Hygeberht

Hygeberht
Archbishop of Lichfield
Appointedafter 787
Term endeddemoted c. 799
PredecessorBerhthun (as bishop)
SuccessorEaldwulf (as bishop)
Other postsBishop of Lichfield (779–787)
Orders
Consecrationc. 779
Personal details
Bornprobably Mercia
Diedafter 803

Hygeberht[a] (died after 803) was the Bishop of Lichfield from 779 and Archbishop of Lichfield after the elevation of Lichfield to an archdiocese some time after 787, during the reign of the powerful Mercian king Offa. Little is known of Hygeberht's background, although he was probably a native of Mercia.

Offa succeeded in having Lichfield elevated to an archbishopric, but the rise in Lichfield's status was unpopular with Canterbury, the other southern English archbishopric. Offa was probably motivated by a desire to increase the status of his kingdom and to free his kingdom's ecclesiastical affairs from the control of another kingdom's archbishopric, and possibly the need to secure the coronation of Offa's successor, which the Archbishop of Canterbury had opposed. After Offa's death his distant relative Coenwulf became king, and petitioned the pope to have Lichfield returned to a simple bishopric. The pope agreed to do so in 803, by which time Hygeberht was no longer even considered a bishop: he is listed as an abbot at the council that oversaw the demotion of Lichfield in 803. The date of his death is unknown.

Background

Nothing is known of Hygeberht's ancestry or his upbringing, but given his close ties to the kingdom of Mercia, he was probably a Mercian by birth. He became Bishop of Lichfield in 779.[2] At a Mercian council he attended that year at Hartleford he was styled "electus praesul",[4] or "bishop elect".[5] Two years later he witnessed a charter of Offa's concerning an ecclesiastical claim on a church in Worcester.[4]

Perhaps as early as 786 the creation of a Mercian archbishopric was being discussed at Offa's court. A letter to the papacy written by Coenwulf, who succeeded Offa's son Ecgfrith to the Mercian throne, claimed that Offa's motives were his dislike of Jænberht, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and of the men of Kent.[6] At the Council of Chelsea held in 787, Offa secured the creation of an archbishopric for his kingdom centred on the diocese of Lichfield (in modern Staffordshire).[7] Offa may have justified the move by suggesting that Jænberht planned to allow the Frankish king Charlemagne to use a landing site in Kent if the latter decided to invade,[8] although this is only known from a 13th-century writer, Matthew Paris.[9][b] Another concern was probably that of prestige, as having the main Mercian diocese held by an archbishop rather than a bishop would increase the kingdom's status.[1]

An archbishopric in Mercia would also reinforce the kingdom's independence and free it from ecclesiastical dependence on Canterbury in the kingdom of Kent, which Offa had recently brought under Mercian control.[10] Jænberht supported the Kentish king Egbert II, who was not known as a firm supporter of Offa's; an archbishop at Canterbury who was either indifferent or in active opposition to Offa would be an impediment to Offa's ability to establish overlordship of Kent and other areas of England.[11] By elevating another archbishop, Offa would reduce the political power of the archbishops of Canterbury.[12] Elevation of a bishopric to an archbishopric was not unprecedented; in 735 the papacy had elevated another Anglo-Saxon bishopric to an archbishopric, when Ecgbert became the first Archbishop of York.[11]

Other Languages
Deutsch: Higbert
Esperanto: Hygeberht
français: Hygeberht
Nederlands: Hygeberht
suomi: Hygeberht