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Home > Catholic Encyclopedia > W > Ancient Diocese of Worcester

Ancient Diocese of Worcester

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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:

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).

About this page

APA citation. Burton, E. (1912). Ancient Diocese of Worcester. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Burton, Edwin. "Ancient Diocese of Worcester." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Thomas M. Barrett. Dedicated to the Poor Souls in Purgatory.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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