Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 February 2013
WORCESTER is the best evidenced of all the early Anglo-Saxon bishoprics, with a substantial collection of material on which to construct narratives. yet this has rarely been done, perhaps because of the difficulty of ascertaining which charters are reliable. This is a pity, for Worcester is unparalleled in the opportunities it presents to scholars seeking to understand the development of a church and its relationship with its landscape. The way in which the bishops of Worcester built up the power of their church can be at least dimly discerned in this material, and the effort of determining how the bishops did this and in what circumstances is worthwhile, as it presents an alternative perspective on parts of Anglo-Saxon history where existing narratives are focused on secular leaders, not churchmen.
A key problem with studying the early bishops of Worcester is that they are faceless historical individuals; unlike the other subjects of this volume, the predecessors of Bishop Wærfrith (see Table 4.1) have not left a legacy of writings or controversies but, at most, a few charters which, in the current state of knowledge, may tell us more about the donors than the bishops. Understanding individual bishops' roles in history and contextualizing their few identifiable actions is, therefore, nigh on impossible. But this is not to say that there is nothing to be gained through study of those who led the episcopal church of Worcester through its first two centuries: what might appear as isolated and unconnected facts about members of the Worcester episcopate can, when the bishops are studied as a group, reveal interesting patterns.