Bishops – 25 July 2022

Here are three chess pieces, bishops. Each figure is vested in liturgical robes. The middle figure wears a cope over a tunicle, the figures on the left and right wear a chasuble and stole over an alb. They are clean shaven with shoulder length hair. They hold a crozier in their left hands, and wear mitres, short in style as was common in the late twelfth century. All of the bishops are well-fed. They have solemn faces, with eyes that stare straight forward.

The bishop on the left has his right hand raised in blessing. The three fingers pointing up symbolize the three persons of the Trinity. The two fingers joined together point to Jesus’ two natures: that he is fully human and fully divine.

These bishops are part of the Lewis chessmen hoard of ninety-three pieces, found on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. The hoard is nearly all carved from walrus tusk ivory. The style of carving, particularly of the seated figures suggests a Scandinavian origin, most likely Trondheim, which was the medieval capital of Norway until 1217. The Lewis sets of figures are the oldest known to include bishops.


The saying is sure: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task.  Now a bishop must be above reproach, married only once, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher,  not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money.  He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way— for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.  Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace and the snare of the devil.

1 Timothy 3:1-7


Bishops were powerful individuals who had considerable spiritual, economic, and political power. They were not just religious leaders; they were important men who served kings and lords as advisers and even diplomats. They also controlled large territories and had significant incomes and people at their command. The nature of the international Church also meant that they travelled and had connections well beyond their home countries, were players on an increasingly international stage, and were key conduits for the transfer of ideas.

Sarah Thomas, Bishops in Medieval Europe


Gracious God, we thank you that in Jesus you reconcile the world and all who are in it to yourself. Touch the hearts of those attending the Lambeth
Conference to extend your peace to all, and to work for the reconciliation of all creation. Bless them with your grace and love as they connect with one
another and with you. May your Spirit of peace hover over their conversations and their resting times, and may your gracious will be done in the life of the Anglican Communion and in the whole of your precious world. In the name of Jesus Christ, our Prince of Peace. Amen.

Prayer for the bishops attending the Lambeth Conference 2022