PASE: Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England


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[Image: Durham Liber Vitae, folio 38r (extract)]

Stigand 5 Stigand, bishop of Chichester (1070–1087)

Author: SDB
Editorial Status: 3 of 5

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Stigand 5, bishop of Chichester, was a Norman whose name was Scandinavian in origin. The name was not widely used in Normandy, suggesting he may have been a kinsman of Stigand de Mézidon, Duke William’s steward in the later 1040s. According to John of Worcester, Stigand was a chaplain of Duke William, but he does not appear as a witness of ducal charters before 1066, or of royal documents in England before he became a bishop.

Stigand was one of seven appointments to the episcopal bench necessary after the purge of the English bishops in April and May 1070, and may have been consecrated immediately upon the deposition of Æthelric (d. in or after 1076), bishop of Selsey, on 24 May. Consecrated by Archbishop Stigand in 1058, Æthelric was a monk of Christ Church, Canterbury, and was very likely the Canterbury monk Ælric named in the Life of King Edward as a relative of Earl Godwine of Wessex and ‘a man active in secular business and endowed with much wisdom in the ways of the world, [but] none the less beloved [at Christ Church]’ (Barlow 1992: 31), who was elected archbishop by the chapter after the death of Archbishop Eadsige on 29 October 1050. Godwine pressed Ælric's case with Edward the Confessor, but the king instead translated his Norman friend Robert of Jumièges from London.

As bishop of Selsey, Æthelric witnessed a handful of charters either side of 1066 before being deposed by the papal legates in 1070 and (according to John of Worcester) placed under custody at Marlborough, where there was an important royal castle. In 1071 Pope Alexander II concluded that the case required further examination, referred it to Lanfranc, and instructed King William to reinstate the bishop in the meantime, a direction that was evidently ignored. However, later Canterbury tradition claimed that as ‘a very old man, most learned in the laws and customs of the English’, Æthelric was brought ‘at the king's command, in a cart’ to the trial, held on Penenden Heath in Kent, of a dispute between Archbishop Lanfranc and Bishop Odo of Bayeux, there to advise on the law (Bates 1998: no. 69). The date of the trial remains uncertain, but 1072 is generally regarded as probable. Although the wise old bishop in the cart has long been seen as a corroborative detail of how the trial was conducted, it has also been argued that Æthelric was added to Canterbury's version of the proceedings as a way of symbolizing the continuing validity of the pre-conquest law on which the archbishop's case rested. Æthelric died on 14 August in an unknown year, and was commemorated at Canterbury as Ægelric ‘bishop and monk’.

Æthelric was definitively deprived of his see only in 1076, and his continuing presence may well have complicated the activities of his successor. The key event in Stigand’s poorly documented career as bishop was his transfer of the episcopal seat from Selsey to Chichester, sanctioned in 1075. For his cathedral he took over an existing minster church dedicated to St Peter that was the mother church of the city. There had probably been links between earlier bishops and St Peter's, and the former minster's status was recognized in the new arrangements. The cathedral dean, as successor to its head, had rights in the city that might otherwise have been the bishop's; the canons' sixteen hides near Chichester were separate from the bishop's manors in 1086; and the successor parish of St Peter Subdeanery continued to worship within the cathedral until the nineteenth century.

Stigand's most important task was to embed himself in his new cathedral. Almost certainly he began rebuilding the church, to a plan that comprised a presbytery of three bays ending in an ambulatory flanked by three apsidal chapels, a crossing tower with north and south transepts, and a nave of eight bays with western towers. The building was small by the standards of the huge cathedrals planned by some of Stigand's episcopal colleagues, and the eastern parts, the crossing, and half the nave may have been completed in or soon after Stigand's time. The stone came from Quarr on the Isle of Wight, which could be brought by ship and barge almost to the building site.

There is some evidence that Stigand managed the bishopric's landed estate with great care. Æthelric had lost the two most easterly manors, Bexhill and Hazelhurst, which King William gave to William, count of Eu, as part of the castlery and rape of Hastings soon after the conquest. That left the bishop with just nine manors, assessed at one hundred and sixty-eight hides. Stigand was sparing in giving land away. Five of his clerks and priests (three with Norman names and two with English) were installed at Aldingbourne and Amberley with a total of fourteen hides, and fifteen of his knights (seventeen if there were two Geoffreys and two Williams) received fiefs of between one hide and five hides apiece. One of them, Ansfrid of Ferring, was very likely Stigand's steward, since he founded a family that served later bishops in that office. Three of the knights had English names, the rest were Normans. With one exception all beneficiaries were members of Stigand's household. The bishop so arranged his grants as to retain between two-fifths and nine-tenths of each manor, overall nearly two-thirds of the episcopal estates by hidage. There was a home farm on every manor, probably worked using heavy peasant labour services, since very few slaves were recorded. The bishop's manors were not rich in other resources, and perhaps his most significant asset was the urban property attached to several of the manors: thirty-five tenements in Chichester, six in Lewes, and five in Pevensey.

Stigand appears occasionally as a witness of authentic royal charters, including the primacy agreement of Whitsun 1072 issued at Windsor, a diploma for Bury St Edmunds issued at Winchester in May 1081, and a royal confirmation of William de Briouze's grants in Sussex to his Norman church, dating from some time after 1080. A royal writ of the 1080s concerning a grant to Battle Abbey was addressed to Bishop Stigand and all the barons of Sussex. The bishop's involvement in the church business of his diocese, and his presence at court during the major festivals, are entirely to be expected. More unusual, perhaps, is the fact that he was the second witness named in a writ dealing with a Wiltshire estate assigned to the monks of Winchester cathedral priory, especially since the archdeacon of Chichester was a witness too. That could indicate Stigand's close attendance on the king in some administrative capacity.

