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Harrow’s Divine Protector – A look at St Anselm

Known locally as “The Most Visible Church”, St. Mary’s is one of Harrow’s most famous landmarks and a popular visiting place for history buffs. In this article, we’re going to be looking at the church’s founder, St. Anselm.

St. Mary’s Church, nestled next to the famous Harrow School on Harrow on the Hill, is much more than just a place of worship. A local landmark, the churchyard was a place of refuge for the poet, Lord Byron, and is the resting place for his daughter, Allegra.

Work began on the construction of the church in 1087 by Lanfranc, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and, following his death in 1089, the project was passed on to his successor, St. Anselm.

Harrow’s Divine Protector - A look at St Anselm Harrow Online
St Anselm

Who was St. Anselm?

Born in Aosta, Italy, in 1033 to Burgundian noblemen, Anselmo D’Aosta received an outstanding classical education and was encouraged by his father, Gondolfo, to pursue a career in politics. After traveling through Italy and France under the tutorship of Lanfranc (Italian jurist and Benedictine monk), Anselmo entered the Bec monastery in Normandy in 1060 against his father’s wishes.

In 1061, Anselmo became Prior of the monastery – around the same time that Lanfranc became Abbot of Caen. The young man spent a great deal of his time on theological writings and, under his careful eye, Bec became a prestigious center of monastic learning. During this time, Anselmo struck up a relationship with William the Conqueror and his son, Rufus, and, after making three visits to England, Anselmo was made Archbishop of Canterbury in 1093 – a role which had laid vacant since the death of his friend, Lanfranc, in 1089.

St. Anselm and St. Mary’s

Although he would regularly journey back to Italy, Anselmo’s home was now in England and, in 1107, after many years of dispute between Anselmo and the King, the Concordat of London formally renounced the power of English monarch to invest the bishops of the church – much to Anselmo’s joy.

This came 13 years after St. Anselm consecrated the magnificent church on Harrow on the Hill – essentially turning the building over to God. After a long, industrious – and sometimes controversial career, Anselmo D’Aosta died on the 21st of April 1109 in Canterbury in his 70s following a period of failing health. St. Anselm was canonized by the Church in 1494.