Church Curiosities

The Enthronement of a Medieval Bishop of Worcester


Category: Church Curiosities
The Enthronement of Bishop William Gainsborough in 1302 seems to have been a strange affair, and not without discord. Before the days of modern transport, travel was both laborious and perilous, and therefore, representative of the ecclesiastical, civil, and military life of the City used to go out in procession to meet the arriving Bishop and give him safe escort to his Cathedral. Sometimes crowds would journey to the most southermost part of his diocese. But in 1302, there was a dispute about the obligation to go as far as Kempsey, where there was an episcopal house, The noble train had gathered there to meet the Francisian Friar, Gainsborough, who having been a poor friar, was without means to defray his journey, and wrote to the monks for supplies. They sent him £20, but he constantly applied for more, until at last the Prior and Convent refused. At length the Bishop halted at Kempsey, and is said to have watched all night in the parish church there. He would, however, proceed no further until the Prior came to him. The Prior, at last consented, though according to ancient custom, he was not compelled to go more than a mile. A great procession of 700 horsemen, with the Bishops of Hereford and Llandaff, and the abbots of Evesham, Pershore and Tewkesbury, met the episcopal party at Redhill. (It is probable that the direct route, the old Green Road, was impassable, and the alternative road to Kempsey went via Red Hill) The Friars Minors received the Bishop at St. Wulstan's hospital where he alighted, and his palfrey, saddle, capi boots, leggings etc. were demanded by Robert de Boudone on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury, also his cip and ten marks for expenses. Thereupon, the Bishop went barefoot up Sidbury and to St.Mary's Steps, and was received in the churchyard by the Prior and Convent. Then the Bishop, accompanied 'with music and voices' went up to the high altar, adored and kissed it, and offered three pieces of cloth of gold, gave his benediction, and was enthroned. Passing into the vestry, he washed his feet, put on his shoes, and celebrated the mass of St. Wulstan, giving the hearers an indulgence of 40 days; after which at his palace he made a grand entertainment fro those who had attended him.


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