Guala Bicchieri

Guala Bicchieri

Guala Bicchieri (c. 1150 – 1227) was an Italian diplomat and papal official, and Cardinal [Created cardinal in 1205 [] .] . He was the papal legate in England from 1216-1218 and took a prominent role in the politics of England during King John’s last years and Henry III’s early minority.

Guala Bicchieri arrived in England in the midst of the baronial rebellion, when rebel barons were attempting to force John from the throne and when the suspension and exile of archbishop Stephen Langton had left the English church without a leader. Bicchieri was a supporter of King John in the struggle against the barons and their candidate for the English crown, Prince Louis of France. As the Pope’s representative, Guala Bicchieri played an important role in stabilizing the English church in the aftermath of this civil war now known as the First Barons’ War. He was instrumental in the reissuing of the Magna Carta.

Guala Bicchieri was from a prominent family in Vercelli in northern Italy, in what is now the Italian region of Piedmont. He was trained for the law but entered the clergy; he is first mentioned in 1187 as a canon in the cathedral of Vercelli. By 1205 he had become a cardinal and had served as a papal legate in northern Italy before being appointed legate to France in 1208. Innocent III named him legate to England in January 1216. His mission was to make peace between the English and the French; the civil war and the threatened invasion by the French—in support of the rebellion—in order to depose John from the English throne, were threatening Innocent’s plan for a crusade. Guala’s position as legate in England was especially influential since the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton, was absent from the kingdom from September 1215 to May 1218, during which absence Guala Bicchieri, as papal legate, was practically in charge of the English church. Vincent (below) points out six areas in which Bicchieri made an impact upon England: establishing peace between the monarchy and rebels; overseeing Episcopal elections; supervising monastic houses; punishing and replacing rebel clergy; judicial activity, including the appointment of legatine judges delegate; and implementing the legislation of the Fourth Lateran Council.

Guala’s role is of extreme to students of English history: he supported Prince John and then became the protector of John’s minor successor, Henry III; he punished English clerics who supported the French invader, Louis, and removed many of them from their positions.

Guala Bicchieri returned to Italy in 1219 after the final defeat of the English rebel barons and the Treaty of Lambeth. He founded the Abbey of Vercelli in his home town. It is named for—and is even architecturally imitative of—the Abbey of Saint Andrew in Chesterton, which Bicchieri had been given for his services to the church during the difficult period of the civil war. In 1224, also in Vercelli, he founded Saint Andrew’s hospital.

Of great interest to students of English literature is the fact that the premises of Saint Andrew’s Cathedral in Vercelli hold the famed "Vercelli Book," one of the few extant manuscripts of early English (Anglo-Saxon) writings. Although there is still much debate as to how the manuscript wound up in Italy, at least some sources (discussed in Krapp, below) give credence to the theory that Guala Bicchieri brought it back with him when he returned from England. Bicchieri died in 1227 and is entombed in the Vercelli Cathedral.


*cite journal
last = Chibnall
first = Marjorie
title = Review of: The letters and Charters of Cardinal Guala Bicchieri, Papal Legate in England, 1216-1218.
journal = The English Historical Review
volume = 114
issue = 457
pages = 687–688
date = June 1999?
id= ISSN 00138266
doi = 10.1093/ehr/114.457.687

*cite encyclopedia
encyclopedia = Dizionario biografico degli Italiani
title = Guala Bicchieri
publisher = Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana
date = 1968
place= Rome
id =

*cite book
last = George
first = Krapp
title = The Vercelli Book
date = 1932
publisher = Columbia University Press
place = New York
id = ISBN

*cite encyclopedia
encyclopedia = Oxford Biography Index
title = [ Guala Bicchieri]
publisher = Oxford University Press
date = 2004
place= Oxford
id =

*cite book
last = Pagella
first = Enrica; Simonetta Castronovo, Simone Baioco
title = Arte in Piemonte 2, il Gotico
date = 2004
publisher = Priuli & Verlucca
place = Torino
id = ISBN 8880682253

*cite book
last =
first =
title = Ricerche sulla familia Bicchieri e la società vercellese dei secoli XII e XIII, Contributi dell’istituto di storia medioevale, 3rd ser., 1
pages = 207-259
date = 1981
publisher = Istituto di storia medioevale
place = Milan
id =

*cite journal
last = Turner
first = Ralph W.
title = Review of: The letters and Charters of Cardinal Guala Bicchieri, Papal Legate in England, 1216-1218.
journal = Speculum
volume = 47
issue = 1
pages = 124–126
date = January 1999
id= ISSN 00387134

*cite book
last = Vincent, (editor)
first = Nicolas
title = The letters and Charters of Cardinal Guala Bicchieri, Papal Legate in England, 1216-1218.
date = 1996
publisher = Canterbury and York Society
place = Rochester, New York; Woodbridge, Suff.
id = ISBN 0907239536


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