Wulfstan (died 956)

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For other uses, see Wulfstan (disambiguation).
Archbishop of York
Province York
Diocese Diocese of York
See Archbishop of York
Appointed 931
Term ended 26 December 956
Predecessor Hrotheweard
Successor Oscytel
Consecration 931
Personal details
Birth name Wulfstan
Died December 956
Oundle, Northamptonshire
Buried Oundle, Northamptonshire

Wulfstan (died December 956) was Archbishop of York between 931 and 952. He is often known as Wulfstan I, to separate him from Wulfstan II, Archbishop of York.


Wulfstan was consecrated in 931.[1] He was presumably appointed with the consent of King Æthelstan, and attested all of the king's charters between 931 and 935. Between 936-41, however, he was absent from the king's court, for unknown reasons.[2]

In 939, King Olaf Guthfrithson of Dublin invaded Northumbria and occupied York. King Edmund of England marched north to remove Olaf from York, but in 940 Wulfstan and Archbishop Wulfhelm of Canterbury arranged a treaty that ceded the area between Watling Street and the border of Northumbria to Olaf. But Olaf died in late 940, and his rule in York was inherited by his cousin, Olaf Sitricson who became King of Jórvík.[3] In 944, Olaf Sitricson and his co-ruler Ragnald Guthfrithson were driven out from York; the chronicler Æthelweard wrote that it was "Bishop Wulfstan and the eoldormen of the Mercians" who were responsible for their expulsion.[2]

Wulfstan's career is characterised by frequent swapping of allegiances, both among Viking leaders from Dublin and the Wessex kings. Perhaps Wulfstan played the part of 'king-maker' in Northumbrian politics in the mid-10th century, or perhaps he was guided by self-preservation and the interests of the Church in Northumbria.[4]

Later in 947 Wulfstan invited Erik Bloodaxe, the King of Orkney to become King of Jórvík. Eadred of Wessex brutally ravaged Northumbria in 948, forcing Eric to leave Northumbria. Olaf Cuaran then resumed his second reign at York. By 951, Wulfstan appears to have supported Erik's claim to the kingdom of York over Olaf as he ceased to witness charters at the English court.[4] In 952, Olaf was driven out by the Northumbrians in favor of Eric. Eadred then re-invaded and imprisoned Wulfstan.[2] The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle version D says that "because accusations had often been made to the king against him", Eadred arrested Wulfstan and took him to Iudanbyrig (the location of which is not known).[2] He attested some charters in 953, so he was not imprisoned then.[2] Although he was restored to episcopal office, he had to exercise his authority from distant Dorchester, 230 mi (370 km) from York. He appears not to have attended court for most of 956 and was possibly in failing health by then.[2] According to Lesley Abrams: "After the sidelining to the treacherous Wulfstan I, Oscytel, a kinsman of Oda, became Archbishop of York in 956.[5]

Wulfstan died at Oundle, Northamptonshire on 26 December 956[1] or 16 December 956.[2] He was buried at Oundle, where St Wilfrid had died nearly 250 years previously.[2]


  1. ^ a b Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 224
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Keynes "Wulfstan I" Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England
  3. ^ Stenton Anglo Saxon England p. 357
  4. ^ a b Downham "Viking Kings of Britain and Ireland"
  5. ^ Abrams, "Edgar and the Men of the Danelaw", p. 189


  • Abrams, Lesley (2008). "Edgar and the Men of the Danelaw". In Scragg, Donald. Edgar King of the English, 959-975. Woodbridge, UK: The Boydell Press. ISBN 978 1 84383 928 6. 
  • Downham, Clare (2007). Viking Kings of Britain and Ireland: The Dynasty of Ivarr to A.D. 1014. Edinburgh: Dunedin Academic Press. ISBN 978-1-903765-89-0. 
  • 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. 
  • Keynes, Simon (2001). "Wulfstan I". In Lapidge, Michael; Blair, John; Keynes, Simon; Scragg, Donald. The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Anglo-Saxon England. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. pp. 492–493. ISBN 978-0-631-22492-1. 
  • Osbourne, Michael (2009). Wilfrid of York and St Peter's Oundle. Coleman's. p. 9. 
  • Stenton, F. M. (1971). Anglo-Saxon England (Third ed.). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-280139-5. 

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Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Archbishop of York
Succeeded by