Thomas de Cantilupe

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Thomas de Cantilupe
Bishop of Hereford
ThomasDeCantilupe BishopOfHereford Died1282 13thC StainedGlass SnitterfieldChurch Warwickshire Drawn1656 ByWilliamDugdale.png
Thomas de Cantilupe depicted in a now lost stained glass window in the Church of St James the Great, Snitterfield, Warwickshire, a manor held by the Cantilupe family until 1323; 1656 drawing by William Dugdale.[1] On his tunic he displays his differenced arms of Cantilupe – gules, three fleur-de-lis issuant from a leopard's head or. Later, on his canonization, the see of Hereford adopted yet would further difference his arms, inverting the leopard's head.
Term ended1282
PredecessorJohn de Breton
SuccessorRichard Swinefield
Consecration8 September 1275
by Archbishop Robert Kilwardby, O.P., with co-consecrators Bishop John Chishull and Bishop Walter de Merton
Personal details
Bornc. 1218
Died25 August 1282 (aged 63–64)
Ferento, Montefiascone, Papal States (now Italy)
DenominationCatholic (Pre-Reformation)
Feast day25 August 2 October
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church; Anglican Communion
Title as SaintThomas of Hereford
Canonized17 April 1320
by Pope John XXII
Attributesdressed as a bishop
ShrinesHereford Cathedral
Lord Chancellor
In office
MonarchHenry III of England
Preceded byJohn Chishull
Succeeded byRalph Sandwich
"Modern" arms assumed by the See of Hereford: Gules, three leopard's faces reversed jessant-de-lys or. These arms were differenced from the arms of Thomas de Cantilupe following his canonization.

Thomas de Cantilupe (c. 1218 – 25 August 1282; also spelled Cantelow, Cantelou, Canteloupe, Latinised to de Cantilupo)[a] was Lord Chancellor of England and Bishop of Hereford. He was canonised in 1320 by Pope John XXII.


Thomas was the third son of William II de Cantilupe (died 1251) (anciently Cantelow, Cantelou, Canteloupe, etc, Latinised to de Cantilupo), 2nd feudal baron of Eaton Bray in Bedfordshire,[2] who was steward of the household to King Henry III (as his father William I de Cantilupe (died 1239) had been to Henry's father King John). Thomas's mother was Millicent (or Maud) de Gournai (died 1260), a daughter of Hugh de Gournai and widow of Amaury VI of Montfort-Évreux (died 1213), Earl of Gloucester.[3] He was born at Hambleden in Buckinghamshire, a manor belonging to his mother's first husband but awarded to her during her lifetime as her dowry.[4] Thomas's uncle was Walter de Cantilupe (died 1266), Bishop of Worcester.


Cantilupe was educated at Oxford, Paris and Orléans, and was a teacher of canon law at the University of Oxford, where he became Chancellor in 1261.[5]

During the Second Barons' War, Cantilupe favoured Simon de Montfort and the baronial party. He represented the barons before King Louis IX of France at Amiens in 1264.[6]

On 25 February 1264, when he was Archdeacon of Stafford, Cantilupe was made Lord Chancellor of England,[7] but was deprived of the office after de Montfort's death at the Battle of Evesham, and lived abroad for a while. Following his return to England, he was again appointed Chancellor of Oxford University, where he lectured on theology and held several ecclesiastical appointments.[8][5]

Bishop of Hereford[edit]

Mandorla-shaped 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: three fleurs-de-lys. Hereford Cathedral Archives 6460. He stands on a wolf (Latin lupus), a canting charge seen on pre-heraldic seals of the Cantilupe family[9]

In 1274 Cantilupe attended the Second Council of Lyons[10] and on 14 June 1275 he was appointed Bishop of Hereford, being consecrated on 8 September 1275.[11]

Cantilupe was now a trusted adviser of King Edward I and when attending royal councils at Windsor Castle or at Westminster he lived at Earley in Berkshire. Even when differing from the king's opinions, he did not forfeit his favour.[8]

Cantilupe had a "great conflict" in 1290 with the "Red Earl", Gilbert de Clare, 7th Earl of Gloucester, 6th Earl of Hertford, concerning hunting rights in Malvern, Worcestershire, and a ditch dug by de Clare. The issue was settled by costly litigation.[12]

After the death in 1279 of Robert Kilwardby, Archbishop of Canterbury, a friend of Cantilupe's, and formerly his confessor, a series of disputes arose between him and John Peckham, the new archbishop.[5] The disagreements culminated in Peckham excommunicating Cantilupe, who proceeded to Rome to pursue the matter with the pope.[13]

Death, burial, and canonization[edit]

The restored tomb of Thomas de Cantilupe in Hereford Cathedral

Cantilupe died at Ferento, near Orvieto, in Italy, on 25 August 1282.[5][11] He is buried in Hereford Cathedral.[5] Part of the evidence used in his cause of canonization was the supposed raising from the dead 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, since this would have precluded his being canonized. 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.[13] It was difficult for his cause of death to be determined as much of his body had disintegrated.

