Archbishop Morton (biography)

John Morton (1420-1500) was a cardinal and Archbishop of Canterbury from 1486 until his death. He was friend of Edward IV, minister of Henry VII, and renown as a financial administrator. He gave his name to ‘Morton’s fork’, the notion that those who spent lavishly must be wealthy so could pay high taxes, whilst those who spent little must have saved it so could also pay high taxes. Morton at his own wishes was buried before the altar of Our Lady Undercroft, covered by a large brass (now lost but its position still visible). His skull was removed ‘for safe keeping’ in the 1670s, and is now in the sacristy of the Jesuit College at Stonyhurst. The tomb, strictly a cenotaph as there are no remains beneath it, was badly damaged during the 17th century.  Some surmise that the image of St Christopher was left relatively untouched as no one wished to deface the patron saint of travellers.

What to see: 

  • a once grand but now much mutilated memorial with most of its figures missing or badly damaged (Images 1 and 2)
  • surviving figure of St Christopher (Image 3)
  • the repeated use of a rebus for Morton’s name showing a beer barrel (tun) marked with ‘MOR’ 
  • an alternative showing a falcon (known as a ‘mor’), or possibly an eagle of St John, standing on a beer barrel (Image 4)
  • also a small statue of Morton on the west face of the cathedral by Theodore Phyffers (Image 5)

Sourcessee standard cathedral sources;  Canterbury Cathedral Chronicle 1939 (notes on work undertaken 1937-38)