Now, too, we obtain light upon some of our Fabric Roll entries. It seems to be absolutely certain that there were two structures in the Cathedral, both of which were called "the Bishop's Seat:" one of wood, and another of stone. That there was a wooden one, we have just seen. But in 1329, about twelve years later, there is a charge "for scraping (frettenda) the Bishop's seat" (cathedra), which Britton rightly interprets of a stone structure; and this can be nothing else than the sedilia. Rings and cloth are in this same year bought for this seat; probably to hang behind the open seat back, a treatment applied many years after, as we have seen, to the Canon's stalls. And the sedilia seem manifestly, once more, to be called the "Bishop's Chair" in 1348: when William Weredale, a glazier, and his two companions were paid 5s. for "cleaning the reredos (retrodormm) of the great altar, and the chair (cathedra) of the Bishop," as if in parti materia. And, guided by this clue, we may fix, it should seem, the date of the erection of the sedilia; of which, singularly, we have not, as in the case of the throne, any direct record. Unhappily, the Fabric Rolls for 1313-16, the very years to which the work may with much probability be referred, are not forthcoming. But in 1317-18, the year after the wooden throne was made, we have a charge of 32s. "for carving six statues for the Bishop's seat." (50) These might naturally, at first sight, be supposed to be for the completion of the throne of wood. But so it is, that there are but five niches there for statues; whereas in the sedilia the number is exactly six, as this entry requires: viz., three smaller ones, in addition to those above described. Moreover, we have no instance in the Rolls, I believe, of the word here used for "carving' (talliare, Fr. tailler) being applied to wood. I conclude' therefore, that the sedilia statues are here meant. The sum is not inadequate, judging by the cost of the statues in the altar-screen four years later. These (see Oliver, p. 382) cost but 1s. or Is. 6d. each. Even a figure of our Lord (apparently, from the context, a principal one, for the high altar), cost but 3s. (51) The sedilia statues were not actually put in their places, it seems, until 1319-20; when we have "2 lbs. of lead for the images in the Bishop's seat: " no doubt for fixing them into the sockets. And this is the year assigned by our historians (e.g. Walcott, s.v. sedilia) for the erection of the sedilia.
Another name by which the sedilia seem to have been known, in consequence of their connection with our first Bishop,was that of "Bishop Leofric's (monumental) stone." At least it is difficult to conceive what else can possibly be referred to in an entry in the year 1418 (Oliver, p. 389, who prints it without comment). "For writing on the stone of my Lord Leofric, first Bishop of the Church of Exeter, 20d." (52). It seems certain that there never was any inscribed gravestone or tomb of Leofric in the Church. Leland makes no mention of it (cir. 1538), nor did Hoker, as we have seen (p. 3), know of any such, since he thought it necessary to supply an inscription. Nor is scriptura, in truth, a natural term to apply to any incised lettering. But there is a large blank wall space (10 ft. by 8 ft.) at the back of the sedilia, which may very conceivably have borne some sort of painted inscription, - perhaps an extract from the Foundation Charter (see Photograph), descriptive of the events commemorated by the sedilia. And, curiously, in the Fabric Roll of 1323, only two years after their completion, is a charge "for an inscription of 500 letters 12d.;" within 8d. of the sum charged 100 years later for "the writing on my Lord Leofric's stone." Traces of scroll work were discernible on the back of the sedilia when the plaster was lately removed. According to this view, then, the sedilia had come to be so closely identified with Leofric's memory, as to be considered as his actual monument. A somewhat close parallel to this is afforded by the sedilia in Westminster Abbey; immediately behind and under, which is the tomb and effigy of Sebert, King of the East Angles, the first Founder of that renowned Minster; while on the back of the sedilia were painted the figures of Edwoard the Confessor (as second Founder) and Sebert, with St. John Baptist and St. Peter: and the corbels of the canopies represent two kings and a bishop. This removes the improbability which might seem to lie against such a mode of commemorating a Founder, or the events connected with the foundation of the Church I have already spoken of the beauty of the sedilia, and the following estimate of them is worthy of being placed on record here. It is that of an architect and lover of art familiar alike with foreign and English Cathedrals. "The beauty and delicacy of the carving cannot be exceeded. But the canopy of the seat nearest the altar deserves particular attention. It is adorned with a wreath of vine leaves on each side, which meet at the point and there form a finial; and never did Greek sculptor, of the best age, trace a more exact portrait of the leaf of the vine, nor design a more graceful wreath of such leaves, nor execute his design with a more masterly finish." (53)
It is perhaps a not unreasonable conjecture that the lower parts of the sedilia, viz., the actual seats, including the small heads, are of earlier date than the canopies, and were preserved by Stapledon, exactly as the misereres of the Canon's seats were out of the older Choir. The four noble lions, which form the elbows, have much of the boldness and freedom of Early English work. It is an interesting question for the exercise of antiquarian acumen, to what date these lions and the heads belong. However that may be, it is noteworthy that the "arms or elbows" of episcopal chairs were often "decorated with lions," typical of strength and vigilance, as e.g. the throne of St. Hippolytus in the Lateran. ( Walcott, s. v. Chair.)