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Jocelin of Wells

Jocelin of Wells
Bishop of Bath (previously Bath and Glastonbury)
West front of Wells Cathedral, which was constructed under Jocelin.
See Bath (previously Bath and Glastonbury)
Elected 3 February 1206
Term ended 12 November 1242
Predecessor Savaric FitzGeldewin
Successor Roger of Salisbury
Other posts canon of Wells
Consecration 26 May 1206
by William of Sainte-Mère-Eglise
Personal details
Died 12 November 1242

Jocelin of Wells, also known as Jocelinus Thoteman or Jocelin Troteman,[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 1
  • Advisor to King John 2
  • Henry III's reign 3
  • Diocesan affairs 4
  • Death 5
  • Citations 6
  • References 7

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 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

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 treasurers 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

Moat around the Bishop's Palace at Wells

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][24]


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.[25]


  1. ^ Dunning Somerset Miscellany pp. 28–29
  2. ^ Greenway Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066–1300: Volume 7: Bath and Wells: Unidentified Prebendaries
  3. ^ a b c d e f Greenway Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066-1300: Volume 7: Bath and Wells: Bishops
  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. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Dunning "Wells, Jocelin of" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  9. ^ a b Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 228
  10. ^ a b Turner King John pp. 120–121
  11. ^ a b 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. ^ "Wells Cathedral History: Original Building". Wells Cathedral. Retrieved 31 March 2009. 
  25. ^ Fonge "Patriarchy and Patrimony" Foundations of Medieval English Ecclesiastical History p. 84


  • Dunning, Robert (2005). A Somerset Miscellany. Tiverton, UK: Somerset Books.  
  • Dunning, Robert W. (2004). "Wells, Jocelin of (d. 1242)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography ((subscription or UK public library membership required)). Oxford University Press.  
  • Fonge, Charles (2005). "Patriarchy and Patrimony: Investing in the Medieval College". In Hoskin, Philippa;  
  • Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I. (1996). Handbook of British Chronology (Third revised ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.  
  • Gibbs, Marion E.; Lang, Jane (2006) [1934]. Bishops And Reform (Hesprides Press reprint ed.). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.  
  • Greenway, Diana E. (2001). Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066-1300: Volume 7: Bath and Wells: Bishops. Institute for Historical Research.  Accessed on 31 March 2009
  • Greenway, Diana E. (2001). Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066-1300: Volume 7: Bath and Wells: Unidentified Prebendaries. Institute for Historical Research.  Accessed on 23 September 2007
  • Hoskin, Philippa M. (July 2003). "Diocesan Politics in the See of Worcester 1218–1266".  
  • Sayers, Jane (1976). "Monastic Archdeacons". In  
  • Turner, Ralph V. (2005). King John: England's Evil King?. Stroud, UK: Tempus.  
  • Vincent, Nicholas (2002). Peter des Roches: An Alien in English Politics 1205–1238 (Reprint ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.  
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Savaric FitzGeldewin
Bishop of Bath and Glastonbury
Succeeded by
as Bishop of Bath
Preceded by
as Bishop of Bath and Glastonbury
Bishop of Bath
Succeeded by
Roger of Salisbury
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