St Wulfstan, the Bishop who fought Slavery

St Wulfstan became Bishop of Worcester in 1062, just before the Norman conquest. He was the only English Bishop to keep his job after the conquest. (Most of the Bishoprics went to William’s Norman friends or relatives)

Wulfstan campaigned vigorously against the slave trade based in the city of Bristol. At that time, people who could not pay their debts were sold into slavery in Ireland. (A few hundred years earlier, St Patrick, a Briton, had been sold as a slave in Ireland, but that’s another story).

As a result of Wulfstan’s impassioned sermons against the trade, many slaves were released. During his time as Bishop, Wulfstan cared for the poor, and struggled to alleviate the harsh decrees of the Normans upon the vanquished English.

crypt_worcesterWulfstan was a great church builder and laid the foundations for Worcester Cathedral. The crypt that he built is still in use, and it is worth a visit to admire the stark Norman architecture.

Wulfstan died in 1095 while engaged in the daily ritual of washing the feet of a dozen poor men. He was canonized in 1203 by Pope Innocent III.

King John has a bad reputation but must have had some good points as he was a great supporter of Worcester Cathedral and had a devotion to St Wulfstan. He asked to be buried at Worcester, and to this day still lies at the foot of the high altar..

St Wulfstan’s feast day is January 19.