Bartholomew Iscanus

Bartholomew Iscanus
Bishop of Exeter
Elected before April 1161
Term ended 15 December 1184
Predecessor Robert of Chichester
Successor John the Chanter
Other posts Archdeacon of Exeter
Consecration after 18 April 1161
by Walter
Personal details
Died 15 December 1184
Buried Exeter Cathedral
Denomination Catholic

Bartholomew Iscanus (or Bartholomew of Exeter; died 1184) was a medieval Bishop of Exeter.

Early life

Bartholomew was a native of Normandy, and was probably born in Millières, a village in the Cotentin near Lessay and Périers.[1] He was a clerk of Theobald of Bec, Archbishop of Canterbury before becoming Archdeacon of Exeter in 1155.[2] He was a correspondent of John of Salisbury,[3] as he and John had been clerks for Theobald along with Thomas Becket.[2] After Becket's murder, John took refuge with Bartholomew until he was elected bishop of Chartres in 1176.[4] Contemporaries considered Bartholomew an excellent theologian and canon lawyer.[5] In 1159, Bartholomew took part in a synod held at London to decide between the rival claims of Popes Alexander III and Victor IV.[6] At some point in his career, he taught at the law school at Paris.[7]

Election to Exeter

After the death of Robert of Chichester, the see of Exeter was vacant for a year before a local Gloucestershire family urged King Henry II of England to put forward one of their members as a candidate for the see. Henry did suggest the family member, Henry fitzHarding, to the cathedral chapter, but Archbishop Theobald objected that fitz Harding was unqualified. Instead, Theobald suggested Bartholomew, and eventually the king was persuaded and Bartholomew was elected.[5] He was consecrated bishop after 18 April 1161,[8] at Canterbury Cathedral by Walter, the Bishop of Rochester.[9] Theobald had wished to consecrate Bartholomew before Theobald died, but could not because the king was abroad in Normandy and the bishop-elect had to swear fealty to the king before he could be consecrated.[10] After his consecration, Bartholomew gave the archdeaconry of Exeter to the disappointed royal candidate.[1]

Time as bishop

During the dispute between King Henry and Thomas Becket, Bartholomew refused to cooperate with either side, which caused Becket to scold him as a bad friend.[11] At the start of the dispute, Bartholomew was sent with a royal deputation to Sens to ask the pope to send papal legates to England to settle the quarrel. Thereafter, he avoided being drawn into the controversy, until 1170.[1] When Roger of York crowned Henry the Young King in 1170, Bartholomew was said to be present.[12] In September 1170, Pope Alexander III suspended Bartholomew from office for attending the coronation, along with a number of other bishops.[13] Shortly after a settlement of the dispute was reached in 1172, Henry wrote to Bartholomew saying that "I shall abolish all new customs introduced in my reign against the churches of my land (which I consider to be few or none)",[14] which signaled Henry's intentions of mostly ignoring the settlement.[15] Bartholomew was restored to his office before 21 December 1171, when he helped restore Canterbury Cathedral to use for religious ceremonies.[1]

Early in his episcopate, Bartholomew attended Alexander III's council at Tours in 1163, along with a number of other English bishops.[1] Bartholomew often acted as a judge-delegate for the papacy in cases that had been appealed to Rome.[16] Alexander described Bartholomew, in company with Richard of Dover, another leading papal judge, as the "twin lights illuminating the English Church".[17] In his diocese, Bartholomew is known to have visited the parishes, conducting a visitation to inquire into the management or mismanagement of church affairs.[18]

Death and legacy

Bartholomew died on 15 December 1184.[8] He was buried in Exeter Cathedral.[1] A relief in Exeter has been identified as possibly Bartholomew's effigy for his tomb.[19] A contemporary writer, Gerald of Wales, said that Bartholomew was better educated in Roman law than in canon law.[7] The historian Austin Lane Poole said of him that he "kept out as much as possible out of secular politics, and used [his] learning and practical abilities whole-heartedly for the welfare of the church."[20] During his bishopric, he advanced the career of Baldwin of Forde, as it was Bartholomew who made Baldwin archdeacon.[21] He had two nephews, Jordan and Harold, who were part of his household while he was at Exeter.[1]

