Jocelin of Wells

Last updated

Jocelin of Wells
Bishop of Bath (previously of Bath and Glastonbury)
Elected3 February 1206
Predecessor Savaric FitzGeldewin
Successor Roger of Salisbury
Other post(s)canon of Wells
Consecration26 May 1206
by  William of Sainte-Mère-Eglise
Personal details
Died12 November 1242
Buried Wells Cathedral

Jocelin of Wells [lower-alpha 1] (died 19 November 1242) was a medieval Bishop of Bath (and Glastonbury). He was the brother of Hugh de Wells, who became Bishop of Lincoln. Jocelin became a canon of Wells Cathedral before 1200, and was elected bishop in 1206. During King John of England's dispute with Pope Innocent III, Jocelin at first remained with the king, but after the excommunication of John in late 1209, Jocelin went into exile. He returned to England in 1213, and was mentioned in Magna Carta in 1215.


Jocelin was one of the bishops that crowned John's son Henry III, and throughout the rest of Jocelin's life was involved in royal administration. He was also active in his diocese, ordering construction on the cathedral at Wells, and issuing rules for his diocesan clergy. During his time as bishop, he settled a dispute between his diocese and Glastonbury Abbey that had started during the bishopric of his predecessor. The memorial brass on his tomb in Wells Cathedral is probably one of the earliest in England.

Early life

Jocelin born in Wells in Somerset, [2] and was the son of Edward of Wells, [3] a small landowner in the city of Wells. [4] His brother Hugh de Wells, was archdeacon of Wells and Bishop of Lincoln. [3] Some historians say that another relative, although the exact relationship is unknown, was Simon of Wells, who became Bishop of Chichester in 1207, [5] but other historians dispute this. [6] The name Jocelin Trotman or Thotman, by which he was occasionally known by some modern historians, only dates from the Margam Annals , and is not contemporary with his life. [7]

Jocelin was a royal justiciar in 1203, [3] as well as the custodian of the vacant diocese of Lincoln. He was a royal clerk as well as a canon of Wells, [3] becoming a canon and a deacon by 1200. [8] The previous bishop of Wells died in 1205, and on 3 February 1206, Jocelin was elected bishop. He was consecrated on 28 May 1206, [9] at Reading by Bishop William of Sainte-Mère-Eglise of London. [3] It is unclear if the cathedral chapters of Bath and of Wells took the action on their own, or if King John was the driving force behind the election. [8]

Advisor to King John

A copy of Magna Carta Magna Carta (British Library Cotton MS Augustus II.106).jpg
A copy of Magna Carta

Jocelin was one of the main advisors of King John during the dispute with the pope over Stephen Langton's appointment to the Archbishopric of Canterbury. [10] Jocelin did not immediately leave England after Pope Innocent III placed an interdict on England. [11] Jocelin encouraged John to settle with Innocent in early 1209, worried that Innocent would expand the interdict into an excommunication, forcing John's advisors to choose between serving the king or obeying the pope. Nothing came of the negotiations, however. [10] Jocelin did leave England when John was excommunicated in late 1209. Jocelin, along with Gilbert Glanvill, the Bishop of Rochester, was the subject of a mocking song on his conduct during the interdict. [11]

Jocelin and Hugh were in exile together in Bordeaux in 1212, but they both returned to England in May 1213, along with the other English bishops. [8] Jocelin was one of the bishops in August 1214 who refused to pay a scutage to the king. [12] In 1215, Jocelin sided with Stephen Langton and the barons, and Magna Charta lists Jocelin as one of the king's councillors. [13]

Henry III's reign

Jocelin and Peter des Roches, the Bishop of Winchester, anointed and crowned King Henry III, the young son of John, after John's death. Later, Jocelin was present at the battle with Eustace the Monk in 1217, which helped to secure Henry's rule. Jocelin supported Hubert de Burgh's work of ejecting French forces from England and regaining control of royal castles seized by Falkes de Breauté and other barons. In 1218, Jocelin was one of the itinerant justiciars for southwestern England. [8]

In 1218 and 1219, Jocelin also ended the dispute between his diocese and Glastonbury Abbey. Jocelin gave up any claim to control of the abbey, and the abbey gave the bishopric a number of estates. Previously, the bishops, as part of their attempt to annexe Glastonbury to their bishopric, had been known as the Bishop of Bath and Glastonbury. [14] They also had held the office of abbot. In 1218, as part of the settlement, a new abbot was elected at Glastonbury. [15] The papacy had never acknowledged Jocelin's claiming of the title of abbot. [16] The historian J. A. Robinson felt that as part of the settlement, Jocelin began to use the title Bishop of Bath and Wells, but another historian, David Knowles, disagreed. [17]

