Gisa (DNB00)

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GISA or GISO, sometimes called Gila (d. 1088), bishop of Wells, a native of Saint Trudo in Hasbain, in the diocese of Liège, was one of the chaplains or clerks of the chancery of Eadward the Confessor (on these chaplains see Green, Conquest of England, pp. 542 sq.), and was appointed to the see of Wells in 1060 (Flor. Wig. i. 218; Codex Dipl. iv. 195). By command of the king he and Walter, bishop-elect of Hereford, journeyed to Rome, and there received consecration from Pope Nicolas II on 15 April 1061. While they were at Rome Tostig and Archbishop Ealdred came thither; they all departed together, were robbed by brigands, and received recompense from the pope [see under Aldred, archbishop of York]. Gisa, on his return to England, brought back with him papal privileges for Westminster. He thought his church small; it was served by only four or five clerks, who did not live together, as canons did in his native land, but each man in his own house, without a cloister or refectory. To alter this, money was needed, and his church was poor, so poor that, to take his words literally, these four or five canons were forced to beg their bread. He considered himself badly used by Earl Harold, and wrote the story of his wrongs, which is still extant (Historiola). According to Gisa, Duduc, his predecessor in the see, received from Cnut as his private property the abbey of Gloucester; but it is difficult to see how this could have been, for in 1022 Archbishop Wulfstan turned the church of St. Peter at Gloucester into a monastery, and placed an abbot over it, who ruled the house until 1058. Gisa also states that the lordships of Congresbury and Banwell, both in Somerset, were granted to Duduc on like terms. These estates Duduc gave to the church of Wells by charter, and on his deathbed left many books, vestments, and other movables to the church. On Duduc's death Earl Harold seized the estates and the movables, save that Archbishop Stigand obtained the abbey of Gloucester. Gisa often remonstrated with the earl, and says that he thought of excommunicating him. He does not appear to have appealed to the king, or taken measures to enforce his claim by law. In another case he acted differently. The manor of Winsham, also in Somerset, which he held to belong to his see, was occupied by one Elsi (Ælfsige); he obtained a decision in his favour in the shire court, and as Elsi refused to give up the land, he excommunicated him, apparently without effect. Gisa obtained Wedmore as a gift from the king, and after Eadward's death his widow Eadgyth gave him Mark and Mudgeley, both members of the then ‘hundred of Wedmore.’ Harold when he came to the throne promised, Gisa says, to give him the lordships in dispute, along with other lands, and certainly granted a charter confirming all his possessions to him in general terms (Codex Dipl. iv. 305). Nevertheless the bishop looked on Harold's death as a declaration of divine wrath. He carried his complaints to the Conqueror, and from him obtained the restoration of Winsham. By the time of the Domesday survey he was also in possession of Banwell (Domesday, 89 b), but Congresbury had not returned to the see, though he held one hide there as tenant under the king. He obtained what he could for his church, bought the manor of Combe, and lands in Litton and Wormister. He was thus able to provide for his canons, and to increase their number. Moreover, he made them change their manner of life, and conform to the rule of Chrodegang, bishop of Metz. Accordingly he built a cloister and a refectory, and other buildings necessary for his purpose, and made the canons live together in the Lotharingian fashion, causing them to choose one of themselves named Isaac to be their provost, and to manage their temporal affairs. Gisa died in 1088, and was buried under an arch in the wall, on the north side of the altar of his church.

[Gisa's own account of himself in Historiola de Primordiis, Eccl. Documents, ed. Hunter (Camden Soc.); Kemble's Codex Dipl. iv. 195–8; Florence of Worcester, i. 218; William of Malmesbury, Gesta Pontiff. pp. 194, 251 (Rolls Ser.); Canon of Wells in Anglia Sacra, i. 559; Freeman's Hist. of the Church of Wells, pp. 27–33, 165; Norman Conquest, ii. 449–53, 456, 459, 637–643, iii. 53, iv. 165; Eyton's Domesday Studies, ‘Somerset,’ passim; Green's Earl Harold and Bishop Giso, Somerset Archæol. Society's Journal, 1864, xii. 148.]

W. H.