Bishop John Grandisson as he appears in the stained glass window in Exeter Cathedral.

The vaulted ceiling inside Exeter Cathedral.

Bishop John Grandisson of Exeter (1327-69): the bishop, the cathedral and the diocese

This AHRC Cultural Engagement Project, entitled: ‘Bishop John Grandisson of Exeter (1327-69): the bishop, the cathedral and the diocese’ took place over three months in Spring 2013. With the aim of introducing schoolchildren and other interested audiences to the history of Exeter Cathedral through the life and work of Bishop John Grandisson, this project was the result of a successful collaboration between historians in the History Department at the University of Exeter and the librarians, archivists, educators and volunteers at Exeter Cathedral.

John Grandisson was a very active bishop even though he lived during a time when Exeter was in the grip of the Black Death. Plague ravaged the city from 1348 and caused significant social and economic upheaval, but despite the many challenges that he faced during his long episcopate of forty-two years, Bishop Grandisson was able to make a powerful and lasting impact on both the city and the Church. Grandisson was not only responsible for much of the current cathedral building, including the impressive West Front and the chapel which bears his name, but he also worked diligently to join the cathedral to the wider diocese, visiting local churches and promoting reform while also founding the parish church at Ottery St Mary. Furthermore, Grandisson is also known for compiling a number of books for use in the cathedral which survive to this day and record a liturgy unique to Exeter.

By looking at Bishop Grandisson’s life and legacy – as manifest in stone and parchment – this project explored issues of memory, place and identity in the South West. Taken together, these three themes provided the structure and direction for the research and resulted in the creation of a trail for schoolchildren at key stages 2 and 3 to follow in the cathedral (highlighting Grandisson’s life and times) along with an online exhibition of many of the notable objects associated with Grandisson, such as his gold ring, his books, his letters and the works of art and architecture commissioned by the bishop himself.


Dr Kitrina Bevan

Principal Investigator

Professor Sarah Hamilton


Dr Catherine Rider