Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Ancient Diocese of Worcester

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 15
Ancient Diocese of Worcester

by Edwin Hubert Burton


(WIGORNIENSIS.)

Located in England, created in 680 when, at the Synod of Hatfield under St. Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury, the great Mercian diocese was divided into five sees. Tatfrith, a monk of Whitby, was nominated for bishop, but he died before consecration, and Bosel, one of his fellow monks, was consecrated in his stead. The history of the diocese was singularly uneventful, and it was specially fortunate in the fact that it never was long vacant, as so many other sees frequently were. The lines of its bishops from 680 to 1565 were unbroken. The Mercian kings were profuse in the endowments which they lavished on the cathedral church, which was originally dedicated to St. Peter but afterwards to Our Lady. It was originally served by secular canons, but in the tenth century St. Oswald replaced them by Benedictines. He also rebuilt the cathedral, finishing the work in 983, but in 1041 the Danes burned the city and ruined the cathedral, and it was reserved for another saint, St. Wulstan, to rebuild it (1084-89). The new building frequently suffered from fire (1113, 1180, 1202). In 1216 King John was buried there, between the shrines of the two Worcester saints, Oswald and Wulstan; and two years later the cathedral, once more restored, was consecrated at a great gathering at which the king and many prelates and nobles were present. At various times modifications were made in the structure, which gradually assumed the Early Gothic character it now bears. Probably the Worcester nave is among the earliest instances of English Gothic, dating from the later part of the twelfth century. The transepts are a mixture of Norman and Perpendicular work; the choir, lady chapel, and east transepts are Early English (1224). The crypt alone remains of St. Wulstan's work. The monastic buildings, of which only the cloister, chapter-house, and refectory remain, were on the south and west of the cathedral.

From the time of Henry VII the see was filled by Italian prelates, who represented the king's interest at Rome. Among these was the future Pope Clement VII. It was the special prerogative of the bishop to act as chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and thus to celebrate Mass at all assemblies of the clergy at which the primate was present. The following is the complete list of bishops:


  • Bosel 680
  • Oftfor 691
  • St. Eegwine 693
  • Wilfrith I 718
  • Mildred about 743
  • Waermund 775
  • Tilhere 777
  • Heathured (AEthelred) 781
  • Denebeorht 798
  • Heahbeorht (Eadbert) 822
  • Ealhhun (Alwin) about 845
  • Waerfrith 873
  • AEthelhun 915
  • Wilfrith II 922
  • Coenweld 929
  • St. Dunstan 957
  • St. Oswald 961
  • Ealdwulf 992
  • Wulfstan 1003
  • Leofsige 1016
  • Beorhtheah 1033
  • Lyfing 1038
  • AElfric Puttoc 1040
  • Lyfing (restored) 1041
  • Ealdred 1046
  • St. Wulfstan II 1062
  • Samson 1096
  • Theulf 1113
  • Simon 1125
  • John de Pageham 1151
  • Alured 1158
  • Roger 1163
  • Baldwin 1180
  • William de Narhale 1185
  • Robert Fitz-Ralph 1191
  • Henry de Soilli 1193
  • John de Constantiis 1195
  • Mauger 1198
  • Walter de Grey 1214
  • Silvester de Evesham 1216
  • William de Blois 1218
  • Walter de Cantelupe 1237
  • Nicholas 1266
  • Godfrey de Giffard 1268
  • William de Gainsborough 1301
  • Walter Reynold 1307
  • Walter de Maydenston 1313
  • Thomas Cobham 1317
  • Adam de Orlton 1327
  • Simon de Montecute 1333
  • Thomas Hemenhale 1337
  • Wolstan de Braunsford 1339
  • John de Thoresby 1349
  • Reginald Brian 1352
  • John Barnet 1362
  • William Wittlesey 1363
  • William Lynn 1368
  • Henry Wakefield 1375
  • Tideman de Winchcomb 1394
  • Richard Clifford 1401
  • Thomas Peverell 1407
  • Philip Morgan 1419
  • Thomas Poulton 1425
  • Thomas Bourchier 1434
  • John Carpenter 1443
  • John Alcock 1476
  • Robert Morton 1486
  • Giovanni Gigli (de Liliis; Gigles) 1497
  • Sylvestro Gigli (de Liliis; Gigles) 1498
  • Giulio de' Medici (afterwards Pope Clement VII) 1521
  • Girolamo Ghinucci (de Ghinucciis) 1522
  • (In 1535 Hugh Latimer was schismatically intruded into the see and was followed by John Bell (1539-43), Nicholas Heath (1543-1550), and John Hooper (1552-53)
  • Nicholas Heath 1553
  • Richard Pates 1555-1565, the Last Catholic Bishop of Worcester, d. at Louvain, 22 Nov., 1565.

The diocese included the County of Worcester and part of Warwickshire, and being of no very great extent only one archdeaconry was necessary, under which all the parishes, 241 in number, were included. The arms of the see were argent, ten torteaux.

BRITTON, History and Antiquities of Worcester (London, 1835); WINKLES, Cathedral Churches in England and Wales (London, 1851); Registrum Prioratus B. Mariae Wigorniensis (London, 1865); KING, The Three Choirs (London, 1866); NOAKE, The Monastery and Cathedral of Worcester (London, 1866); LUARD, Annales Monastici, IV (London, 1869); SMITH AND ONSLOW, Worcester in Diocesan Series (London, 1883); STRANGE, Worcester: the Cathedral and See (London, 1900); CREIGHTON, Italian Bishops of Worcester in Historical Essays (London, 1902); GRAVES AND HARNE, Hemingi chartularium Eccl. Wigorniensis (Oxford, 1723); GREEN, History and Antiquities of Worcester (2 vols., London, 1796); Hist. MSS. Comm., 8, 14; FLOYER, Catalogue of MSS. in Chapter Library of Worcester Cathedral (Oxford, 1906).

EDWIN BURTON