Exeter, Ancient See of

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The Ancient See of Exeter was a diocese of southwest England. In 909 Abp. plegmund of canterbury subdivided the Diocese of Sherborne into three dioceses: Somerset, Cornwall, and Devon (residential city at Crediton). In 1040 Devon and Cornwall were reunited and in 1050 Exeter replaced Crediton as the see city. The Saxon abbey church became the cathedral of Bp. Leofric (104670), the first bishop of Exeter. Bishop William Warelwast (110737), nephew of William the Conqueror, began building the Norman cathedral that was consecrated in 1133. The present Decorated cathedral, which retained the twin Norman towers over the north and south transepts, was begun c. 1275 and finished 90 years later, much of the work being done by Bps. Walter Bronescombe (125880), walter de stapeldon, Peter Quivil (128091), and John of Grandisson (132769), who added the famous minstrel's gallery in the north clere-story. The clock in the north transept is attributed to Peter Lightfoot, monk of glastonbury. Bishop Peter courtenay gave the Peter Bell. Only a few fragments of the original Saxon church remain.

Important manuscripts in the episcopal library include the deed of edward the confessor that installed Leofric, the Exeter Book of AS poetry given by Leofric (tr. B. Thorpe, 1842), and the "Exon Domesday." Exeter was apparently the only English cathedral where all dignitaries and canons swore an oath to the bishop. Also, the chapter acknowledged the bishop's rights over a vacant deanery. Exeter was the site of a flourishing theological school. Later bishops included Edmund lacy (141955) and the reformer Miles coverdale (155153). In 1559 Exeter was made an Anglican bishopric.

Bibliography: g. oliver, The History of the City of Exeter, ed. e. smirke (London 1861). e. a. freeman, Exeter (4th ed. New York 1895). r. j. e. boggis, A History of the Diocese of Exeter (Exeter 1922). k. edwards, The English Secular Cathedrals in the Middle Ages (Manchester, Eng. 1949). v. hope and l. j. lloyd, Exeter Cathedral: A Short History and Description (Exeter 1973). n. orme, Exeter Cathedral as it Was 10501550 (Exeter 1986). m. j. swanton and j. allan, Exeter Cathedral: A Celebration (Crediton 1991). f. kelly, Medieval Art and Architecture at Exeter Cathedral ([s.l.] 1991).

[n. denholmyoung/eds.]