A NEW “Bishop” will be officially unveiled by one of his 21st century successors. the Right Rev Ruth Worsley, Bishop of Taunton, at 11am on Thursday 7th April in the gardens of the Bishop’s Palace in Wells.
Local sculptor Fiona Campbell has created a steel sculpture of the renowned Bishop Jocelyn. The steel Bishop represents the local myth about the medieval Bishop Jocelyn of Wells who slew the Dragon of Worminster, saving the people of Dinder from further ravaging of their children and stock.
The Bishop is looking up at the huge dragon (to be made later), grasping his crozier and sword, in the stance of imminent attack.
Born and raised in Kenya, Fiona Campbell graduated from the Byam Shaw School of Art, London with distinction in fine art (sculpture), later gaining a PGCE (postgraduate teaching qualification) at Exeter University.
Most of her work is sculptural, using mixed media including steel, copper, wire, found and recycled materials. It reflects an interest in relationships within the natural world and cycles of life, in textured, woven, primal forms, often in a state of emergence, growth or metamorphosis.
She says: “I was originally asked by James Cross to create a topiary structure, but as it evolved it was decided the Bishop would remain purely a sculpture. He is, in effect, like a 3D linear sketch.
“I drew a friend posed in the Bishop of Taunton’s cope, to help me obtain the right stance and movement of drapes. A vicar at Wells Cathedral also kindly posed briefly for me in his robes in dragon-slaying stance, which amused him!
“As the Bishop is a ‘man of cloth’, I tried to devise ways of not being too anatomically figurative, so that the inner structure only hints at his body, and that the drapes of his robes, cope, cross and mitre are the focus. His ethereal appearance means visitors may need to look twice when they come across him!”
Bishop Jocelin was Bishop of Bath and Glastonbury (later Wells) from 1206 to 1242, during a particularly stormy period of English history – the reign of King John. The Bishop was present at the sealing of Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215, and was one of the bishops who crowned John’s son as King Henry III.
He oversaw the completion of the cathedral nave and its famous West Front and consecrated the new cathedral on 23rd October 1239. He undertook the construction of the cathedral cloisters and the Bishop’s Palace.
Jocelin died on 19th November 1242 and was buried in the cathedral choir. The memorial brass on his tomb is said to be one of the oldest in England.
The legend of the dragon slaying has a variant which includes the Worm of Worminster. The story is commemorated in a mosaic on the south walk by the moat around the Bishop’s Palace.
The Bishop’s Palace, with its 14 acres of gardens, is the 800 year old official residence of the Bishops of Bath and Wells. The medieval palace is also home to the wells and ancient springs that give the city of Wells its name and the world famous mute swans that ring a bell alongside the Gatehouse when they want their food. The grounds include an arboretum, formal planted gardens, the ruined and romantic great hall, waterfalls and well pools, a community garden and the new garden of reflection.
The palace buildings open to the public include a medieval undercroft, a striking long gallery, hung with portraits of former bishops, exhibition space and a lovely medieval chapel. There is a café, serving produce from the gardens, and the site is accessible for wheelchair users, with new, even pathways in the gardens and a lift in the palace.