Geoffrey Rufus

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Geoffrey Rufus
Bishop of Durham
Appointed c.14 May 1133
Installed 10 August 1133
Term ended 6 May 1141
Predecessor Ranulf Flambard
Successor William Cumin
Consecration 6 August 1133
Personal details
Died 6 May 1141
Buried Durham Cathedral in the chapter house
Denomination Catholic
Lord Chancellor
In office
Monarch Henry I of England
Preceded by Ranulf
Succeeded by Robert de Sigello

Geoffrey Rufus, also called Galfrid Rufus[1] (died 1141) was a medieval Bishop of Durham and Lord Chancellor of England.


Rufus' parentage and upbringing is unknown. The origin of the nickname "Rufus" has not been discovered either.[2] He was a royal clerk[3] before being named the tenth Lord Chancellor and Lord Keeper of England, from 1123 to 1133.[4] Geoffrey had also worked for the previous chancellor Ranulf.[5] He may have started his career as a clerk for Roger of Salisbury, King Henry I of England's chief minister,[6] for he first appears as a witness to a charter of Roger's in 1114.[7] From charter evidence, it appears that Rufus was often in England, even when King Henry was in Normandy.[8] In the Pipe Roll of 1130, he had custody of more royal land than any other official.[2] After Geoffrey became a bishop, the king chose to keep the office of chancellor vacant until the king's death.[8] The functions of the office were performed by the head of the scriptorium, Robert de Sigello.[9]

Rufus was nominated to the see of Durham about 14 May 1133, and consecrated on 6 August 1133.[10] He was enthroned on 10 August 1133.[3] The see had been vacant since 1128. Geoffrey at first quarrelled with his cathedral chapter, but peace was restored when the bishop allowed the monks their privileges.[5] Geoffrey also was a benefactor to Newminster Abbey.[2] During Rufus' episcopate the chapterhouse at Durham was completed. Rufus also employed as a clerk William Cumin, who after Rufus' death conspired with King David I of Scotland to seize the see of Durham.[5]

When King Stephen took the thone at the death of King Henry, Rufus acknowledged Stephen as king, but did not attend the royal court often. In 1136, a peace treaty between King David and King Stephen was signed at Durham, but in 1138 Rufus' castle of Norham surrendered to King David, an act that brought condemnation to the bishop for failing to defend the castle adequately. Geoffrey, however, refused David's offer to return Norham to Geoffrey in return for repudiating Stephen. In retaliation, Norham was destroyed. Geoffrey does not seem to have supported either side at the Battle of the Standard in August 1138.[2] At the end of Rufus' life, because of King David's invasion of northern England in support of the Empress Matilda, most of the diocese was under the control of the Scottish king.[11]

Rufus died on 6 May 1141.[10] Rufus was married, and had at least one daughter,[5] who married Robert of Amundeville.[2] His son Geoffrey seems not to have been involved in politics, although he held an estate in Dorset of 18 and a half hides.[12] His grave was identified and excavated in the 19th century inside Durham Chapter House.[13]


  1. Eneas Mackenzie, Marvin Ross, An Historical, Topographical, and Descriptive View of the County Palatine of Durham, 1834
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Dalton "Geoffrey Rufus" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  3. 3.0 3.1 Greenway Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066-1300: Volume 2: Monastic Cathedrals (Northern and Southern Provinces): Durham: Bishops
  4. Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 83
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Barlow English Church pp. 88–89
  6. Green Government of England p. 167
  7. Green Government of England pp. 255–256
  8. 8.0 8.1 Hollister Henry I pp. 361–363
  9. Green Government of England p. 27
  10. 10.0 10.1 Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 241
  11. Huscroft Ruling England p. 134
  12. Mooers "Familial Clout and Financial Gain" Albion p. 280
  13. Carver "Early Medieval Durham" Medieval Art and Architecture p. 13


  • Barlow, Frank (1979). The English Church 1066–1154: A History of the Anglo-Norman Church. New York: Longman. ISBN 0-582-50236-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Carver, M. O. H. (1980). "Early Medieval Durham: the Archaeological Evidence". Medieval Art and Architecture at Durham Cathedral. British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions for the year 1977. Leeds, UK: British Archaeological Association. pp. 11–19. OCLC 13464190.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Dalton, Paul (2004). "Geoffrey Rufus (d. 1141)" ((subscription or UK public library membership required)). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/24259. Retrieved 22 January 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I. (1996). Handbook of British Chronology (Third revised ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-56350-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Green, Judith A. (1986). The Government of England Under Henry I. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-37586-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Greenway, Diana E. (1971). Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066-1300: Volume 2: Monastic Cathedrals (Northern and Southern Provinces): Durham: Bishops. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 25 October 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Huscroft, Richard (2005). Ruling England 1042–1217. London: Pearson/Longman. ISBN 0-582-84882-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Mooers, Stephanie L. (Winter 1982). "Familial Clout and Financial Gain in Henry I's Later Reign". Albion. 14 (3 & 4): 268–291. doi:10.2307/4048517. JSTOR 4048517.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

Political offices
Preceded by
Lord Chancellor
Succeeded by
Robert de Sigello
(Keeper of the Great Seal)
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Ranulf Flambard
Bishop of Durham
Succeeded by
William Cumin

Template:House of Normandy Lord Chancellors