St Anselm (1033-1109)

The most eminent thinker and theologian of his age

Born the son of a Lombard nobleman in 1033 in Aosta, in modern northern Italy, Anselm crossed the alps and, in search of learning, and aged 26 became a monk in the abbey of Bec, in Normandy.  Here, he became Lanfranc’s pupil, and rose to become the second Abbott (1078).  His writings , both theological and philosophical, were widely admired and respected.  When William II appointed him Archbishop of Canterbury (1093), Anselm, then aged 60,  accepted the post with great reluctance.  By the time he died in Canterbury in 1109, Anselm had established an unrivalled reputation as a scholar, thinker, and spiritual leader.  He was declared a ‘Doctor of the Church’ and canonised in 1720. He is buried in the chapel which bears his name.

What to see:

  • Anselm appears beside Cramner on the exterior wall of the south west porch (Image 1)
  • the modern window in Anselm’s chapel by H J Stammers – it includes the book Cur deus homo, a treatise by Anselm on incarnation (Image 2)
  • Anselm’s chapel also includes a modern icon showing Mary, Anselm and Lanfranc (Image 3) – this was a gift from the Abbey of Bec given in 1999 to mark the 50th anniversary of the re-founding of the abbey
  • the arms of Anselm appear in the lower windows of the Chapter House west end (Image 4

Sources:  see standard cathedral sources;  also Green (1995);  Knowles (1962);  Southern (1994);  and Ward (2003)