After 1223, Jocelin was a baron of the exchequer. [18] In 1225 he served the king as head of one of the receivers of the tax of a fifteenth. [8] After the dismissal of Walter Mauclerk as treasurer, at first Jocelin, along with Richard Poore, the Bishop of Durham, took over many of the treasurer's functions, but this did not last long, and after 1233, Jocelin no longer was involved with financial affairs. He occasionally witnessed charters, however. [19] After the fall of Peter des Roches in April 1234, Jocelin was given control of the Wardrobe. [20] After this, he appears less regularly in royal government, but he did witness the reconfirmation of Magna Carta in 1237. [8]

Diocesan affairs

West front of Wells Cathedral, which was constructed under Jocelin Wells Cathedral West Front.jpg
West front of Wells Cathedral, which was constructed under Jocelin

With his brother Hugh, Jocelin founded St. John's Hospital at Wells. [21] Jocelin promulgated a set of constitutions for the diocese, ordered that his diocesan clergy reside in their benefices, and gave land and income to the cathedral school. [8] Glastonbury Abbey complained of Jocelin that he plundered lands of the abbey. [22] Jocelin was also involved in mediating between William de Blois, the Bishop of Worcester, and Tewkesbury Abbey over William's rights over the abbey. Jocelin finally settled the dispute in 1232. [23]

Jocelin funded the building of Wells Cathedral, [8] begun at the east end in the Early English Gothic style under Reginald Fitz Jocelin. The nave was completed, the west front begun. The new cathedral was consecrated on 23 October 1239 by Jocelin. Other construction work undertaken by Jocelin included the cloisters and bishop's palace at Wells, and a manor house at Wookey. [8]


Jocelin died on 19 November 1242 [9] at Wells [8] and was buried in the choir of Wells Cathedral. [3] He may have been the father of Nicholas of Wells. The memorial brass on his tomb is allegedly one of the earliest brasses in England. [8] He employed the medieval architect Elias of Dereham as a household official. [24]


  1. Also known as Jocelinus Thoteman or Jocelin Troteman. [1]


  1. Dunning Somerset Miscellany pp. 28–29
  2. Greenway "Unidentified Prebendaries" Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066–1300: Volume 7: Bath and Wells
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Greenway "Bishops" Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066–1300: Volume 7: Bath and Wells
  4. Gibbs and Lang Bishops and Reform p. 186
  5. Turner King John p. 46
  6. Mayr-Harting "Wells, Simon of" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  7. Robinson "Bishop Jocelin and the Interdict: Appendix D" Somerset Historical Essays pp. 156–159
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Dunning "Wells, Jocelin of" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  9. 1 2 Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 228
  10. 1 2 Turner King John pp. 120–121
  11. 1 2 Poole Domesday Book to Magna Carta p. 446 and footnote 2
  12. Vincent Peter des Roches p. 99
  13. Powell and Wallis House of Lords p. 129
  14. Knowles Monastic Order in England p. 329–330
  15. Knowles, et al. Heads of Religious Houses p. 52
  16. Knowles, et al. Heads of Religious Houses p. 250
  17. Sayers "Monastic Archdeacons" Church and Government p. 184 and footnote 31
  18. Vincent Peter des Roches p. 267
  19. Vincent Peter des Roches p. 366
  20. Vincent Peter des Roches pp. 435–436
  21. Moorman Church Life p. 205
  22. Sayers "Monastic Archdeacons" Church and Government p. 201 footnote 141
  23. Hoskin "Diocesan Politics" Journal of Ecclesiastical History p. 427
  24. Fonge "Patriarchy and Patrimony" Foundations of Medieval English Ecclesiastical History p. 84

Related Research Articles

John de Gray or de Grey was an English prelate who served as Bishop of Norwich, and was elected but unconfirmed Archbishop of Canterbury. He was employed in the service of Prince John even before John became king, for which he was rewarded with a number of ecclesiastical offices, culminating in his pro forma election to Norwich in 1200. De Gray continued in royal service after his elevation to the episcopate, lending the King money and undertaking diplomatic missions on his behalf. In 1205 King John attempted to further reward de Gray with a translation to the archbishopric of Canterbury, but a disputed election process led to de Gray's selection being quashed by Pope Innocent III in 1206.

