Cadaver Tombs

Salisbury Cathedral, Salisbury, Wiltshire.

Photograph: Peter Fairweather.


This cadaver monument is to Thomas Bennett, who was precentor of the cathedral from 1542 until his death in 1558.

The cadaver rests on the usual straw pallet on a quatrefoil panelled tomb chest in a recess beneath a canopy. On the canopy is inscribed 'Misericordias Domini in eternum cantabo A.D.1554'. It would seem Dr Bennett prepared the tomb four years before his death. A shield at the west end of the chest is marked Anno Domini 155- with a gap for the final figure which was never cut in. A skull and a mole, both symbols of death, lie at the feet of the effigy.



On the east face of the recess is a crucifix on Golgotha, now mutilated. In prints published in 1791 and drawn by Jacob Schnebbelie for The Society of Antiquaries, a painting is shown on the rear wall of the recess.This portrays Bennett as he was in life, kneeling in his doctors robes and cap. The painting, which has now disappeared, portrayed the power of temporal life, the cadaver the equality of death.


There is another cadaver tomb in Salisbury Cathedral, ascribed to Archdeacon George Sydenham (d 1524). He was chaplain to Henry VII and Henry VIII, and Archdeacon of Sarum 1503 to 1524. He was noted for restoring the windows of the cathedral, and his coat of arms was in the windows opposite his tomb until the glass was removed during James Wyatt's 'restoration'.





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