Royal support for a former chaplain was probably crucial for Stigand. His difficulties were not only those common to all the new bishops, steering a course between his English flock and the new Norman ruling class, and having to do so from a new diocesan seat, but in Sussex in particular he needed to negotiate relationships with several other powerful churchmen. The diocese of Selsey had often been precarious, partly because of its modest endowment, but also because it had sometimes been treated as a dependency of Winchester. Other powerful interests crowded around. The archbishop of Canterbury owned a huge estate at South Malling towards the eastern end of the diocese, besides several smaller manors near Chichester and a church inside the city. There was also the great independent collegiate church of Bosham, in the hands of Bishop Osbern of Exeter, while two major new Benedictine monasteries at Battle and Lewes were founded and endowed in Stigand's time, and may already have been chafing at episcopal authority, as they did later.

There is some evidence that Stigand was an active reformer in matters that affected both clergy and laity. In both cases his zeal brought him admonishing letters from Lanfranc. Stigand's efforts to discipline his diocesan clergy led him to require even the priests of the archbishop's churches in Sussex to attend his synods and be subject to his archdeacons. Lanfranc initially acquiesced, but when the archdeacons began extracting money from his priests he insisted that they no longer attend the synods but answer only to his own authority. As for the laity, Stigand's attempt to separate a woman from her husband for some matrimonial offence also led to Lanfranc's intervention, and to an appeal to Rome; the pope ordered a review of the case by the archbishop, who then wrote to Stigand instructing him to return the woman to her husband, pending further consideration.

Stigand died in 1087. He was replaced at once by another royal chaplain, Godfrey (d. 1088). Godfrey's only known action was to demand (in vain) the return of Bexhill from the count of Eu. He died on 25 September 1088 and was buried in the cathedral graveyard with a lead plaque in the form of a cross inscribed with a text granting him papal absolution for his sins. Its reference to Godfrey's ‘accusation’ suggests something quite specific.


Barlow 1992: Vita Ædwardi Regis qui apud Westmonasterium requiescit, ed. and trans. F. Barlow, The Life of King Edward Who Rests at Westminster, 2nd edn (Oxford, 1992)

Barlow 1979: F. Barlow, The English Church, 1066–1154: A History of the Anglo-Norman Church (1979)

Bates 1998: Regesta Regum Anglo-Normannorum: The Acta of William I (1066–1087), ed. David Bates (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998)

Cooper 2001: A. Cooper, ‘Extraordinary Privilege: the Trial of Penenden Heath and the Domesday Inquest’, English Historical Review 116 (2001), 1167–92

Clover and Gibson 1979: The Letters of Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, ed. and trans. H. Clover and M. Gibson (Oxford, 1979)

Darlington and McGurk 1995–8: The chronicle of John of Worcester, ed. R. R. Darlington and P. McGurk, trans. J. Bray and P. McGurk, 3 vols (Oxford, 1995–8)

Fernie 2000: E. Fernie, The Architecture of Norman England (2000)

Fleming 1993: R. Fleming, ‘Christ Church’s Brothers and Sisters’, The Culture of Christendom: Essays in Medieval History in Commemoration of Denis L. T. Bethell, ed. M. A. Meyer (1993), 115–53

Gem 1980: R. D. H. Gem, ‘Chichester Cathedral: When Was the Romanesque Church Built?’, Anglo-Norman Studies 3 (1980), 61–4

Kelly 1994: S. Kelly, ‘The Bishopric of Selsey’, Chichester Cathedral: An Historical Survey, ed. M. Hobbs (1994), 1–24

Lewis 2011: C. P. Lewis, ‘Stigand (d. 1087)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, general editor L. Goldman (Oxford, 2011) []

Mayr-Harting 1964: The acta of the bishops of Chichester, 1075–1207, ed. H. Mayr-Harting, CYS, 56 (1964)

Mayr-Harting 1963: H. Mayr-Harting, The bishops of Chichester, 1075–1207: biographical notes and problems (1963)

Okasha 1996: E. Okasha, ‘The Lead Cross of Bishop Godfrey of Chichester’, Sussex Archaeological Collections, 134 (1996), 63–9

Peckham 1946: The Chartulary of the High Cchurch of Chichester, ed. W. D. Peckham, Sussex Record Society 46 (1946)

S: P. H. Sawyer, Anglo-Saxon Charters: An Annotated List and Bibliography, Royal Historical Society Guides and Handbooks 8 (London, 1968), revised by S. Kelly, R. Rushforth et al., The Electronic Sawyer: Online Catalogue of Anglo-Saxon Charters, published online through Kemble: The Anglo-Saxon Charters Website, currently at

Tatton-Brown 1994: T. Tatton-Brown, ‘The Medieval Fabric’, Chichester Cathedral: An Historical Survey, ed. M. Hobbs (1994), 25–46

Winterbottom and Thompson 2007: William of Malmesbury, Gesta pontificum Anglorum, ed. and trans. M. Winterbottom and R. M. Thompson, 2 vols. (Oxford, 2007)

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