Bishop of Norwich

Bishop of Norwich

The Bishop of Norwich is the Ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of Norwich in the Province of Canterbury.

The diocese covers most of the County of Norfolk and part of Suffolk. The see is in the City of Norwich where the seat is located at the Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity.

The Bishop's residence is Bishop's House, Norwich.

East Anglia has held a bishopric since 630 when the first cathedral was founded at Dunwich on a site which is now submerged by the sea off the coast of Suffolk. The seat was moved in 673 to Elmham (now North Elmham) and thence to Thetford in 1070 before finally being located in Norwich in 1094 under King William II ahead of the completion of the new cathedral building.

The current bishop is the Right Reverend Graham James, the 71st Bishop of Norwich, who signs "Graham Norvic".


Ancient Times

Though the see took the name Norwich only in the eleventh century, its history goes back five hundred years earlier, to the conversion of East Anglia by St Felix in the reign of King Sigeberht, who succeeded to the kingdom of his father Redwald on the death of his half-brother Eorpweald in 628. St Felix first fixed his see at Dunwich, a sea-coast town whose site is now submerged off the coast of Suffolk in Southwold Bay. From there he evangelized the areas corresponding to Norfolk, Suffolk, and Cambridgeshire, the counties which later were to form the Norwich diocese. He was succeeded by Thomas (647), Beorhtgils (Boniface), who died about 669, and Bisi, on whose death, in 673, St Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury, divided the see into two, with cathedrals at Dunwich and Elmham (now North Elmham).

The see of Elmham came to an end about 870, when St Edmund, King of the East Angles, and the bishop St Humbertus were murdered by the Danes. The country was ravaged, the churches and monasteries destroyed, and Christianity was only practised with difficulty. Bishop Wilred of Dunwich seems then to have reunited the dioceses, choosing Elmham as his see. The line of his successors at Elmham then descended to Bishop Herfast, a chaplain to William the Conqueror, who removed his see to Thetford Priory and died in 1084.

The See at Norwich

Herbert de Losinga obtained his appointment in 1091 by means of a simoniacal gift to King William Rufus to secure his election, but being subsequently struck with remorse went to Rome, in 1094, to obtain absolution from the pope. Herbert founded a priory of Norwich in expiation for his sin and at the same time moved his see there from Thetford in 1094 under King William II. The chapter of secular canons was dissolved and the monks took their place. The foundation-stone of the new cathedral at Norwich was laid in 1096, in honour of the Blessed Trinity. By the time of his death in 1119, Herbert de Losinga had completed the choir, which is apsidal and encircled by a procession path, and which originally gave access to three Norman chapels. His successor, Bishop Eborard, completed the long Norman nave so that the cathedral is a very early twelfth-century building, modified naturally by later additions and alterations. The chief of these were the Lady chapel (c. 1250, destroyed by the Protestant Dean Gardiner 1573-1589); the cloisters (c. 1300), the West Window (c. 1440), the rood screen, the spire and the vault spanning the nave (c. 1450). The cathedral suffered much from iconoclasm during the Reformation and the civil wars.

The Norwich diocese consisted of Norfolk and Suffolk with some parts of Cambridgeshire, being divided into four archdeaconries: Norfolk, Norwich, Suffolk, and Sudbury. At the end of the seventeenth century there were 1121 parish-churches, and this number had probably not changed much since Catholic times. The main religious houses in the medieval diocese were the Benedictine Abbeys of Bury St Edmunds, Wymondham, and St Benet's of Hulm, the cathedral priory of Norwich, along with the Cistercian Abbey of Sibton, the only Cistercian Abbey in East Anglia (the ruins now privately owned by the Levett-Scrivener family [ [ Rural England, Henry Rider Haggard, 1906] ] ), and the abbeys of the Augustinian Canons at Wendling, Langley, and Laystone. Both Dominican and Franciscan convents were to be found at Lynn, Norwich, Yarmouth, Dunwich, and Ipswich, while the Dominicans also had houses at Thetford and Sudbury and the Franciscans at Bury St Edmund's and at Walsingham, where the great shrine of Our Lady was, a foundation of Augustinian canons. The Carmelites were at Lynn, Norwich, Yarmouth, and Blakeney; and the Austin Friars at Norwich, Lynn, and Orford.

The Tudor and Stuart Period

The last bishop before the start of the English Reformation was Richard Nykke (succeeded 1501), who was succeeded by William Rugg in 1536. After him came in 1550 Thomas Thirlby, who had already been appointed Bishop of Westminster by the King alone but was reconciled to the Pope in the reign of Queen Mary. After him in 1554 came John Hopton, the last Bishop of Norwich in communion with Rome, who died in 1558. In the early 17th century, the diocese was a hotbed of Puritanism. During the reign of Charles I, an angry Puritan mob invaded the cathedral and destroyed all Catholic symbols in 1643. It would be repaired at the Restoration.


The bishop of Norwich is the Ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of Norwich in the Province of Canterbury. The current bishop is the Right Reverend Graham James, the 71st Bishop of Norwich, who signs "Graham Norvic".

ee also

* List of the Bishops of the Diocese of Norwich, England and its precursor offices


External links

* [ Diocese of Norwich]
* [ St. Felix RC Parish - Felixstowe]


*Text partly drawn from the Catholic Encyclopaedia, 1908.

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