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Bartholomew Iscanus Bartholomew Iscanus
(died 1184)

Bishop of Exeter
Died: 15th December 1184

Bartholomew Iscanus (of Exeter, ie. Isca), Bishop of Exeter, was a native of his Cathedral City, the son of humble parents. He was educated, in all probability, in the Cistercian Abbey of Ford, on the eastern border of Devon; for he maintained a life-long intimacy with Abbot Baldwin of that house, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury. His great learning and piety assisted in raising him to the bishopric in 1161, where he shone as one of the "two great lights of the English Church," the title bestowed, by Pope Alexander III, on this Bishop and Roger, Bishop of Worcester. "They were," says Geraldis Cambrensis, "like the twin candelabra lighting up all of Britain with the glow of their clarity." Bishop Bartholomew had been the decided opponent of Becket in the early part of his contest with Henry II, especially during the famous scene at Northampton. He subsequently became a warm friend of the Archbishop and, twelve months after his murder, assisted the Bishop of Chester in re-consecrating the polluted Cathedral of Canterbury. On this occasion, 21st December 1171, the Bishop of Exeter celebrated the mass - the first since the murder - and preached a sermon on the text, "For the multitude of the sorrows that I had in my heart, Thy comforts have refreshed my soul."

A remarkable Penitential, set forth by this Bishop for observance throughout his diocese, still exists and condemns many superstitions which are yet prevalent in the west. Others mentioned in it, such as that of the werewolf, have disappeared. Matthew Paris records an adven-ture of Bishop Bartholomew, during one of his visitations, which no less curiously illustrates the common belief of his time. The dead, in a certain churchyard, were heard by him loudly lamenting the death of a good man who was in the habit of procuring masses to be said for their repose. The curious effigy of Bishop Bartholomew remains on the south side of the Lady-chapel.

Edited from Richard John King's "Handbook to the Cathedrals of England: Southern Division" (1903).

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