At some point in his career, he wrote a Penitentiale, or penitential, which true to his canon lawyer training, quotes canon law extensively.[22] This was based on the works of Ivo of Chartres, Burchard of Worms, Gratian, and Peter Lombard, among other authors.[7] Besides his penitential, Bartholomew also wrote works on the doctrines of free will and predestination, entitled either De libero arbitrio or De fatalitate et fato, a collection of over a hundred sermons, and a work against Jews, entitled Dialogus contra Judaeos. So far, only the penitential has been printed.[1]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Barlow "Bartholomew" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  2. 1 2 Barlow Thomas Becket p. 31
  3. Warren Henry II p. 435 footnote 1
  4. Barlow Thomas Becket p. 262
  5. 1 2 Warren Henry II pp. 436–437
  6. Knowles Episcopal Colleagues p. 28
  7. 1 2 3 Weigand "Transmontane Decretists" History of Medieval Canon Law pp. 174-175
  8. 1 2 Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 246
  9. Barlow Thomas Becket p. 64
  10. Barlow Thomas Becket p. 71
  11. Warren Henry II p. 550
  12. Barlow Thomas Becket pp. 206–207
  13. Barlow Thomas Becket p. 216
  14. Quoted in Barber Henry Plantagenet p. 163
  15. Barber Henry Plantagenet p. 163
  16. Barlow Thomas Becket p. 90
  17. Quoted in Duggan "From the Conquest to the Death of John" English Church and the Papacy p. 113
  18. Cheney From Becket to Langton p. 167
  19. Bartlett England Under the Norman and Angevin Kings p. 599
  20. Poole Domesday Book to Magna Carta p. 222
  21. Knowles Monastic Order p. 317
  22. Brooke English Church and the Papacy pp. 111–112


  • Barber, Richard (1993). Henry Plantagenet 1133–1189. New York: Barnes & Noble. ISBN 1-56619-363-X. 
  • Barlow, Frank (2004). "Bartholomew (d. 1184)" ((subscription or UK public library membership required)). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/1577. Retrieved 11 April 2008. 
  • Barlow, Frank (1986). Thomas Becket. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-07175-1. 
  • Bartlett, Robert C. (2000). England Under the Norman and Angevin Kings: 1075–1225. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-822741-8. 
  • Brooke, Z. N. (1989). The English Church and the Papacy: From the Conquest to the Reign of John (Revised ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-36687-9. 
  • Cheney, C. R. (1956). From Becket to Langton: English Church Government 1170–1213 (Reprint ed.). Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press. OCLC 5213024. 
  • Duggan, Charles (1999) [1965]. "From the Conquest to the Death of John". In Lawrence, C. H. The English Church and the Papacy in the Middle Ages (Reprint ed.). Stroud, UK: Sutton Publishing. pp. 63–116. ISBN 0-7509-1947-7. 
  • Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I. (1996). Handbook of British Chronology (Third revised ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-56350-X. 
  • Knowles, David (1951). The Episcopal Colleagues of Archbishop Thomas Becket. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. OCLC 2742571. 
  • Knowles, David (1976). The Monastic Order in England: A History of its Development from the Times of St. Dunstan to the Fourth Lateran Council, 940–1216 (Second reprint ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-05479-6. 
  • Poole, Austin Lane (1955). From Domesday Book to Magna Carta, 1087–1216 (Second ed.). Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-821707-2. 
  • Warren, W. L. (1973). Henry II. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-03494-5. 
  • Weigand, Rudolf (2008). "The Transmontane Decretists". In Hartmann, Wilfried and Pennington, Kenneth. The History of Medieval Canon Law in the Classical Period, 1140-1234: From Gratian to the Decretals of Pope Gregory IX. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press. pp. 174–210. ISBN 978-0-8132-1491-7. 

Further reading

External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Robert of Chichester
Bishop of Exeter
Succeeded by
John the Chanter
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