After a papal investigation lasting almost 13 years, Cantilupe was canonized by Pope John XXII on 17 April 1320.[14] His feast day was fixed on 2 October.[15] His shrine became a popular place of pilgrimage, but only its base survived the Reformation until a new upper section (a feretory) was recently[when?] recreated under the guidance of architect Robert Chitham. The new section is in vivid colours with a painted scene of the Virgin and Child holding the Mappa Mundi. A reliquary containing his skull has been held at Downside Abbey in Somerset since 1881.

In the current Latin edition of the Roman Martyrology (2004 edition), Cantilupe is listed under 25 August as follows: "At Montefiascone in Tuscia, the passing of Saint Thomas Cantelupe, Bishop of Hereford in England, who, resplendent with learning, severe toward himself, to the poor however showed himself a generous benefactor".[16]


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.[8] Cantilupe has been lauded as the "Father of Modern Charity," and is cited as an inspiration by Mother Teresa and Melinda Gates.[17]

The Cantilupe Society was a text publication society founded in 1905 to publish the episcopal registers of the See of Hereford, of which Cantilupe's is the earliest to survive,[8] and other records relating to the cathedral and diocese. It fell into abeyance after 1932.[18][19]

Cantilupe is referenced in Graham Greene's novel Travels With My Aunt (1969), when the narrator's sharp-tongued aunt opines "I would have thought he was very lucky to die in Orvieto rather than in Hereford. A small civilized place even today with a far, far better climate and an excellent restaurant in the Via Garibaldi."[20]


  1. ^ The commonly accepted modern spelling is "Cantilupe", as used by the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for all members of this family, and which is followed in this article.


  1. ^ Dugdale, William (1656). The Antiquities of Warwickshire. London. pp. 504–5.
  2. ^ Sanders, I. J. (1960). English Baronies: A Study of their Origin and Descent 1086–1327. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 40.
  3. ^ Holden, B. W. (2004). "Cantilupe [Cantelupe], William de (d. 1251)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/4573. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  4. ^ "Parishes: Hambleden", in A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 3, ed. William Page (London, 1925), pp. 45–54 [1]
  5. ^ a b c d e Walsh 2007, p. 598
  6. ^ Chisholm 1911, pp. 217–218.
  7. ^ Fryde et al. 1996, p. 85
  8. ^ a b c d Chisholm 1911, p. 218.
  9. ^ See Cantilupe seals discussed in M Julian-Jones, Thesis on de Cantilupe and Corbet families, 2015, Online Research @Cardiff (ORCA), Cardiff University [2]
  10. ^ Finucane 2004.
  11. ^ a b Fryde et al. 1996, p. 250
  12. ^ Nott, James (1885). Some of the Antiquities of Moche Malvern (Great Malvern). Malvern: John Thompson. p. 14. Retrieved 6 January 2010.
  13. ^ a b Bartlett 2004, p. 23
  14. ^ Bartlett 2004, p. 123
  15. ^ Pilgrimage page at Hereford Cathedral official website Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine accessed 8 February 2012.
  16. ^ Unofficial translation. Cf. Martyrologium Romanum, ex decreto sacrosancti oecumenici Concilii Vaticani II instauratum auctoritate Ioannis Pauli Pp. II promulgatum, editio [typica] altera, Typis Vaticanis, A.D. MMIV (2004), p. 475.
  17. ^ "Parish and Community Magazine November 2017" (PDF). The Parishes of BROSELEY with BENTHALL and JACKFIELD & LINLEY with WILLEY and BARROW. 19 November 2017. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 January 2018. Retrieved 25 December 2017.
  18. ^ "Cantilupe Society | The Online Books Page". Retrieved 26 December 2017.
  19. ^ "Cantilupe Society: Publications" (PDF). Royal Historical Society. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
  20. ^ Greene, Graham (1972) [1969]. "Chapter 18". Travels With My Aunt. Harmondsworth: Penguin. p. 151.


External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Lord Chancellor
Succeeded by
Ralph Sandwich
(Keeper of the Great Seal)
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Bishop of Hereford
Succeeded by
Academic offices
Preceded by Chancellor of the University of Oxford
Succeeded by