Langton, Stephen, one of the greatest prelates of the early English Church, celebrated alike in ecclesiastical and secular history, was born in the earlier half of the 12th century, according to one account in Lincolnshire, according to another in Devonshire, and was educated at the University of Paris, where he was the fellow-student and associate of Innocent III. Immediately after the completion of his studies he was appointed teacher in the university, and, by successive advances, finally rose to the office of its chancellor. On his visit to Rome about the year 1206, pope Innocent III honored him with the purple by the title of Cardinal of St. Chrysogonus; and when, by the rejection for the archbishopric of Canterbury of the claims both of Reginald, the subprior of Christchurch, whom his brother monks, without consultation of the king, had in the first instance appointed to succeed the last archbishop, Hubert, and of John de Gray, bishop of Norwich, whom they had afterwards substituted in deference to the commands of king John, another choice had to be made, Innocent III favored his old school- associate rather than the appointment of John de Gray, and Langton was consequently elected by the English monks who were then at Rome, and was consecrated by Innocent at Viterbo June 27, 1207. John's determined resistance to this nomination gave rise to the contest between him and the pontiff which had such important results. SEE INNOCENT III; SEE JOHN, king of England. The consequence, in so far as Langton was concerned, was, that he was kept out of his see for about six years; till at last, after the negotiation concluded by the legate Pandulf, John and the cardinal met at Winchester in July 1213, and the latter was fully acknowledged as archbishop. In the close union, however, that now followed between John and Innocent, Langton, finding his own interests and those of the clergy in general, in so far as they were opposed to those of the king, disregarded by the pope, joined the cause of the English barons, among whom the eminence of his station and the ascendency of his talents soon gave him a high influence, and 2; whose councils he at once took a prominent part. At the meeting of the heads of the revolters and the king at Runnymede he was present, and it was through his efforts that the charter of Henry I was renewed. Among the subscribing witnesses to the Magna Charta his name stands first; and from henceforth we find him devoted to the cause of the national liberties, which he had just joined, without swerving throughout the rest of the contest, a course by which he greatly offended the pope. Indeed, so sincerely devoted to the interests of his native country was Stephen Langton that he hesitated not to act not only in direct opposition to the wishes of his friend the Roman pontiff, but he even refused to comply with his demand to publish the document containing the announcement of excommunication of the barons who had rebelled against the king, a punishment which Innocent sought to inflict in order to please John, whose warm partisan he had become after 1213. Langton did not waver even when threatened with expulsion from the archiepiscopal see; he was suspended in 1215, but was restored in the year following (in February), and was in his place in 1218 on the accession of Henry III. From this time forward Langton busied himself chiefly with the affairs of the Church, instituted many reforms, caused the translation of Becket's relics into a magnificent shrine of gold, set with precious stones, and introduced into England the mendicant orders. He attended the Lateran Council convened at Rome in 1215. He died July 9, 1228.
Langton is generally considered one of the most illustrious men of the age in which he lived. Both as an ecclesiastic and a writer he has exerted great influence. Unfortunately, however, his writings, which displayed great learning and ability, are hardly accessible. They have hitherto found no editor, nor has any one, as far as we are aware, ever taken the trouble to ascertain how much the commentaries of Langton differ from the works of that class by mediaeval Church writers. A few of his theological tracts have been printed, and lists of all the productions known as his are given by Cave and by Tanner. The principal are, De Benedictionibus: — De Maledictionibus: — Summa Theologiae: — Summa de diversis: — Repetitiones lectionum: — Documenta Clericorum: — De sacerdotibus Deum nescientibus: — De vera Paenitentia: — De Similitudinibus: — Adam ubi es; and more particularly his Commentary (on a large portion of the O. Test.). Dean Hook (in his Lives of the Archbishops of Canterbury, volume 2 , chapter 12) gives references to libraries where some of Langton's writings are still preserved; and we may add that the library of Canterbury Cathedral contains his Morals on Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Tobit, Esther, Ezra, Maccabees, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the lesser prophets (comp. Todd [H. J.], Cataloglue [Lond. 1802], page 111 sq.). See Fabricius, Bibl. Me. Levi; Tanner, Biblioth. Britannico- Hibern.; Oudin, Comment. de Script. Eccles. volume 2; Cave, Script. eccles. Hist. Litterat. volume 2; Ciaconis, Vitae Pontific. et Cardin. volume 2; Godwin, De Praesulibus Angliae Commentarius; English Cyclop.; Hook, Eccles. Biography, 6:538 sq.; Milman, Latin Christianity 5:25 sq.; Inett, Hist. of English Church, volume 3 (see Index); Churton, Early Engl. Ch. page 355; Collier, Eccl. Hist. (see Index in volume 8); Hume, Hist. of England, volume 1, chapter 11; and the authorities already cited in the articles SEE INNOCENT III, and SEE JOHN, king of England. (J.H.W.)