of the law, devised by Grimketel, was similar to that of the laws in England at the time.[8]

Panel from Nidaros Cathedral showing Grimketel exhuming the body of Olaf and declaring him a saint.[d]

In 1028 an alliance of Olaf's countrymen and Cnut drove Olaf into exile.[8] Cnut installed his son Swein as ruler with his mother Ælfgifu of Northampton.[9] Sigurd was installed as Bishop of Nidaros, in Grimketel's place.[8] Then in 1030, Olaf returned from exile, and was killed by his country men at the Battle of Stiklestad while trying to reclaim his kingdom.[9] However, after about a year the people of Norway rejected Swein and installed Olaf's son as king. Grimketel was asked to go to Nidaros and officially declare the former king a saint.[d][8]

Cnut is said to have brought Grimketel back to England. Grimketel then stayed at Canterbury until he was appointed Bishop of Selsey in late 1038 or in 1039. He was bishop of Selsey at the time Stigand was bishop of the see of Elmham. .[f] Later authors claimed that Grimketel achieved the see of Selsey, as well as that of Elmham, through simony.[g] There was a simple reference to this episode in the earlier recension of the Worcester Chronicle, which, according to the historian Susan Kelly, was later elaborated with some unreliable detail; the revised version states that Grimketel bought the Elmham see (the words pro auro, "for gold" have been substituted for pro eo, "for him") and that Stigand became bishop of Selsey, which Kelly feels is not credible.[1][11]

According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle versions C, D, and E, Ælfric II, Bishop of Elmham died about Christmas 1038, and William of Malmesbury says that he was replaced by another Ælfric (Ælfric III), however in his chronicle, Florence of Worcester ignored Ælfric III, and has Stigand becoming Bishop of Elmham instead.[h] He then records that Grimketel replaced Stigand at Elmham, when the latter was deposed in 1043.[11]

Grimketel's name was on two royal writs concerning Bury St Edmunds namely S. 1069 and S. 1070, that support his appointment as Bishop of Elmham.[11][13] The first writ (S. 1069) is known to be authentic and is dated around 1043, the second writ is thought to be spurious.[12] Grimketel was then in turn deposed when Stigand was restored in 1044.[1][14] Susan Kelly says that it is not clear whether there is justification for the rumours identifying Grimketel as a simonist; however, the historian Frank Barlow feels that he did purchase the office from King Harold Harefoot.[11][15]

Grimketel died in 1047[a][16] and was buried at Christ Church Priory, Canterbury.[17]


  1. ^ a b The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle versions C and D suggests that Grimketel died in 1047, version E says 1045, and version F says 1046
  2. ^ Or Grimcytel; known as Grimkell or Grimkjell in Scandinavian texts and Grimcillus in Latin.
  3. ^ Some texts suggest that Grimketel was a Danish name and thus he would have been Danish. It is also possible that he may have been a monk.[1][2]
  4. ^ a b c Grimketel initiated the beatification of Olaf on 3 August 1031. This was before the time of the formal canonization process now in use.[3][4]
  5. ^ Nidaros is modern day Trondheim
  6. ^ The See of Elmham was also known as the See of East Anglia
  7. ^ John Ayliffe, in the 18th century, defined simony in canon law as " ..a deliberate act or a premeditated will and desire of selling such things as are spiritual, or of anything annexed unto spirituals, by giving something of a temporal nature for the purchase thereof; or in other terms it is defined to be a commutation of a thing spiritual or annexed unto spirituals by giving something that is temporal."[10]
  8. ^ In his lists of bishops of Elmham, Florence does list the second Ælfric.[12]


  1. ^ a b c Heron-Allen Selsey Bill Historic and Prehistoric p. 125
  2. ^ Armfelt "Ancient See of Trondhjem" Catholic Encyclopedia
  3. ^ Delehaye "Canonization" Encyclopædia Britannica pp. 192–193
  4. ^ Lindow "St Olaf and the Skalds" Sanctity in the North p. 106
  5. ^ Barlow English Church 1000–1066 p. 76
  6. ^ Iversen Divine Office in the Latin Middle Ages pp. 401-405
  7. ^ Sawyer Medieval Scandinavia p. 215
  8. ^ a b c d Fernandez Alvarez and Manrique Anton "Anglo Saxon Influence" Multidisciplinary Studies pp. 44-47
  9. ^ a b Lawson "Cnut" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  10. ^ Ayliffe Parergon Juris Canonici Anglicani p. 493
  11. ^ a b c d Kelly Charters of Selsey p. xciii
  12. ^ a b Harmer Anglo-Saxon Writs pp. 146-147
  13. ^ Whitlock Anglo Saxon Wills p. 182
  14. ^ Cowdray "Stigand" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  15. ^ Barlow English Church 1000–1066 p. 108
  16. ^ Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 221
  17. ^ Barlow English Church 1000–1066 p. 222


  • Ayliffe, John (1734). Parergon Juris Canonici Anglicani. London: Thomas Osborne.
  • Armfelt, Carl Gustaf (1912). "Ancient See of Trondhjem" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  • Barlow, Frank (1970). Edward the Confessor. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-01671-8.
  • Barlow, Frank (1979). The English Church 1000–1066: A History of the Later Anglo-Saxon Church (Second ed.). New York: Longman. ISBN 0-582-49049-9.
  • Cowdrey, H.E.J. (2004). "Stigand (d. 1072)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (May 2012 ed.). Oxford University Press. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  • Delehaye, Hippolyte (1911). "Canonization" . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 05 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 192–193.
  • Fernandez Alvarez, Pilar; Manrique Anton, Theodoro (2008). "Anglo Saxon Influence on the Earliest Norwegian Laws". In Rodríguez Sánchez, Gudelia J; García-Bermejo Giner, María Fuencisla (eds.). Multidisciplinary Studies in Language and Literature : English, American and Canadian. Salamanca: Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca. ISBN 978-8-4780-0339-6.
  • Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I. (1996). Handbook of British Chronology (Third revised ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-56350-X.
  • Harmer, Florence E. (1989). Anglo-Saxon Writs (Second ed.). Stamford, UK: Paul Watkins. ISBN 1-871615-02-X.
  • Heron-Allen, Edward (1911). Selsey Bill Historic and Prehistoric. London: Duckworth. OCLC 14065805.
  • Iversen, Gunilla (2000). Fassler, Margot E.; Baltzer, Rebecca A. (eds.). The Divine Office in the Latin Middle Ages: Methodology and Source Studies, Regional Developments, Hagiography. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-1951-2453-7.
  • Kelly, S. E., ed. (1998). Charters of Selsey. Anglo-Saxon Charters VI. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-726175-2.
  • Lawson, M. K. (2004). "Cnut (d. 1035)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Jan 2013 ed.). Oxford University Press.
  • Sawyer, Birgit; Sawyer, Peter (1993). Medieval Scandinavia: From Conversion to Reformation, Circa 800-1500. The Nordic Series. Vol. 17. Minneapolis, MN: University Of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-1738-4.
  • Lindow, John (2007). "St Olaf and the Skalds". In DuBois, Thomas (ed.). Sanctity in the North: Saints, Lives, and Cults in Medieval Scandinavia. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 978-0-8020-9130-7.
  • "S 1069". Electronic Sawyer. London: Kings College. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  • "S 1070". Electronic Sawyer. London: Kings College. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  • Whitelock, Dorothy, ed. (2011). Anglo-Saxon Wills. Translated by Whitelock, Dorothy (First paperback ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-40221-8.

External links[edit]

Christian titles
Preceded by Bishop of Selsey
c. 1039–1047
Succeeded by