CAPTION: Bishop Robert in Exeter Cathedral's Grandisson Chapel during a service to mark 650 years since Bishop de Grandisson's death

Exeter Cathedral not just a “heritage theme park”

Posted: 17th July, 2019

The Bishop of Exeter has said at a special service to honour the medieval bishop responsible for completing Exeter Cathedral that he hopes the building never becomes just “a heritage theme park.”

Rt Rev’d Robert Atwell was giving the sermon at a Requiem Mass on 16 July to mark the 650th anniversary of the death of Bishop John de Grandisson, the man who is still Devon’s longest serving Bishop.

Bishop Robert said: “Over the centuries, the Cathedral has been knocked about a bit and modified… but the cathedral we see today is substantially Grandisson’s, and it is good that we should remember him in prayer and with thanksgiving.

“In the words of King Solomon spoken at the dedication of the first temple in Jerusalem, I pray that this cathedral may continue to be sacred space where God’s name is honoured’.

“May it never descend into becoming a heritage theme park.

“May it always be‘a house of prayer for all people’, a ‘thin place’ as one modern poet described his church: a place where earth and heaven meet and God feels very close.”

The special service launched a year of events marking the architectural, musical, educational and cultural legacies of John de Grandisson.

He became Bishop of Exeter at the age of 35 and served for 42 years, including living through the Black Death, which wiped out a third of the population of Devon and two thirds of the clergy who contracted the plague as a result of burying the dead.

Bishop de Grandisson died in 1369 and was buried inside the Cathedral walls at his own request. His tomb was later raided by a Puritan mob during the reign of Elizabeth 1.

University choir

Exeter University Chapel Choir sang at the service

The Revd Canon James Mustard, Canon Precentor at Exeter Cathedral said “Bishop Grandisson’s great achievement was his completion of the Cathedral building as we know it.

But, he was also a great scholar, educationalist, internationalist and patron of the arts.

The legacy of his vision for all the churches of Devon to be places of learning, as well as worship, is all around us.

During the service Fauré’s Requiem was sung by the visiting choir of Christ Church Cranbrook, Michigan, USA and the University of Exeter Chapel Choir.

A 14th Century coffin pall (covering cloth) has gone on display in the Cathedral alongside one of Bishop de Grandisson’s manuscripts and Bishop’s ring, which was found during the restoration of his Chapel in the 1950’s.