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Chester, Ancient See of


The city of Chester in Cheshire, northwest England, south of Liverpool, may have been, at times, the seat of those bishops of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia who are usually associated with Lichfield (see coventry and lichfield, ancient see of). Medieval Chester became important when it was fortified in 907 by Queen Ethelfleda, becoming the site of a royal palace and the scene (973) of the submission of the kings of Britain to King edgar the peaceful. There were two collegiate churches at Chester by the 10th century: St. Werburgh, which was first attested in a document of King Edgar dated 958, and St. John the Baptist. These collegiate churches were restored by Leofric of Mercia c. 1057, and are both mentioned as having considerable endowments in the domesday survey. This same survey indicates that the bishops of Lichfield had retained a strong position in Chester until the time of the Conquest. Then in 1075 the Council of London, under the primacy of Abp. lanfranc of canterbury, decreed the removal of the See of Lichfield to Chester. Bishop Peter of Lichfield moved there accordingly, and the collegiate church of St. John the Baptist became the cathedral. In 1102, however, the second bishop of Chester, Roger de Limesey (10861117), transferred his see to St. Mary's, Coventry, perhaps because of the hostility of the Welsh. The Abbey of St. Werburgh, refounded with Benedictine monks from bec by Earl Hugh of Chester (1092), remained important, and it seems that Chester still gave the bishop his title, although no bishop seems to have lived there until the founding of the new see under henry viii in 1541. At that date the abbey church of St. Werburgh became the cathedral.

Bibliography: c. hiatt, The Cathedral Church of Chester (London 1897). j. tait, ed., The Domesday Survey of Cheshire (Edinburgh 1916). d. jones, The Church in Chester, 13001540 (Manchester 1957) 45. r. v. h. burne, Chester Cathedral, from its Founding by Henry VIII to the Accession of Queen Victoria (London 1958). a. bruce, The Cathedral 'Open and Free': Dean Bennett of Chester (Liverpool 2000). a. thacker, Medieval Archaeology Art and Architecture at Chester (Leeds 2000).

[v. i. j. flint/eds.]

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