King John and St Wolstan

king john1According to Roger of Wendover, as King John lay dying he commended his body and soul to God and St Wolstan. Wolstan was the Saxon Archbishop of Worcester, consecrated in 1062, who remained in post after the Norman Conquest.  Legend says he was called upon to resign his bishopric but lay his crozier upon the shrine Edward the Confessor in Westminster from whom he’d gained his bishopric.  No one could move the crozier except for Wolstan.  This was taken as a sign that the devoted, but not especially learned priest, should retain his see. king john It is hard to find a rationale for King John’s appreciation of Wolstan – who incidentally was canonised during John’s reign. Certainly chroniclers do not record a lifetime of prayer on John’s lips.  Perhaps John admired a man who overcame his temptations and turned aside from ambition but who still ended his life as a bishop.  Whatever the reasons, John was drawn to St Wolstan.  He visited Wolstan’s shrine at Worcester twice – once in 1207 and again in 1214.  He may have visited more often.  He came to Worcester to negotiate with the Welsh and also to hunt in nearby forests. John asked to be buried next to his favourite saint which is why he lies in Worcester Cathedral, as does Prince Arthur (Henry VIII’s elder brother).  The cathedral library contains John’s will and one of his thumb bone’s in its collection.

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Filed under Cathedrals, Kings of England, The Plantagenets, Thirteenth Century

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