LIVES OF THE BISHOPS OF EXETER
JOHN DE GRANDISSON, second son of William de Grandisson (summoned to parliament among the barons of the realm tempore Edward I. and Edward II.), by Sibilla de Tregoz his wife, daughter of John de Tregoz, and granddaughter of Juliana de Cantilupo, who was sister to St. Thomas Bishop of Hereford, which William de Grandisson had accompanied Edmund Earl of Lancaster, brother of King Edward I., into England, and is said to have been introduced by Edmund to the acquaintance of the said Sibilla, a wealthy heiress.
John was born in the parish of Ashperton or Ashton in the county of Hereford in 1292. Embracing the ecclesiastical profession, he was collated in due time to the prebend of Haydore, in the cathedral of Lincoln, and to the archdeaconry of Nottingham, after studying theology at Paris, under that eminent professor James Fournier, afterwards Cardinal and Pope Benedict XII: (see Grandisson's 'Reg.' vol. i. fol. 40, as also the bishop's will). Whilst chaplain to Pope John XXII he was joined in a commission with William Archbishop of Vienna, and Hugh Bishop of Orleans, to negotiate the peace of Gascony, and was actually engaged in this honourable embassy when the news reached the papal court at Avignon of the premature death of Bishop James Berkley on the preceding 24th June. His Holiness at once, viz. on 11th August, provided John de Grandisson to the vacant see, and directed his vice-chancellor Peter, Cardinal Bishop of Præneste, to perform the ceremony of the consecration. This was done on Sunday 18th October, 1327, in the Dominican Church at Avignon, in the presence of many cardinals, prelates, and nobility ('Reg.' vol. ii. fol. 39-41). Thomas de Cherleton, the elect of Hereford and a canon of Exeter, was consecrated at the same time. John was then about thirty-five years old ('Ordinale,' fol. 5). On 21st August he had announced to his Dean and Chapter his unsolicited appointment, and earnestly implored their co-operation in the good government of the diocese (vol. i. fol. 52). On 23rd December he left Avignon for England, but, owing to the intensity of the frost and a very tempestuous season he did not reach Whitsand (a much frequented port about ten miles north of Boulogne) to embark for Dover, until Wednesday 3rd February, 1328. On the Friday he arrived at Canterbury, and was met at the gate of Christ's Church by the prior and convent in their rich copes, according to custom. Proceeding to the high altar he made before the prior and convent the profession of canonical obedience to the metropolitan see then vacant by the death of the primate Walter Reynolds. On 10th February he left Canterbury for the north of England to do homage to his youthful sovereign King Edward III., and reached York, where the king was then holding his court, on Sunday 6th March. The next day, after the king had assisted at mass, he was duly presented in the chapel of St. Sepulchre adjoining the minster, and was graciously received; and having, according to established custom, openly and expressly renounced every expression in the papal bulls prejudicial to the royal prerogative and the rights of the crown, the bishop was put in possession of the temporalities of his see on 9th March, and on the very same day, in virtue of the royal mandate, the usual pension of five marks, "ratione novæ creationis," was agreed on to the king's nominee, Hugh Bosi clerk, until the bishop should provide him with a competent benefice. During his stay at York our prelate received a commission from its archbishop William de Melton, to reconcile the church of St. Lawrence in Walmegate beyond the walls of that city. Thence he pursued his journey to Oxenhale, the residence of his noble father near Gloucester, where he continued until he was summoned to attend the parliament at Northampton. At length, on 9th June, 1328, he was enabled to enter Devonshire, and for the first night he took up his quarters in the rectory-house of Honiton. On the following day he proceeded onwards to his mansion at Bishop's Clist, but was met on the road by the dean, treasurer, subdean, and many of the canons of the cathedral, who honourably escorted him to that agreeable residence, where all shared in his hospitable entertainment ('Reg.' vol. ii. fol. 48). From his letter to Pope John XXII. we learn that he was installed at Exeter within the octave of the Assumption of our Lady, notwithstanding the protestations of the prior of Canterbury, without the usual pomp and bustle of his predecessors, - " absque pompis et strepitu præter Anglicanum ritum" ('Reg.' vol. i. fol. 27).
