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Diocese of Hereford

Diocese in England

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Hereford, Ancient Diocese of (HEREFORDENSIS), in England. Though the name of Putta, the exiled Bishop of Rochester, is usually given as the first Bishop of Hereford (676), Venerable Bede‘s account merely states that he was granted a church and some land in Mercia by Sexulf, Bishop of Lichfield. This, however, was probably the nucleus from which the diocese grew, though its limits were not precisely fixed even by the end of the eighth century. In 793 the body of the martyred Ethelbert, King of the East Saxons, was buried at Hereford, and his shrine became a place of pilgrimage famous for miracles. His name was joined with that of the Blessed Virgin as titular, so that the cathedral, which was served by secular canons, was known as the Church of St. Mary and St. Ethelbert. The shrine was destroyed by the Welsh in 1055, when the cathedral, which had been recently rebuilt, was much damaged. It was restored after the Norman Conquest by Bishop Robert de Losinga, the intimate friend of St. Wulstan of Worcester. His immediate successors made further additions, and the great central tower was built about 1200. The clerestory to the choir, the beautiful Early English Lady Chapel and the north transept were added during the thirteenth century. Unfortunately the cathedral has suffered much from unskillful restoration, and some of the medieval work has been replaced by eighteenth-century architecture, notably the west front, which was ruined by the fall of a tower in 1786. The cathedral was remarkable for not conforming to the Sarum Rite, but for maintaining its own “Hereford Use” down to the Reformation. It had its own Breviary and Missal, and portions of the antiphonary have also survived. The diocese was generally fortunate in its bishops, two of whom are specially prominent: John de Breton, the great English lawyer (1268-1275); and his successor, Thomas de Cantilupe, better known as St. Thomas of Hereford, the last English saint to be canonized. He was chancellor to King Henry III when he was elected bishop, and had wide experience of government. In the disputes which arose between Archbishop Peckham and his suffragans, St. Thomas was chosen to lay the cause of the bishops before the pope, and while on this mission he died. His relics were buried at Hereford, where his shrine became the scene of numerous miracles. Part of the relics were saved at the Reformation and are now at Stonyhurst, but it would appear that some remained at Hereford, for as late as 1610 they were carried in procession by the people during the plague. In the cathedral is still preserved the celebrated “Mappa Mundi”, designed by Richard of Battle in the thirteenth century. The diocese consisted of nearly all Herefordshire, with part of Shropshire, and parishes in the counties of Worcester, Monmouth, Montgomery and Radnor. It was divided into two archdeaconries, Hereford and Salop. There were about thirty religious houses in the diocese, the Augustinians having seven, including the priory of Wigmore, and the Benedictines ten, among which was the great priory of Leominster. There were Cluniacs at Clifford, Wenlock and Preen, Cistercians at Dore and Flaxley. Dominicans and Franciscans both had priories in Hereford; at Ludlow there were Carmelites and Austin Friars.

The following is the list of bishops of Hereford, with dates of appointment, the chronology before 1012 being partly conjectural:

Putta, 676

Thyrtell, 693

Torchtere, 710

Walchstod, 727

Cuthbert, 736

Podda, 746

Acca, c. 758

Aldberht, 777

Esne, 781

Celmundus, 793

Edulf, 796

Utel, c. 798

Wulfhard, 803

Benna, 824

Eadulf, c. 825

Cuthwulf, 838

Mucellus, c. 857

Deorlaf, 866

Ethelbert, 868

Cunemund, 888

Athelstan I, 895

Eadgar, c. 901

Tidhelm, c. 930

Wulfhelm, c. 935

Alfric, 941

Athulf, c. 966

Athelstan II, 1012

Leofgar, 1056

Vacancy, 1056

Walter of Lorraine, 1061

Robert de Losinga, 1079

Gerard, 1096

Vacancy, 1101

Reynelm, 1107

Geoffrey de Clive, 1115

Richard de Capella, 1121

Vacancy, 1127

Robert de Bethune, 1131

Gilbert Foliot, 1148

Robert de Maledon, 1163

Vacancy, 1168

Robert Foliot, 1174

William de Vere, 1186

Giles de Braose, 1200

Hugh de Mapenor, 1216

Hugh Foliot, 1219

Ralph de Maydenstan,1234

Peter of Savoy, 1240

John de Breton, 1268

St. Thomas de Cantilupe,1275

Richard Swinfield, 1283

Adam Orleton, 1316

Thomas Charleton, 1327

John Trilleck, 1344

Lewis Charleton, 1361

William Courtenay, 1370

John Gilbert, 1375

Thomas Trevenant, 1389

Robert Mascall, 1404

Edmund Lacy, 1417

Thomas Polton, 1420

Thomas Spofford, 1421

Richard Beauchamp, 1448

Reginald Buller, 1450

John Stanberry, 1453

Thomas Mylling, 1474

Edmund Audley, 1492

Adrian de Castello, 1503

Richard Mayhew, 1504

Charles Booth, 1516

Schismatical bishops:—

Edward Foxe, 1535

Edmund Bonner, 1538 (translated to London before consecration)

John Skypp, 1539

John Harley, 1553

Canonical bishops:—Robert Parfew, 1554

Thomas Reynolds, 1557 (died a prisoner for the faith before consecration)

The arms of the see were: Gules, three leopard’s heads reversed, jessant as many fleurs-de-lys, or.



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