Stephen Langton

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Stephen Cardinal Langton (c. 1150 – 9 July 1228) was Archbishop of Canterbury between 1207 and his death in 1228 and was a central figure in the dispute between King John of England and Pope Innocent III, which ultimately led to the issuing of Magna Carta in 1215. He is also of note as being credited with having divided the Bible into the standard modern arrangement of books and chapters used today.



Early life and career

He was born in the hamlet of Friday Street, Surrey, in England. He had a brother, Simon Langton, who was elected Archbishop of York in 1215, but that election was quashed by Pope Innocent III. Simon Langton served his brother as Archdeacon of Canterbury in 1227.[1]

He studied at the University of Paris and lectured there on theology until 1206, when Pope Innocent III, with whom he had formed a friendship at Paris, called him to Rome and made him cardinal-priest of San Crisogono.[2][3] His piety and learning had already won him prebends at Paris and York[4] and he was recognized as the foremost English churchman.


On the death of Hubert Walter, Archbishop of Canterbury until 1205, some of the younger monks elected to the see Reginald, the subprior of Christ Church, Canterbury, while another faction under pressure from King John chose John de Grey, Bishop of Norwich. Both elections were quashed on appeal to Rome and sixteen monks of Christ Church, who had gone to Rome empowered to act for the whole chapter, were ordered to proceed to a new election in presence of the Pope. Langton was chosen and was consecrated by the Pope at Viterbo on 17 June 1207.[5]

There followed a hard political struggle between John of England and Pope Innocent III. The King proclaimed as a public enemy anyone who recognized Stephen as Archbishop. On 15 July 1207, John expelled the Canterbury monks, who were now unanimous in support of Stephen. In March 1208, Pope Innocent III placed England under the interdict and at the close of 1212, after repeated negotiations had failed, he passed sentence of deposition against John, committing the execution of the sentence to Philip II of France in January 1213.[5]

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