John Grandisson

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John Grandisson
Bishop of Exeter
Grandisson Coat of Arms in Grandisson Psalter.jpg
Arms of Bishop Grandisson: Paly of six argent and azure, a bend sable charged with a mitre upon a priest's stole between two eagles displayed argent. Grandisson's Psalter, British Library
Appointed10 August 1327
Term ended16 July 1369
PredecessorJohn Godeley
SuccessorThomas Brantingham
Consecration18 October 1327
Personal details
Died16 July 1369
BuriedExeter Cathedral
The John Grandisson Triptych, displaying on two small escutcheons the arms of Bishop Grandisson. British Museum

John de Grandisson (died 1369) was Bishop of Exeter, in Devon, from 1327 to his death in 1369). Several works of art associated with him survive in the British Library, the British Museum and the Louvre in Paris.


Grandisson was born in 1292 at Ashperton near Hereford, the second son of William, Lord de Grandisson, a Burgundian in the household of Edmund, Earl of Lancaster, brother of King Edward I of England. When his elder brother died in 1358 without an heir John became the head of the family.[1]


He studied theology at the University of Paris, and at the age of 17 was appointed a Prebendary of Masham in Yorkshire, an office associated with York Minster. He became Archdeacon of Nottingham at 26, then succeeded his younger brother Thomas as a Prebendary of Heydore an office associated with Lincoln Cathedral. Grandisson was nominated as Bishop of Exeter on 10 August 1327 and was consecrated on 18 October 1327. Grandisson differenced his paternal coat of arms by substituting a bishop's mitre for the central eaglet on the bend. Bishop Grandisson outlawed a popular cult that was being promoted by a house of canons at Frithelstock Priory[2] in Devon. In 1335 he founded the College of Secular Canons at Ottery St Mary in Devon, as a choir school for eight boys and a Master of Grammar, which survives today as "The King's School".

During his episcopacy, he faced a number of anticlerical movements in Devon. For example, the Order of Brothelyngham—a fake monastic order of 1348—regularly rode through Exeter, kidnapping both religious and laymen, and extorting money from them as ransom.[3]

Death & burial[edit]

He died on 16 July 1369[4] and was buried in the mortuary chapel of St Radegund on the south side of the central doorway of the west front of Exeter Cathedral. His tomb was destroyed during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603).

Surviving works of art[edit]

There survive two ivory triptychs and a diptych made in England in the 1330s for private devotion and inscribed with the emblems of John Grandisson as Bishop of Exeter. One of them, now known as the John Grandisson Triptych, held at the British Museum in London, is considered a masterpiece of English mediaeval carving.[5] The diptych is in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

An important psalter known as the Grandisson Psalter, owned by Bishop Grandisson, survives in the British Library in London. It records Grandisson's death and the fact that he bequeathed it to royalty.[6]


  1. ^ Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of London, Volume 1, p.377, Society of Antiquaries of London
  2. ^ Swanson Religion and Devotion p. 255
  3. ^ Heale, M. (2016), The Abbots and Priors of Late Medieval and Reformation England, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19870-253-5
  4. ^ Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 246
  5. ^ triptych / religious/ritual equipment, British Museum, retrieved 7 December 2013
  6. ^ Records Of The Death Of Bishop John Grandisson, In 'The Grandisson Psalter', British Library retrieved 7 December 2013


  • Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I. (1996). Handbook of British Chronology (Third revised ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-56350-X.
  • Jenkins, John (2017). "'Despite the Prohibition of the Lord Bishop': John Grandisson, Bishop of Exeter (1327-69), and the Illusion of Episcopal Power". In Coss, Peter; Dennis, Chris; Silvestri, Angelo; Julian-Jones, Melissa (eds.). Episcopal Power and Local Society in Medieval Europe 1000-1400. Brepols. pp. 271–289. ISBN 978-2-503-57340-3.
  • Swanson, R. N. (1995). Religion and Devotion in Europe, c. 1215-c. 1515. Cambridge Medieval Textbooks. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-37950-4.
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
John Godeley
Bishop of Exeter
Succeeded by
Thomas Brantingham