Tomb of Arch-Bishop Theobald, Canterbury Cathedral (I believe as per the notes below that this tomb should now be accredited to Archbishop Hubert Walter) c.1814

An Ancient Tomb, said to be that of archbishop Theobald it is ornamented with heads, dressed according to the ecclesiastical gradations, from simple monk to papal legate.


The widespread interest excited by the problem of the rightful ownership of the tomb that was examined in Canterbury Cathedral on March 8 and l0, 1890, justifies an attempt to put on record the conclusions that have been reached respecting that tomb, and an opportunity is thus afforded of a few words respecting some of the other tombs of Archbishops which present matter for discussion. The tomb lately opened has held quite an exceptional position amongst the tombs in the Cathedral. It is unlike the others in appearance, and looks more like a shrine than an ordinary tomb. A conjecture often repeated suggested that as, at the destruction by fire of this part of the Cathedral in 1174, the monks, according to Gervase, cast down from various beams the shrines of the saints, this tomb might possibly have been made to receive the fragments of the shrines, together with what remained of their contents. This rumour has now been set at rest for ever, as the monument was found on examination to cover a stone coffin, and to contain nothing else.

Within that stone coffin lay the desiccated body of an Archbishop in full pontificals. All that had been made of linen or of wool had perished. Under the silken vestments no trace remained of clothing, but there was a haircloth band round the waist. The alb had gone, but the front apparels of silk belonging to it were in their proper places. The pallium also had decayed, but two pins that fastened it were on the shoulders a third was looked for in vain and two pieces of lead with their silk coverings were there. Indeed, in one of the pieces of lead, protected by it and the silk, a small portion of the wool of the pallium has survived. The mitre on the head was of silk, and as the threads with which it had been sewn had decayed, it was easy to see how the oblong piece of silk was folded to form the mitre. The chasuble was ample, the orphreys forming an inverted A at the bottom, the arrangement resembling that of the orphreys of the chasuble of St. Thomas at Sens, except that the bars which are double there are single here, and it was bordered by a very beautiful narrow band of lace. The pattern of the silk of the dalmatic was different from that of the chasuble, the designs of both being very rich. These vestments are twelfth century work ; the stole older still, probably dating back to the time of Lanfranc. The buskins are of silk, embroidered in lozenges which are filled with beautiful crosses and other designs. The sandals are low boots, also of silk, adorned with little stones, and embroidered very beautifully with quaint monsters and patterns. The ring contains a Gnostic gem, engraved with a serpent and the name of the god Chiuphis. The chalice in silver parcel gilt resembles a modern ciborium ; the paten has on it an Agnus Dei with an appropriate inscription, and on the outer rim is this elegiac couplet :

Ara crucis, tumulique calyx, lapidisque patena,
Sindonis officium Candida bissus habet.

The lettering is of the time of Henry the Second. These lines, which are also found on a portable altar in the Church of St. Mary in Capitol, at Cologne, of the twelfth century, may be rendered thus :

His Cross the altar, and His sepulchre
The chalice, and the stone with which 'twas closed

The paten, and this folded linen fair

The winding-sheet in which His limbs reposed.

A light pastoral staff of cedar wood with a knop containing three engraved gems (the fourth has been lost), and a very simple volute or head, rested on the body from the right foot to the left shoulder, one hand being beneath it and the other resting on it. It is probable that the maniple and the gloves were of linen, as no trace of them remains.

The place occupied by this most interesting tomb is the south wall of the aisle of the Trinity Chapel, which chapel was built to receive the shrine of St. Thomas of Canterbury,
and was finished in 11 84. It is now ascertained from a list of Archbishops, to which fuller reference will shortly be made, that this is the tomb of Archbishop Hubert Walter, who died in 1205. It is his body that has been lately seen. These are his vestments, his ring, his chalice and paten, and his crozier, that have aroused so much interest, and teach us such valuable lessons in the history of art as to condone the rifling of his tomb. The Society of Antiquaries of London will engrave the whole collection in the Vetusta Monumenta. Another tomb in the Cathedral has hitherto gone by Hubert Walter's name, and it says much for the acumen and felicity of judgment of Canon Scott Robertson, that he should nine years ago have pointed out this tomb as Hubert Walter's. It then went by the name of Theobald's, who died in 1161. It will interest the reader to have the tradition respecting the tomb traced for him. The true solution had not occurred even to so careful and accurate an inquirer as Professor Willis. This is what he says :

Unfortunately, out of fifty Archbishops and distinguished personages before the Reformation, the locality of whose tombs or shrines have been recorded, only about eighteen monuments are left, many of which are in a greater or less state of dilapidation. With one exception, however, they are all securely appropriated to their respective owners, and thus dated, which greatly increases their value and use for the history of art. Their positions are so minutely described by Archbishop Parker at a period when all the inscriptions remained, that there be no mistake in this respect.

Here we may say that a manuscript list of Archbishops, the original of which was taken from Canterbury by Archbishop Parker, and deposited by him in the Corpus Library at Cambridge, of which manuscript a copy in Henry Wharton's handwriting is accessible at Lambeth Palace, will no doubt for the future supersede Parker's own descriptions, for it is more ancient and trustworthy. In the case of Hubert Walter himself. Professor Willis, following Parker in his mistake, assigns for the place of Hubert Walter's tomb "the south wall of the choir aisle."The manuscript list that corrects this error for us tells us that Hubert Walter lies " near the shrine of St. Thomas," which is the position of the tomb under examination. That list was written by a monk of Canterbury between 1532 and 1538, and on the margin (not copied by Wharton) of the original entry respecting Hubert Walter, Josselin, Archbishop Parker's secretary, has written, "othenvise, under the window on the south side." This window is in the choir aisle, and this note of Josselin's shows us that Parker meant the position under the window in the choir aisle, and thus adopted, if he did not originate, the mistake that Hubert Walter was buried there.