Geoffrey Ridel was the nineteenth Lord Chancellor of England, from 1162 to 1173.

Eustace was the twenty-third Lord Chancellor of England, from 1197 to 1198. He was also Dean of Salisbury and Bishop of Ely.

Bishop of Bath and Wells Diocesan bishop in the Church of England

The Bishop of Bath and Wells heads the Church of England Diocese of Bath and Wells in the Province of Canterbury in England.

Henry Murdac was abbot of Fountains Abbey and Archbishop of York in medieval England.

Reginald Fitz Jocelin 12th-century Bishop of Bath

Reginald fitz Jocelin was a medieval Bishop of Bath and an Archbishop of Canterbury-elect in England. A member of an Anglo-Norman noble family, he was the son of a bishop, and was educated in Italy. He was a household clerk for Thomas Becket, but by 1167 he was serving King Henry II of England. He was also a favourite of King Louis VII of France, who had him appointed abbot of the Abbey of Corbeil. After Reginald angered Becket while attempting to help negotiate a settlement between Becket and the king, Becket called him "that offspring of fornication, that enemy to the peace of the Church, that traitor." When he was elected as a bishop, the election was challenged by King Henry's eldest son, Henry the Young King, and Reginald was forced to go to Rome to be confirmed by Pope Alexander III. He attended the Third Lateran Council in 1179, and spent much of his time administering his diocese. He was elected Archbishop of Canterbury in 1191, but died before he could be installed.

Savaric fitzGeldewin was an Englishman who became Bishop of Bath and Glastonbury in England. Related to his predecessor as well as to Emperor Henry VI, he was elected bishop on the insistence of his predecessor, who urged his election on the cathedral chapter of Bath. While bishop, Savaric spent many years attempting to annexe Glastonbury Abbey as part of his bishopric. Savaric also worked to secure the release of King Richard I of England from captivity, when the king was held by Emperor Henry VI.

Geoffrey de Burgh was a medieval English cleric who was Archdeacon of Norwich (1200–1225), Bishop of Ely and the brother of William de Burgh and Hubert de Burgh, 1st Earl of Kent.

John of Tours or John de Villula (died 1122) was a medieval Bishop of Wells in England who moved the diocese seat to Bath. He was a native of Tours and was King William I of England's doctor before becoming a bishop. After his consecration as bishop, he was either given or purchased Bath Abbey, a rich monastery, and then moved the headquarters of the diocese from Wells, to the abbey. He rebuilt the church at Bath, building a large cathedral that no longer survives. He gave a large library to his cathedral and received the right to hold a fair in Bath. Not noted for his scholarship, he died suddenly in 1122.

Simon Langton was an English medieval clergyman who served as Archdeacon of Canterbury from 1227 until his death in 1248. He had previously been Archbishop-elect of York, but the election was quashed by Pope Innocent III.

William of Bitton was a medieval English Bishop of Bath and Wells.

Hugh of Beaulieu was a medieval English Bishop of Carlisle.

Walter Mauclerk was a medieval Bishop of Carlisle and Lord High Treasurer of England.

Seffrid I, sometimes known as Seffrid Pelochin, was a medieval Bishop of Chichester.

Simon of Wells was a medieval Bishop of Chichester.

Ranulf of Wareham was a medieval Bishop of Chichester.

John of Fountains was a medieval Bishop of Ely.

Hugh of Wells 13th-century Bishop of Lincoln

Hugh of Wells was a medieval Bishop of Lincoln. He began his career in the diocese of Bath, where he served two successive bishops, before joining royal service under King John of England. He served in the royal administration until 1209, when he was elected to the see, or bishopric, of Lincoln. When John was excommunicated by Pope Innocent III in November 1209, Hugh went into exile in France, where he remained until 1213.

Richard Marsh (bishop) 13th-century Chancellor of England and Bishop of Durham

Richard Marsh, also called Richard de Marisco, served as Lord Chancellor of England and Bishop of Durham.

William of Wrotham 13th-century English sheriff and royal official

William of Wrotham or William de Wrotham was a medieval English royal administrator and clergyman. Although a late 13th-century source says that William held a royal office under King Henry II of England, the first contemporary reference to William is in 1197, when he became responsible for, among other things, the royal tin mines. He also held ecclesiastical office, eventually becoming Archdeacon of Taunton, and served King John of England as an administrator of ecclesiastical lands and a collector of taxes.


Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Bishop of Bath and Glastonbury
Change of title
New title Bishop of Bath
Succeeded by