In a remarkable discovery that shines a new light on medieval England’s ecclesiastical history, evidence has surfaced proving that Archbishop Thurstan of York, a prominent figure of the 12th century, was indeed recognized as a saint, overturning centuries of assumption to the contrary.

This revelation was unearthed by Dr. Michael Carter, a Senior Properties Historian with English Heritage, in a 15th-century service book during research at King’s College, Cambridge.

The document that Dr. Carter discovered lists “Death of Saint Thurstan, archbishop of York, year of grace, 1140,” penned in red ink, a traditional mark of significance, confirming his sanctity among medieval monks.

Born in Normandy around 1070, Thurstan’s life was marked by a commitment to the Cluniac order, fulfilling a vow to become a monk in his later years. His dedication to the Church, combined with his role in the foundational support of key monasteries, underscored his sanctity, further evidenced by the discovery of his incorrupt body, exuding a ‘sweet smell,’ a sign of sainthood during the medieval period.

Archbishop Thurstan, who served from 1114 until his death in 1140, was long celebrated for his political acumen and his pivotal role in religious reform across Northern England. He was instrumental in founding several monastic houses, including the renowned Rievaulx Abbey and Byland Abbey, and played a decisive role in military and ecclesiastical politics of the era. Despite his significant contributions, historical records had not previously acknowledged him as a saint.

According to medieval history expert Professor Janet Burton, Thurstan’s influence  even extended beyond the borders of England, engaging with popes and cardinals and embracing the ideas sweeping through the Church at the time.

This discovery not only corrects the historical record but also celebrates a figure whose life and works had a profound impact on the religious and cultural landscape of medieval England!

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