Sunday, August 02, 2015

Question from Dewey - Archbishop of Canterbury v. Westminster

why is the arch duke of canterbury head under the crown instead of the arch duke of westminister?

[Note: I think the submitter meant archbishop as opposed to archduke. - Lara]


Marilyn Roberts said...

In the year 595 Augustine, a Benedictine monk, was sent to Britain by Pope Gregory to convert the people of the Kingdom of Kent to Christianity, and in 597 he became the first Archbishop of Canterbury, the kingdom’s capital. At this time there were several small kingdoms and London did not become the capital of all England until after the Norman Conquest in 1066. When Henry VIII broke with Rome to found his own Church, the two head clergymen kept the old titles of Archbishop of Canterbury and of York; the Archbishop of Canterbury is the most senior of all Anglican clergymen.

There is, however, an Archbishop of Westminster, but the title dates only from fairly recent times as controls on Roman Catholic Church in place since Tudor times were lifted. His seat is the Roman Catholic Westminster Cathedral built in 1903. This should not be confused with Westminster Abbey.

King Edward the Confessor had founded the ‘west minster’ at Thorney Island, a piece of higher ground in Thames marshes, two miles from London, and was the first of many royal persons to be interred there in January 1066, ten months before the Norman Conquest. This huge religious foundation had a large church that survived the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII, possibly because over the centuries it had become the final resting place of so many kings and queens, including his own parents. This massive church is now popularly known as Westminster Abbey, although its correct name is The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster.

PhD Historian said...

If I may offer a slightly different answer:

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a Protestant realm with an official state Church or religion, the Church of England (also known as the Anglican Church or Anglicanism). Bishops in the Church of England play a governmental and political role in addition to their religious roles. Twenty six of them sit and vote in the House of Lords. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the head of the Church of England and one of those who sits (ex officio) in the House of Lords. His role is both religious and governmental/political.

The Archbishop of Westminster serves the Roman Catholic Communion. Roman Catholicism is not the official religion of the United Kingdom and its bishops and archbishops have no direct role in government and politics. None of them sit in the House of Lords. In fact, between the 1560s and 1829, Roman Catholics were barred from sitting in either House of Parliament. So unlike the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of Westminister has no governmental/political role or authority.