Thomas de Cantilupe

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Thomas de Cantilupe
Bishop of Hereford
Installed 1275
Term ended 1282
Predecessor John de Breton
Successor Richard Swinefield
Personal details
Born c. 1218
Hambleden, Buckinghamshire, England
Died 25 August 1282 (aged 63–64)
Ferento, Montefiascone, Papal States (now Italy)
Denomination Catholic
Coat of arms {{{coat_of_arms_alt}}}
Feast day 25 August, 2 October
Title as Saint Thomas of Hereford
Canonized 17 April 1320
by Pope John XXII
Attributes dressed as a bishop
Shrines Hereford Cathedral

Thomas de Cantilupe (c. 1218 – 25 August 1282) (anciently Cantelow, Cantelou, Canteloupe, etc, Latinised to de Cantilupo) [1] was an English saint and prelate.

Early years[edit]

Thomas de Cantilupe was a son of William de Cantilupe, the 2nd baron (d. 1251), one of King John's ministers, and a nephew of Walter de Cantilupe, Bishop of Worcester (d. 1266). He was born at Hambleden in Buckinghamshire and was educated in Paris and Orléans.


Cantilupe became a teacher of canon law at Oxford and Chancellor of the University in 1261.[2]

During the Barons' War, Cantilupe favoured Simon de Montfort and the baronial party. He represented the barons before St Louis of France at Amiens in 1264.

He was made Lord Chancellor of England on 25 February 1264,[3] when Archdeacon of Stafford but was deprived of the chancellor's office after Montfort's death at Evesham, and lived out of England for some time. Returning to England, he was again Chancellor of Oxford University, lectured on theology, and held several ecclesiastical appointments.[2]

Bishop of Hereford[edit]

Seal of Bishop Thomas de Cantilupe. Legend: TOMAS DEI GRATIA HEREFORDENSIS EP(ISCOPU)S (Thomas by the grace of God Bishop of Hereford). The arms of Cantilupe ancient are displayed on each side of the bishop: 3 fleurs-de-lys. Hereford Cathedral Archives 6460.

In 1274, he attended the Second Council of Lyons,[citation needed] and about 14 June 1275 he was appointed Bishop of Hereford and was consecrated on 8 September 1275.[4]

Cantilupe was now a trusted adviser of Edward I and lived at Earley in Berkshire when attending royal councils in Windsor or Westminster. Even when differing from the king's opinions, he did not forfeit his favour.

He had a "great conflict" in 1290 with Gilbert de Clare, seventh earl of Gloucester and sixth earl of Hertford, about hunting rights in Malvern and a ditch that Gilbert had dug, that was settled by costly litigation.[5]

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Kilwardby, was also his friend; but after Kilwardby's death in 1279 a series of disputes arose between the bishop and the new archbishop, John Peckham.[2] The disagreements culminated in Peckham excommunicating Cantilupe, who proceeded to Rome to pursue the matter with the pope.[6]

Death, burial, and canonisation[edit]

Thomas de Cantilupe's tomb in Hereford Cathedral.

Cantilupe died at Ferento, near Orvieto, in Italy, on 25 August 1282;[2][4] he was buried in Hereford Cathedral.[2] Part of the evidence used to secure his canonisation was the supposed resurrection of William Cragh, a Welsh rebel who was hanged in 1290, eight years after Cantilupe's death. A papal inquiry was convened in London on 20 April 1307 to determine whether or not Cantilupe had died excommunicate; if he had, then he could not be canonised. Forty-four witnesses were called and various letters produced, before the commissioners of the inquiry concluded that Cantilupe had been absolved in Rome before his death.[6]

On 17 April 1320, Cantilupe was canonised by Pope John XXII, after a papal investigation lasting almost 13 years.[7] His feast day was fixed on 2 October.[8] His shrine became a popular place of pilgrimage, and its base can still be seen there today. Since 1881, a reliquary containing his skull has been held at Downside Abbey in Somerset.

In the 2004 edition of the Roman Martyrology, Cantilupe is listed under 25 August with the Latin name Thomae Cantelupe. He is mentioned as follows: 'At Mount Faliscorum in Tuscany passed Saint Thomas Cantelupe, bishop of Hereford in England, famous for his learning, who, though severe in his treatment of himself, was generous to the poor'.[9]


Cantilupe appears to have been an exemplary bishop in both spiritual and secular affairs. His charities were large and his private life blameless. He was constantly visiting his diocese, correcting offenders and discharging other episcopal duties, and he compelled neighbouring landholders to restore estates which rightly belonged to the see of Hereford.

In 1905, the Cantilupe Society was founded to publish the episcopal registers of Hereford, of which Cantilupe's is the first in existence.




  1. ^ The spelling used by modern historians is "de Cantilupe", which is followed in this article
  2. ^ a b c d e Walsh 2007, p. 598
  3. ^ Fryde et al. 1996, p. 85
  4. ^ a b Fryde et al. 1996, p. 250
  5. ^ Nott, James (1885). Some of the Antiquities of Moche Malvern (Great Malvern). Malvern: John Thompson. p. 14. Retrieved 6 January 2010. 
  6. ^ a b Bartlett 2004, p. 23
  7. ^ Bartlett 2004, p. 123
  8. ^ Pilgrimage page at Hereford Cathedral official website accessed 8 February 2012.
  9. ^ Martyrologium Romanum, 2004, Vatican Press (Typis Vaticanis), page 475.


  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Cantilupe, Thomas de". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  • Bartlett, Robert (2004), The Hanged Man: A Story of Miracle, Memory, and Colonialism in the Middle Ages, Princeton University Press, ISBN 0-691-11719-5 
  • Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I. (1996), Handbook of British Chronology (Third Edition, revised ed.), Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-56350-X 
  • Walsh, Michael (2007), A New Dictionary of Saints: East and West, Burns & Oates, ISBN 0-86012-438-X 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
John Chishull
Lord Chancellor
Succeeded by
Ralph Sandwich
(Keeper of the Great Seal)
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
John de Breton
Bishop of Hereford
Succeeded by
Richard Swinefield
Academic offices
Preceded by
Richard de S. Agatha
Chancellor of the University of Oxford
Succeeded by
Henry de Cicestre?
or Nicholas de Ewelme