Professor Willis continues, with reference to the tomb lately opened, that "the exception just mentioned" by him, that is to say, the exception amongst all the tombs, which otherwise are "securely appropriated to their respective owners,"is a tomb which now stands on the south side of the Trinity Chapel ; its sides are decorated with an arcade of trefoil arches, resting on shafts which have round abacuses and bases, and the style seems a little later than the completion of the Trinity Chapel. No record of a monument on this spot is preserved, and if, as is probable, it has been moved from its original site, all clue to its history is gone. It may have been constructed after the completion of the church, to receive the bones of some of the Archbishops who had been removed. It is usually attributed to Archbishop Theobald, but without reason, and is too late in style. (Willis, p. 128.)

We now know that this tomb has not been removed from its original site, for its contents have rested undisturbed since first they were placed there in 1205. It was not erected to receive the bones of some of the Archbishops who were removed, and it is wonderful that Professor Willis, who assigns to them all their places in the church, should have thought it possible. And it is no longer true that no record of a monument in this spot is preserved, for the Corpus MS. indicates it unmistakably as Hubert Walter's. One important result therefore of the recent investigation is the correction of this passage in the invaluable book of Professor Willis on Canterbury Cathedral.

The Professor states with great positiveness, and at the same time, no doubt, with perfect truth, that this tomb is not Archbishop Theobald's. Yet, if it were not for positive evidence assigning it to Archbishop Walter, it might have been possible to have made out something of a case for Theobald, once Abbot of Bee, the Archbishop who crowned Henry the Second, and who, dying in 1161, was succeeded by St. Thomas of Canterbury. The story of his removal from his original resting place, nineteen years after his burial, is sufficiently interesting to be told in full.

Gervase says that in the old Trinity Chapel Lanfranc lay on the south side, Theobald on the north. And when that Trinity Chapel, the work of St. Anselm and his Priors Ernulf and Conrad, had been destroyed by fire in 1174, the bodies of Lanfranc and Theobald who were buried in it, and of St. Odo and St. Wilfrid who were enshrined in it, rested there amongst the ruins for six years. Gervase himself was an eye-witness of what was done with them in 1180, and his account of the opening of the tomb of Theobald is startlingly like what was seen the other day. I go back a little, to make my extract from Gervase complete, and I avail myself of Professor Willis's translation, retaining, however, the right to alter a word when necessary.

The Chapel of the Holy Trinity above mentioned was then levelled to the ground ; this had hitherto remained untouched out of reverence to St. Thomas, who was buried in the crypt. But the saints who reposed in the upper part of the chapel were translated elsewhere, and lest the memory of what was then done should be lost, I will record some of what thereof. On the 8th of the Ides of July the altar of the Holy Trinity was broken up, and from its materials the altar of St. John the Apostle was made; I mention this lest the history of the holy stone should be lost upon which St. Thomas celebrated his first Mass and many times offered the Holy Sacrifice. The stone structure which was behind this altar was taken to pieces. Here, as before said, St. Odo and St. Wilfrid reposed for a long period. These saints were raised in their leaden coffins and carried into the choir. St. Odo in his coffin was placed under the shrine of St. Dunstan, and St. Wilfrid under the shrine of St. Elphege.

Archbishop Lanfranc was found enclosed in a very heavy sheet of lead, in which from the day of his first burial up to that day he had rested his limbs, untouched, mitred, pinned, (Spinulatus with the pins of his pallium) for sixty-nine years and some months. He was carried into the vestry and replaced in the lead, until the community should decide what should be done with so great a father. When they opened the tomb of Archbishop Theobald, which was built of marble slabs, and came to his coffin, the monks who were present, expecting to find his body reduced to dust, brought wine and water to wash his bones. But when the lid of the coffin was raised, he was found entire and rigid, the bones and nerves, the skin and flesh cohering, but attenuated. The bystanders marvelled at this sight, and touching him with their hands placed him on a bier, and so carried him to Lanfranc in the vestry, that the Convent might resolve what would be the most respectful manner of disposing of both. But the rumour spread among the people, and already for this unwonted incorruption many called him St. Theobald, He was shown to several who desired to see him, and by them the tale was spread among the rest. He was thus raised from his grave in the nineteenth year from his death, his body being incorrupt and his silk vestments entire. By the decision of the Convent he was buried in a leaden chest before St. Mary's altar in the nave of the Church, and this was what he had desired when living. The marble tomb was put together over him as before. But Lanfranc having remained, as aforesaid, untouched for sixty-nine years, his very bones were consumed with rottenness, and nearly all reduced to dust. The length of time, the damp vestments, the natural frigidity of the lead, and, above all, the frailty of the human structure, had conspired to produce this corruption. But the larger bones, with the remaining dust, were collected in a leaden coffer, and deposited at the altar of St. Martin. (Willis, p. 57.)

*The Tombs of the Archbishops in Canterbury Cathedral - J.Morris S.J. F.S.A.

Canterbury - Edward Crow, Mercery Lane MDCCCXC (1890)


Was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1138, he passed away April 18, 1161.

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