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List of Archbishops of Canterbury

Image of Canterbury Cathedral for a blog post covering the Archbishop of Canterbury list throughout history.

Diving into the rich tapestry of English history, the archbishops of Canterbury list stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of religious and political leadership in Britain.

From spiritual guidance to pivotal roles in the nation’s history, these archbishops have shaped the course of events from the shadows of cathedrals and the halls of power.

Historical Archbishops of Canterbury List

Image of an artist's rendition of Lambeth Palace, the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury when in London.
1804 artist’s rendition of Lambeth Palace, the London
residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, which still stands today

Also, check out the list of Popes throughout the ages for more on a long legacy of faith going back 2000 years —> List of Popes from Peter to Present Day.

Image of Thomas Becket who was murdered by knights representing Henry II for a post providing an Archbishops of Canterbury list.
Portrait of former Archbishop of Canterbury and current saint, Thomas Becket, who,
in 1170, died at the hands of knights who believed they were carrying out the will of King Henry II

FAQs: Archbishops of Canterbury List

1. What is the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury?

The Archbishop of Canterbury plays a multifaceted role within the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion.

As the spiritual leader of the Church of England, this person’s responsibilities include:

Spiritual Leadership: Providing spiritual guidance and leadership to the Church of England.

Liturgical and Pastoral Role: Leading religious services, including national events and ceremonies.

The Archbishop also offers pastoral care to clergy and laypeople within the diocese of Canterbury.

Primate of All England: As the “first among equals” among the bishops, the Archbishop has a significant role in the church’s governance, including chairing the General Synod, the church’s legislative body.

Anglican Communion: The Archbishop is seen as the spiritual head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, a network of Anglican churches in over 165 countries.

This role involves fostering unity and facilitating communication among the communion’s member churches.

Ecumenical Relations: Working towards improving relationships with other Christian denominations and engaging in interfaith dialogue.

Public and Social Issues: The Archbishop often addresses and provides guidance on moral, ethical, and social issues, influencing both church and society.

This role, steeped in history, involves balancing tradition with the needs of a modern and diverse global community.

2. Who was the last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury?

The last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury before the English Reformation was Reginald Pole.

He served from 1556 until his death in 1558, during the reign of Queen Mary I, who sought to re-establish Roman Catholicism in England.

After Pole’s tenure and the accession of Queen Elizabeth I, the Church of England firmly adopted Protestantism, and the position of Archbishop of Canterbury has been held by Anglicans ever since.

3. Which Archbishop was murdered in his own cathedral at Canterbury?

Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered in his own cathedral on December 29, 1170.

His assassination was a result of a conflict with King Henry II over the rights and privileges of the Church.

Becket’s martyrdom led to his canonization by the Catholic Church and made Canterbury Cathedral a major pilgrimage site in the Middle Ages.


“Archbishops of Canterbury.” Historic UK, www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofEngland/Archbishops-of-Canterbury/.

“CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Reginald Cardinal Pole.” Www.newadvent.org, www.newadvent.org/cathen/12201b.htm. Accessed 22 Feb. 2024.

“Home.” The Archbishop of Canterbury, www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/. Accessed 22 Feb. 2024.

Knowles, Michael. “Saint Thomas Becket | Biography, Death, & Significance.” Encyclopædia Britannica, 2019, www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Thomas-Becket.

Office, Anglican Communion. “Anglican Communion: Archbishop of Canterbury.” Anglican Communion Website, www.anglicancommunion.org/structures/instruments-of-communion/archbishop-of-canterbury.aspx.