In the beginning, our bishop had many difficulties to contend with, and his pre-eminence must have been painful to his feelings. General consternation had taken hold of men's minds - a want of confidence prevailed throughout the nation, and the tragical fate of the lamented Walter de Stapeldon - the premature death of his immediate successor - the plunder committed in the episcopal manors - the neglected cultivation of the farms ('Reg.' vol. i. fol. 37) - the confusion of all accounts - the unfortunate demands of payments from the crown, from the church of Canterbury, and the papal court - the deficiency of books and vestments - and the less than half-finished state of the cathedral church, were considerations sufficient to appal and overwhelm a mind less stout and energetic than his. In the present and prospective emergency he had recourse to his family and friends for temporary assistance: amongst others he addressed a letter to his cousin Hugh de Courtenay, the second of that name, who was Baron of Okehampton, and shortly after created Earl of Devon, praying for a loan of 200l. on such security as his lordship might require. It is dated from Chudleigh 24th January, 1329, and he requests an answer by the bearer. Both are inserted in his Register (vol. i. fol. 63, Appendix N). After professions of respect the baron lets him know that he had lately been at considerable expense by the marriage of his daughter (qy. Isabella Courtenay to Lord L'Isle), as also in winding up the affairs of his late mother (Eleanor Despenser, who had died 26th September, 1328), and therefore begged to be excused. Besides, Bishop James Berkley had died indebted to him, and hitherto he had been looking in vain to his executors for the settlement of that account. He then makes bold to censure the bishop for affecting more reserve and grandeur than any of his predecessors, and to advise him to practise rigid economy, and carefully to shun singularity. The bishop lost no time in replying to the baron, and signifying to his lady Courtenay (Agnes, sister to Lord St. John) how mortified he was at such uncalled for insinuations and charges, and proceeds to refute them seriatim. In process of time, however, matters took a favourable turn; from his family connections he received timely supplies; legacies dropped in; the executors of Bishop Stapeldon came forward most liberally ; the clergy and laity of the diocese, witnessing his magnanimity, disinterested zeal and active habits of business, vied with each other in extricating him from actual embarrassments; even his cousin Lord Courtenay became so gracious and friendly that the bishop preached his panegyric in Latin and in French at his funeral 5th February, 1340, in St. Andrew's Church, Cowick Priory ('Monast. Dioc. Exon.' p. 155), and eventually by surviving the members of his family and succeeding on the death of his brother Peter, Lord Grandisson, in 1358, to the peerage, he became the wealthiest lord bishop that Exeter had hitherto possessed; and it is safe to add, that none before, or since, did more to promote the splendour of religion, and to benefit the poor of the diocese of Exeter. In our account of the Cathedral we shall have to enlarge on his taste and munificent spirit. To the 'Monasticon' of the diocese we must refer our readers for his noble foundation of St. Mary's College at Ottery, for the generous interest he manifested for Crediton Church, Canonsleigh Abbey,. and for St. John's Hospital within this city. On 25th May, 1338, he appropriated to his chapter, with the papal sanction, the church of St. Marina in Cornwall towards the maintenance of his obit and those of his parents and promoter Pope John XXII.; and on 2nd October the same year he added to the gift the church of Bratton. For his successors in the see of Exeter he obtained the appropriation of the church of Radway, within the manor of Bishop's Teignton; and in its glebe he erected convenient and costly buildings, as he relates in his will, "impetravi eis appropriationem ecclesiæ de Radeway in manerio eorum de Teyngton Episcopi ac domos utiles et sumptuosos, ibidem in sanctuario, construxi." The former residence there had been so dilapidated that it was judged expedient to demolish it before Bishop Quivil's death. Liberality increased with his means; the inventory of tho church-plate and ornaments proclaims his unrivalled bounty: and his successor Bishop Brantyngham admits ('Register,' vol. i. fol. 21) that on 1st June, 1372, he had received from the executors the princely sum of two thousand marks, or 1333l. 6s. 4d., besides his best crosier and mitre, and all the dead stock appertaining to husbandry. His Register in three folio volumes furnishes abundant testimony to his talents, and to his devotion to his episcopal duties and his decisive firmness of character. However, we cannot commend him for his resistance, though it proved successful, to the visitation of this diocese by his metropolitan, Simon Mepham. Such visitations were conformable to the canons - had been of long usage here, and were continued after his time; and we cannot help believing that it was unworthy of his reputation, as also a dangerous departure from regular discipline, and affording an evil precedent, to have sheltered himself under special briefs of his patron Pope John XXII., bearing date 20th December, 1331, 4th January, 30th May, 1st September, 1332 ('Reg.' vol. i. fol. 89, 99). His manner also of resistance was most objectionable, and we may add that such personal privileges, though familiar and too often coveted, as history shows, reflect little credit on the receiver or the giver.
