Coligny, Odet de (biog)

This tomb is one of the cathedral’s oddities. Odet de Coligny (1517-1571), Cardinal de Chastillon and Archbishop of Toulouse, came from an influential French family – his brother Gaspard had a major role in the Protestant leadership, but was killed in the St Batholomew’s Day massacre (1572). Having himself adopted the Huguenot (Protestant) cause, Odet was excommunicated by the Pope and came to England in 1568, to seek protection and help for the Hugenots from Elizabeth I.  By 1571 he judged it safe to visit France and was staying in Canterbury, in the Meister Omers building in the cathedral precincts, when he was taken ill and died three weeks later. It was rumoured he’d been poisoned by his valet. The cathedral authorities assumed his brother Gaspard would claim the body, but he died the following year (1572) in the Batholomew Day massacre, and the body remains in its temporary tomb. Details on the Huguenot chapel at Canterbury are covered separately.

What to see:

  • A temporary tomb of rough bricks and cement placed in an available space in the Trinity chapel, pending return of his remains to France – so temporary that no entry appeared in the burial register. The tomb has remained there ever since, close to the site of Becket’s shrine and to the tomb of another Cardinal (Pole)
  • the wall cartouche of Caen stone including the 30 red tassels of a full cardinal – designed by John Dickens and executed by the sculptor Cecil Thomas – erected in 1952.

Sources:  see standard cathedral sources

NOTE: to hear a Cathedral Podcast on Odet de Coligny click here