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Sigeric (archbishop)

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Archbishop of Canterbury
Term ended28 October 994
SuccessorÆlfric of Abingdon
Other post(s)Abbot of St Augustine's
Bishop of Ramsbury
Consecrationc. 985
by Dunstan
Personal details
Died28 October 994
BuriedChrist Church, Canterbury

Sigeric[a] (died 28 October 994) was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 990 to 994. Educated at Glastonbury Abbey, he became a monk there before becoming an abbot and then Bishop of Ramsbury before his elevation to the archbishopric. An account of his pilgrimage to Rome in 990 survives and is an important source for historians studying Rome during his lifetime.

While archbishop, Sigeric was faced with Viking invasions, and supported giving money to the invaders to deter their attacks. He also advised King Æthelred the Unready on religious foundations. Sigeric died in 994 and his will gave his books to Canterbury.

Early career[edit]

Sigeric was educated at Glastonbury Abbey, where he took holy orders. He was elected Abbot of St Augustine's in about 975 to 990,[2] and consecrated by Archbishop Dunstan as Bishop of Ramsbury in 985 or 986.[3] He was transferred to the see of Canterbury in 990.[4] He may have been a disciple of Dunstan's,[5] and some accounts state that it was Sigeric that changed the clergy at Christ Church, Canterbury from secular clerics to monks.[6]


Sigeric made the pilgrimage to Rome following the Via Francigena to receive his pallium in 990,[7] and a contemporary record of this journey still exists.[8] This work is essentially a group of entries on the itinerary written by an unknown member of the group accompanying the archbishop. It details in Latin the stay in Rome and the return journal to Canterbury. It is now in the British Library as a part of the Cotton Library as manuscript Tiberius B.V.[9] The manuscript mentions the 23 churches in Rome that were visited, a lunch with Pope John XV, and the stages of the return journey.[6] It is usually given the title the "Itinerary of Archbishop Sigeric".[10] The importance of the document lies in its information on the churches in Rome in the tenth-century.[11]

It was Sigeric who advised King Æthelred the Unready to pay protection money to the invading Danish king Sweyn Forkbeard in 991. Æthelred presented Sweyn with 10,000 pounds (4,500 kg) of silver, in response to which Sweyn temporarily stopped his invasions, though he later returned. Sweyn's ever-increasing demands in the following years resulted in a tax later known as the danegeld.[12]

In 994, Sigeric paid a sum of money to the Danes to protect Canterbury Cathedral from being burned.[8][13] In the same year, a diploma granting rights to the diocese of Cornwall and Bishop Ealdred of Cornwall stated that it was written by Sigeric, but it is unlikely that the document was actually written by the archbishop.[14] In 993 or 994, Sigeric conducted the ceremony rededicating the Old Minster at Winchester, an event that the historian H. R. Loyn calls "magnificent".[15]

While Sigeric was an abbot, Ælfric dedicated a book of translated homilies to him.[16] He also advised Æthelred to found Cholsey Abbey in Berkshire (the site is now in Oxfordshire), in honour of King Edward the Martyr, as well as having Edward memorialised at Shaftesbury Abbey.[6][17]

Death and legacy[edit]

Sigeric died on 28 October 994.[4] He was buried in Christ Church, Canterbury.[6] His will left wall hangings to Glastonbury Abbey[8] as well as a collection of books to Canterbury.[6]


  1. ^ Older sources occasionally use Siric.[1]


  1. ^ Magoun "Rome of Two Northern Pilgrims" Harvard Theological Review p. 268
  2. ^ Knowles, et al. Heads of Religious Houses pp. 35, 243
  3. ^ Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 220
  4. ^ a b Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 214
  5. ^ Knowles Monastic Order p. 50
  6. ^ a b c d e Mason "Sigeric" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  7. ^ Ortenberg "Anglo-Saxon Church and the Papacy" English Church and the Papacy p. 49
  8. ^ a b c Hindley Brief History of the Anglo-Saxons pp. 294–295
  9. ^ Magoun "Two Northern Pilgrims" Harvard Theological Review p. 269
  10. ^ Ortenberg "Archbishop Sigeric's Journey" Anglo-Saxon England p. 197
  11. ^ Ortenberg "Archbishop Sigeric's Journey" Anglo-Saxon England p. 200
  12. ^ Brooks Early History of the Church of Canterbury p. 282
  13. ^ Williams Æthelred the Unready p. 52
  14. ^ Chaplais "Royal Anglo-Saxon 'Chancery'" Studies in Medieval History pp. 41–51
  15. ^ Loyn English Church p. 14
  16. ^ Knowles Monastic Order in England p. 62
  17. ^ Williams Æthelred the Unready p. 36


  • 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.
  • Chaplais, Pierre (1985). "The Royal Anglo-Saxon 'Chancery' of the Tenth Century Revisited". In Mayr-Harting, Henry; Moore, R. I. (eds.). Studies in Medieval History Presented to R. H. C. Davis. London: Hambledon Press. ISBN 0-907628-68-0.
  • 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.
  • Hindley, Geoffrey (2006). A Brief History of the Anglo-Saxons: The Beginnings of the English Nation. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7867-1738-5.
  • Knowles, David (1976). The Monastic Order in England: A History of its Development from the Times of St. Dunstan to the Fourth Lateran Council, 940–1216 (Second reprint ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-05479-6.
  • Knowles, David; London, Vera C. M.; Brooke, Christopher (2001). The Heads of Religious Houses, England and Wales, 940–1216 (Second ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-80452-3.
  • Loyn, H. R. (2000). The English Church, 940–1154. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education. ISBN 0-582-30303-6.
  • Magoun, Francis Peabody (October 1940). "The Rome of Two Northern Pilgrims: Archbishop Sigeric of Canterbury and Abbot Nikolás of Munkathverá". Harvard Theological Review. 33 (4): 267–289. doi:10.1017/S0017816000018782. S2CID 162737009.
  • Mason, Emma (2004). "Sigeric (d. 994)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/25536. Retrieved 7 November 2007. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  • Ortenberg, Veronica (December 1990). "Archbishop Sigeric's Journey to Rome in 990". Anglo-Saxon England. 19: 197–246. doi:10.1017/S0263675100001666. S2CID 162252800.
  • Ortenberg, Veronica (1999) [1965]. "The Anglo-Saxon Church and the Papacy". In Lawrence, C. H. (ed.). The English Church and the Papacy in the Middle Ages (Reprint ed.). Stroud, UK: Sutton. pp. 29–62. ISBN 0-7509-1947-7.
  • Williams, Ann (2003). Aethelred the Unready: The Ill-Counselled King. London: Hambledon & London. ISBN 1-85285-382-4.

External links[edit]

Christian titles
Preceded by Bishop of Ramsbury
c. 985–990
Succeeded by
Preceded by Archbishop of Canterbury
Succeeded by