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Title: Jænberht  
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Subject: Nothhelm, Coenwulf of Mercia, John Peckham, Laurence of Canterbury, Stephen Langton
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Archbishop of Canterbury
Province Canterbury
Diocese Diocese of Canterbury
See Archbishop of Canterbury
Appointed before February 765
Term ended 12 August 792
Predecessor Bregowine
Successor Æthelhard
Consecration 2 February 765
Personal details
Died 12 August 792
Feast day 12 August
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church[1]
Canonized Pre-Congregation

Jænberht (also Jambert, Jaenbeorht,[1] Jænbert, Jaenberht or Jaenbert; died 792) was a medieval monk, and later the abbot, of St Augustine's Abbey, Canterbury who was named Archbishop of Canterbury in 765. As archbishop, he had a difficult relationship with King Offa of Mercia, who at one point confiscated lands from the archbishopric. By 787, some of the bishoprics under Canterbury's supervision were transferred to the control of the newly created Archbishopric of Lichfield, although it is not clear if Jænberht ever recognised its legitimacy. Besides the issue with Lichfield, Jænberht also presided over church councils in England. He died in 792 and was considered a saint after his death.

Early life

Jænberht was a monk at St Augustine's Abbey, Canterbury before being selected as abbot of that monastic house.[2] He came from a prominent family in the kingdom of Kent, and a kinsman of his, Eadhun, was the reeve of King Egbert II of Kent. Jænberht himself was on good terms with Egbert.[3]

Archbishop of Canterbury

Jænberht was consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury on 2 February 765,[4] at the court of King Offa of Mercia; this location implies that his election was acceptable to the king.[5] In 766, he received a pallium, the symbol of an archbishop's authority given by the papacy. At this time, Kent had been subjected by Offa; in 776, perhaps at the urging of Jænberht, Kent rebelled and secured its freedom.[6] In 780 and 781, Jænberht attended church councils at Brentford that were led by King Offa. Although initially on good terms with Offa, Jænberht's ties to Egbert were also strong: after the Battle of Otford, Egbert granted a number of estates to Christ Church. When Offa reasserted control over Kent, which occurred by 785 at the latest, he confiscated these lands and regranted to some of his thegns.[5]

Elevation of Lichfield

During Jænberht's term of office, a dispute arose between the see of Canterbury and Offa which led in 787 to the creation of the rival Archdiocese of Lichfield under Hygberht.[7] Originally, Offa attempted to bring the southern archbishopric of Canterbury to London, but when the papacy refused permission, Offa secured the creation of a third archbishopric in the British Isles. Lichfield was the main Mercian bishopric, and thus the new archbishopric was under Offa's control.[8] There were several reasons for the conflict between Jænberht and Offa. Jænberht's opposed Offa's deposition of the Kentish dynasty. They conflicted over land which they both claimed as theirs, and Jænberht refused to crown Offa's son Ecgfrith.[7] Problems were also caused by the archbishop minting his own coins at Canterbury.[9] Matthew Paris, writing in the thirteenth century, stated that Jænberht conspired to admit Charlemagne to Canterbury if he invaded Britain. This story may reflect a genuine tradition recorded at St Albans Abbey, where Paris was based, or it may be a fabrication to fill in details of Jænberht's life where Paris had no other information.[5] A rumour during Jænberht's reign also falsely claimed that Offa was plotting with Charlemagne to depose Pope Hadrian I; at least one modern historian, Simon Keynes, believes it possible Jænberht was behind the rumour.[6] Offa's eventual successor later admitted to the papacy that Offa's actions had been motivated by hatred of Jænberht and the Kentish people.[10]

In 787, Pope Hadrian sent a pallium to Hygberht of Lichfield, elevating Lichfield to an archbishopric, and Ecgfrith was crowned. There is no extant contemporary evidence, however, that Jænberht ever recognised Hygberht as an archbishop.[5][1] Canterbury retained as suffragans the bishops of Winchester, Sherborne, Selsey, Rochester, and London. The dioceses of Worcester, Hereford, Leicester, Lindsey, Dommoc and Elmham were transferred to Lichfield.[11]

Later life

Jænberht presided at a council held at London, sometime after the elevation of Lichfield, attended by most of the bishops from southern Britain.[12] Jænberht died on 12 August 792.[2][4] Jænberht was buried in the abbey church of St Augustine's Abbey in Canterbury.[2][6] Jænberht has since been revered as a saint, with a feast day of 12 August.[1]


  1. ^ The archbishopric at Lichfield was abolished after Offa's death, and was no longer an archdiocese by 803.[8]


  1. ^ a b c Farmer Oxford Dictionary of Saints p. 268
  2. ^ a b c Costambeys "Jænberht" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  3. ^ Yorke Kings and Kingdoms p. 43
  4. ^ a b Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 214
  5. ^ a b c d Brooks Early History of the Church of Canterbury pp. 113–120
  6. ^ a b c Keynes "Jænberht" Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England
  7. ^ a b Yorke Kings and Kingdoms pp. 116–117
  8. ^ a b Yorke Conversion of Britain p. 151
  9. ^ Hindley Brief History of the Anglo-Saxons p. 106
  10. ^ Witney "Period of Mercian Rule in Kent" Archæologia Cantiana p. 89
  11. ^ Kirby Earliest English Kings p. 144
  12. ^ Kirby Earliest English Kings p. 143


External links

  • Prosopography of Anglo Saxon England: Jænberht
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Archbishop of Canterbury
Succeeded by
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