Archbishop Meopham (c.1275-1333)

‘a tactless man who alienated the pope, the government, his cathedral prior, and others’

Cardinal Simon Meopham (or variously Mepeham, Mepham, etc) served as Archbishop of Canterbury  from 1328 until his death in 1333.  He had serious disputes on several fronts, and was excommunicated by Pope John XXII in 1333.  His body therefore needed absolution before it could be buried in the cathedral.  His memorial stands at the foot of the Pilgrim Steps where it lacks an effigy but acts as a screen to the chapel of St Anselm (Image 1).

What to see:

  • a tomb which, more than any other in the cathedral, has similarities to Becket’s shrine – particularly the open sides
  • the ‘black marble’ tomb (in fact Tournai Limestone) also known as ‘touch’ marble  – shaped as a sarcophagus (Image 2)
  • viewed from the choir, three damaged Caen stone arches stand on brown Purbeck shafts – an early of example of a polychromatic tomb (pale Caen stone, black marble and brown Purbeck) – (Image 3)
  • fine twin wrought-iron gates – these pre-date the tomb and are amongst the earliest in England still fulfiling their original purpose as a screen (Image 4)
  • well preserved carved Caen stone tracery (Image 5)
  • library lectern – note the hands of a monk on the left (Image 6)

Sources: See standard cathedral sources; also (on ironwork) Geddes (1999) in the general bibliography ; also Canterbury Cathedral – The Medieval Tombs by Leslie A Smith (FSA) revised 2015.