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Updated:  Aug 12, 2013
prev: Jean Rochambeau Jean Rochambeau Diocese of Rochester next: Diocese of Rochester

Ancient See of Rochester

Oldest and smallest of all the suffragan sees of Canterbury, was founded by St. Augustine, Apostle of England

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* Published by Encyclopedia Press, 1913.

Rochester, Ancient See of (ROFFA; ROFFENSIS), the oldest and smallest of all the suffragan sees of Canterbury, was founded by St. Augustine, Apostle of England, who in 604 consecrated St. Justus as its first bishop. It consisted roughly of the western part of Kent, separated from the rest of the county by the Medway, though the diocesan boundaries did not follow the river very closely. The cathedral, founded by King Ethelbert and dedicated to St. Andrew from whose monastery at Rome St. Augustine and St. Justus had come, was served by a college of secular priests and endowed with land near the city called Priestfield. It suffered much from the Mercians (676) and the Danes, but the city retained its importance, and after the Norman Conquest a new cathedral was begun by the Norman bishop Gundulf. This energetic prelate replaced the secular chaplains by Benedictine monks, translated the relics of St. Paulinus to a silver shrine which became a place of pilgrimage, obtained several royal grants of land, and proved an untiring benefactor to his cathedral city. Gundulf had built the nave and western front before his death; the western transept was added between 1179 and 1200, and the eastern transept during the reign of Henry III. The cathedral is small, being only 306 feet long, but its nave is the oldest in England and it has a fine Norman crypt. Besides the shrine of St. Paulinus, the cathedral contained the relics of St. Ithamar, the first Saxon to be consecrated to the episcopate, and St. William of Perth, who was held in popular veneration. In 1130 the cathedral was consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury assisted by thirteen bishops in the presence of Henry I, but the occasion was marred by a great fire which nearly destroyed the whole city and damaged the new cathedral. After the burial of St. William of Perth in 1201 the offerings at his tomb were so great, that by their means the choir was rebuilt and the central tower was added (1343), thus completing the cathedral. From the foundation of the see the archbishops of Canterbury had enjoyed the privilege of nominating the bishop, but Archbishop Theobald transferred the right to the Benedictine monks of the cathedral who exercised it for the first time in 1148.

The following is the list of bishops with the date of their accession; but the succession from Tatnoth (844) to Siweard (1058) is obscure, and may be modified by fresh research:

St. Justus, 604

Romanus, 624

Vacancy, 625

St. Paulinus, 633

St. Ithamar, 644

Damianus, 655

Vacancy, 664

Putta, 666-9

Cwichelm, 676

Gebmund, 678

Tobias, 693-706

Ealdwulf, 727

Dunno, 741

Eardwulf, 747

Deora, 765-72

Waermund I, 781-5

Beornmod, 803-5

Tatnoth, 844

Beadunoth (possibly identical with Waermund II)

Waermund II, 845-62

Cuthwulf, 860-8

Swithwulf (date unknown)

Ceolmund, 897-904

Cynefrith (date unknown)

Burhric, 933 or 934

Beorhtsige (doubtful name)

Daniel, 951-5

Aelfstan, c. 964

Godwine I, 995

Godwine II (date unknown)

Siweard, 1058

Arnost, 1076

Gundulf, 1077

Radulphus d'Escures, 1108

Ernulf, 1115

John of Canterbury, 1125

John of Sees, 1137

Ascelin, 1142

Walter, 1148

Gualeran, 1182

Gilbert de Glanvill, 1185

Benedict de Sansetun, 1215

Henry Sandford, 1226

Richard de Wendover, 1235 (consecrated, 1238)

Lawrence de St. Martin, 1251

Walter de Merton, 1274

John de Bradfield, 1277

Thomas Inglethorp, 1283

Thomas de Wouldham, 1292

Vacancy, 1317

Hamo de Hythe, 1319

John de Sheppey, 1352

William of Whittlesea, 1362

Thomas Trilleck, 1364

Thomas Brinton, 1373

William de Bottisham, 1389

John de Bottisham, 1400

Richard Young, 1404

John Kemp, 1419 (afterwards Cardinal)

John Langdon, 1421

Thomas Brown, 1435

William Wells, 1437

John Lowe, 1444

Thomas Rotheram (or Scott), 1468

John Alcock, 1472

John Russell, 1476

Edmund Audley, 1480

Thomas Savage, 1492

Richard Fitz James, 1496

Bl. John Fisher, 1504 (Cardinal)

Schismatical bishops:

John Hilsey, 1535

Richard Heath, 1539

Henry Holbeach, 1543

Nicholas Ridley, 1547

John Poynet, 1550

John Scory, 1551

Vacancy, 1552

The canonical line was restored by the appointment in 1554 of Maurice Griffith, the last Catholic bishop of Rochester, who died in 1558. The diocese was so small, consisting merely of part of Kent, that it needed only one archdeacon (Rochester) to supervise the 97 parishes. It was also the poorest diocese in England. The cathedral was dedicated to St. Andrew the Apostle. The arms of the see were argent, on a saltire gules an Escalop shell, or.

EDWIN BURTON


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