A Diocese or See is a geographical grouping of parishes under the care
of a Bishop. Cornwall had its own Bishop at St Germans, near Saltash,
until the latter part of the 10th Century. The Cornish Diocese was then
held jointly with the Devon Diocese at Crediton and then in 1050 at Exeter.
Effectively the Cornish Diocese ceased to be a separate entity. Over 800
years later in 1877, after 30 years of intense lobbying, the Cornish Diocese
was re-established at Truro. The Diocese of Truro covers the whole of
Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly plus two parishes in Devon!
Edward White Benson was the first Bishop of Truro (1877 - 1883). He was
previously Headmaster of Wellington College and then Chancellor of Lincoln
Cathedral. It was his vision and energy that really established the new
Diocese of Truro and the building of this wonderful Cathedral. From 1883
until his death in 1896 he was Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1880 Bishop
Benson created the ‘Service of Nine Lessons and Carols’ which
for over 120 years has formed part of the Cathedral’s traditional
worship on Christmas Eve.
The present Bishop of Truro is Bishop Tim Thornton. He is the Church of England’s
spiritual leader in the Diocese. He is the 15th Bishop to hold this office.
The Bishop’s chair, known as a ‘Cathedra’, is the reason
this building is known as a Cathedral Church.
Bishop Tim is very much looking forward to his ministry in Cornwall. “I have been a
tremendous admirer of Bishop Bill for a long time,” he says, “and like him I am
optimistic about the future of the Church; I have been and remain a strong advocate
for Anglican values and beliefs.” The Bishop, who is well known for having a quick
sense of humour and for being very approachable, says that, over the next ten years
he plans to see churches growing, discovering where God is at work in their
communities and taking risks to try new ways of creating community. “I believe
significant priority must be given to nurturing disciples and to emphasis that we are
only fully the people God wants us to be in relationship to others.” he says “It is
crucial for us to help people live out their faith ‘seven whole days, not one in seven’”
Above all the Church must be a prophetic voice in society, prepared to speak out and
to stand alongside the weak and the marginalised. He is helped by Bishop Roy Screech who is the Suffragan (Assistant)
Bishop of the Diocese.
Truro was not the only candidate for the siting of the Cathedral. Bodmin
had been the medieval ecclesiastical centre of Cornwall, while the original
Cornish See of St Germans also put forward a claim. The vicar of St Columb
also offered his church! The merits of each place were much discussed
and argued over. Eventually a Bill establishing the Diocese of Truro was
finally passed by Parliament, on the 11th August 1876. The site chosen
in Truro was where the Parish Church of St Mary’s stood. To build
a Cathedral on this site meant that a number of properties on the northern
side of the proposed development had to be bought and demolished. This
was duly completed by 1880.