Our bishop assisted at the synod holden at St. Paul's, London, in 1342, at which the primate John Stratford presided. The constitutions may be seen in Lynwode's 'Provinciale,' or in Wilkins's 'Councils.' On Sunday 8th July, 1347, our Cathedral offered a memorable spectacle (as reported in the ' Register,' vol. i. fol. 148), namely, in the consecration of Richard Fitz-Ralph Dean of Lichfield to the metropolitan see of Armagh, in virtue of Pope Clement VI.'s bull, dated at Avignon on 12th of the preceding January. The bishops of Bath and Wells, Salisbury and St. Asaph, the abbots of Hartland, Tome, Newenham, and Buckfastleigh, with the prior of Plympton, assisted, and an immense concourse of clergy, regular and secular, knights, &c. After the ceremony the new primate of all Ireland rode through the midst of Exeter in his pontificals, on a palfrey covered with a white cloth, according to the fashion of the Roman Court, "idem consecratus postea equitavit per medium civitatis Exon indutus pontificalibus, super palefridum albo panno coõpertum, prout in Romanâ curiâ fieri consuevit." This primate in the sequel was elected Chancellor of Oxford, and died in 1366 ('Hist. et Antiq. Univ. Oxon.,' I. i. p. 181).
Bishop Grandisson's will, dated from his favourite residence at Chudleigh, on 8th September, 1368, was proved ten days after his death, an event that occurred on 15th July (the Feast of St. Swithin), 1369, in the 77th year of his age, and the 42nd of his episcopacy.
After desiring to be buried as soon as convenient in the chapel outside the west door of his cathedral, and with as little ostentation as possible? he directs that an hundred poor persons be clothed for that occasion - that money should be distributed among the sick and prisoners, and that a general distribution of alms, chiefly in bread, take place on the day before or after the funeral. To his cathedral, to his successors, bishops of Exeter, to the collegiate churches of Ottery, Crediton, and Glasney his bequests are numerous and valuable. To Pope Urban V. he leaves a very rich cope of purple velvet embroidered with figures, and a noble orfrey; also the sermons of St. Bernard and 200 florens for the papal exchequer. To King Edward III. he gives a splendid piece of embroidery of Roman work, representing the crucifixion of our Lord. To Edward (the Black Prince) and his brother John Duke of Lancaster, and to his Duchess Blanche, the bishop's cousin, to each a piece of plate or a jewel. To Isabella, the king's eldest daughter, his psaltery. To the archbishop of Canterbury some tapestry representing the coronation of Our Lady, with the apostles seated on thrones, also a pontifical ring and fifty marks sterling. To his poor clergy, to every abbey and priory, and many hospitals in his diocese, and to some religious establishments elsewhere he proves himself a considerable benefactor. To him we may apply the text "Eleemosynas illius enarrabit omnis Ecclesia Sanctorum" (Ecclesiast. c. xxxi.).
According to his directions he was buried in the chapel of St. Radegundes, which he had prepared for the purpose twenty years before. Until the suppression of chantries his grateful children of St. Mary's College, Ottery, religiously maintained his obit here. Hoker, in his original M.S. history, 1590, is silent as to the sacrilegious violation of the founder's remains; but in his fair transcript, nine years later, for the use of the corporation of Exeter, relates that "his tombe was of late pulled up, the ashes scattered abroad, and the bones bestowed no man knoweth where." Hoker died in 1601. Westcote, in his 'Survey of Devon,' completed in 1630, observes that "he was taken up shrouded in lead, not long since, the lead melted, and the chapel defaced - an unworthy deed; and it is to me a marvel that they escaped unpunished, in regard the very heathen had laws against violating or defacing of monuments or sepulchres" (edit. 1845, p. 167). Izacke in his 'Memorials,' p. 59, states that "his tomb was of late ransack'd by sacrilegious hands; his leaden coffin (in hope of a prey) taken up, the ashes scattered about, and his bones thrown, I know not where. Surely the reliques of this worthy prelate deserved a more reverend respect even amongst savage beasts."
