Walter, Archbishop (biog)

This is the oldest tomb in the cathedral. Archbishop Hubert Walter (about 1160-1205) served as Archbishop of Canterbury from 1193 until his death. Walter participated in the third crusade of 1190, and was instrumental in arranging the ransom paid for release of Richard I. The Purbeck marble tomb is casket-shaped with a hipped roof.  It is striking for its age – early 13th century – and for the six carved heads carved on the sloping roof , one (first from left on tomb front) supposedly that of Saladin. The incumbent was uncertain until 1890, when he tomb was opened up.  A lead slate bearing the name Hubert confirmed that the tomb was not, as formerly thought, that of Archbishop Theobald, Becket’s patron and predecessor (died 1161). Amazingly, the contents of the tomb inside a Caen stone coffin, included Hubert’s full pontificals (episcopal vestments), staff, chalice, and mitre; many of these items are now held in the Treasury. The silk of his vestments, approaching 700 years old, had survived intact.

What to see:

  • the oldest in situ tomb in Canterbury Cathedral, and the only tomb placed in the Trinity Chapel before the erection of the shrine to St Thomas Becket (Images 1 and 2)
  • the six carved heads, each in a quatrefoil frame, within a lozenge, linked by carved circles (Image 3)
  • items from this tomb now in the Treasury, including his crozier     (Image 4)

Sources:  see standard cathedral sources

NOTE: to hear a Cathedral Podcast on Hubert Walter click here