Thurstan had served in the royal households
of William Rufus (1087-1100) and Henry I (1100-1135); the latter
appointed him to the see of York in 1114. The early years of Thurstan’s
office were troubled by the dispute between the archbishops of
York and Canterbury, over the primacy of Canterbury.
Roger de Pont L'Éveque,
who became archbishop of York in 1151, disliked monks to such an extent
that he complained Thurstan’s greatest mistake was to build ‘that
mirror of Christian philosophy, the monastery of Fountains.’
William of Newburgh’s History of English Affairs Book
I, ed. P. Walsh and M. Kennedy (Warminster, 1988) ]
a prominent role in the political events of 1138, and was largely
responsible for summoning the English troops who
successfully defeated the Scots at the Battle of the Standard.
This guaranteed the safety of the north of England. Thurstan was
also an active supporter of monasticism in the north of England
and had particularly close links with the Cistercian abbeys of
Byland, Fountains and Rievaulx, ‘the three great luminaries
of the North’ [William of Newburgh, Augustinian Canon]. The
Fountains community was especially indebted to Thurstan; it was
he who sheltered the band of Benedictine monks who had fled from
their abbey of St Mary’s, York, seeking simplicity and solitude.
The archbishop accommodated the monks at his own manor and later
provided them with land at Skelldale, where they established a
community that later became the Cistercian abbey of Fountains.
Thurstan remained a friend and patron.
Shortly before his death
in February 1140, Thurstan took the monastic habit at the Cluniac priory of Pontefract in Yorkshire, where he
was buried in front of the High
Altar. This was in fulfilment
of a promise he had made at Cluny as a young man.