This highly gifted bishop in 1337 compiled a volume of 105 folios, called the Ordinale, or book regulating the offices performed in his cathedral. He was indeed anxious that everything there should be done decently, and according to order, and in folio 12 insists that in the recital of the psalms, hymns, and other portions of the service, in vain will the tongue labour if the heart prayeth not; that what air or wind is to the fire, devotion is to words uttered in the sanctuary. In folio 13b he refers to an accurate antiphonary "quod dicitur Grantson, et illud Gradale Antiquum cum Psalteriis," which he had presented to his church. We are disposed to think that the present Ordinale, in the possession of the Dean and Chapter, is not the original, from the difference very perceptible in the handwriting in various parts, and again, from certain entries, for example fol. 71 b, "In crastino octavæ Assumptionis Sancte Maria: fiat semper memoria vel obitus Joannis de Grandissono Episcopi Exoniensis, cum distributione LX. "
On Lady-day, 1366, the 39th year of his episcopacy, he presented two folio volumes for the use of his cathedral, which are still in good preservation. One contains the lessons from the Bible, as also the homilies appointed to be read; the other comprises the lives of the saints, with the offices in common, that have no proper collects and lessons. In the beginning of the 'Legenda de Sanctis' is written "Ego I. de G. Exon., do Eccle. Exon. libru istu cum pari suo, in festo Annuntiationis Dominice. Manu mea, anno consecrationis mee xxxix." He was also the author of a Life of St. Thomas of Canterbury, for whose memory he entertained a special veneration. In his letter written to Pope Benedict. XII. early in 1335, he expressly says "Vitam beati Thome Martyris, ex multis scriptoribus per me noviter redactam, Sanctitatis vestræ oculis destino intuendam" ('Reg.' vol. i. fol. 46). We suspect that the whole of this life is condensed in the numerous lessons in the above-mentioned 'Legenda Sanctorum,' as read in our cathedral 29th December, 5th January, and 7th July. A copy is preserved in the Supellex Libraria of the see of Canterbury. It commences, "Benedictionibus Divines dulcedinis," and concludes "In sæcula sæculorum" (MS. G. 75). The spirited representation of the Saint's Martyrdom, introduced in a modus of the vaulting of our cathedral nave, we imagine the bishop had borrowed from the obverse of the seal of Stephen Langton, the renowned primate of Canterbury. In his will he gives two other books, perhaps Pontificals of his compilation, to his successors, "Lego eisdem libros mews episcopales, majorem et minorem, quos ego compilavi."
His lordship had an extensive library, which he divided principally between his chapter and the collegiate churches of Ottery, Crediton, and Boseham, and Exeter College, Oxford. All the works of St. Thomas de Aquino he bequeathed to the Dominican convent here. To Simon Islip, Archbishop of Canterbury, he presented, as an heir-loom to that metropolitan see, on 9th April, 1364, a magnificent copy of St. Anselm's letters, now in the British Museum, where, in July, 1846, we copied the following memorandum in the beginning of the volume from his well-known handwriting :-
Do et lego cuicunque archiepo. Cant.
Ut memor sit miseri Johannis
Qui hoc manu suâ scripsit.
Hic infra potest videri status
Tam Ecclesiæ, quam Regni Angliæ.
Utinam renovetur per Xtum Dnu. nru.,
Qui vivit et regnat, Rex
Regum et summus Sacerdos et Pontifex in æternum.
Anno Dni. MCCCLXIIIJ°
Et ætatis meæ LXXIIJ°
Et officii mei XXXVIIJ°
Menses Aprili, die nono.
In the inventoiy of the treasures of Windsor College mention is made of a book, "De Legendis et Missis de B. V. Maria ex Demo Johannis de Grandissono, Episcopi Exon" ('Mon. Angl.' vol. vi. p. 1362). His successor in the see acknowledged, 1st June, 1372, to have received of Sir John Montacute, Knight, Robt. de Wykford, Nicholas de Braybroke, and William de Braybroke, executors and administrators of John de Grandisson, the deceased bishop of Exeter (as already mentioned), the sum of two thousand marks, his best crosier and mitre, "cum toto instauro mortuo ipsius ad husbandriam pertinente" ('Reg.' vol. i. fol. 21).
We cannot conclude this article without submitting to our readers the benevolent act of our bishop as communicated to us by our learned friend and antiquary Mr. Edward Smirke, who discovered that Bishop Grandisson abolished all personal servitude in the manor of Ottery in consideration of a fixed yearly rent of 2s. 6d. a ferling. The words of the grant are - "Quilibet custumarius qui tenet unum ferlingatum terræ dabit per annum, pro licentiâ maritandi filias suas tam infra manerium quam extra, et pro operibus hyemalibus et autumpnalibus, aruris, messionibus, averagiis, &c., et aliis operibus et consuetudinibus exonerandis (except, suit to mill, heriots, &c.) IIs. VId"
This redemption of marriage-fines distinctly proves that; the servitude was personal and not territorial only.
Arms: - Paly of six argent and azure, a bend gules, charged with a mitre between two eaglets displayed, or.
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