Church of England Diocese of Guildford Dunsfold


11 Apr 2020, 5 p.m.
Church_news Easter Community_news

This will be the first Easter without church services in Britain since 1213. Back then Pope Innocent III put the country under an interdict preventing priests from leading worship.

The ban had been introduced five years earlier in 1208 amid a row over who should appoint the next Archbishop of Canterbury. 

The vacancy was created when Archbishop Hubert Walter died in July 1205. The monks who had to choose his successor put forward two nominations and then in 1206, under Papal guidance, elected Stephen Langton. At the time he was a cardinal in Rome.

Pope Innocent consecrated Langton but King John would have none of it. John claimed Langton was not fit for office and, in keeping with the approved English custom, the king's consent to Langton's election should have preceded the consecration.

Neither party would give way. The Pope's delegates laid the Interdict on England as punishment for the king's resistance.

Interdicts weren't uncommon. They had been used against several areas of France. But this was a an entire nation being deprived of spiritual support and guidance.

King John treated the interdict as virtually a declaration of war against the Pope which continued for five years until an armistice in May 2013. Even then it took 12 months of negotiations to settle the issues.

One humorous aside is King John's attitude to the economic sanctions he tabled against the celibate clergy during the interdict. He gave orders to the officials charged with confiscating the clergy's goods that they were to "lock up mistresses, housekeepers and lady-loves of priests and hold them to ransom."

In the end King John relented. He had to because he needed allies. He was fearful of a war against France and decided a papal alliance would be a positive.He admitted Langton to the see of Canterbury.

And some of you will know a local landmark that honours Stephen Langton. It's the name of the popular gastropub in Friday Street near Dorking. Langton served as Archbishop of Canterbury until his death in 1228.