Cadaver Tombs

Tewkesbury Abbey, Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire.


Photograph: Peter Fairweather, 23-Sep-1985.

 

The Wakeman Cenotaph.

John Wakeman, the last Abbot of Tewkesbury surrendered the abbey to King Henry VIII on January 9th 1539 and intended this memorial to be for his tomb.

 

This figure represents the usual 15th century effigy of a corpse in an advanced state of decay. The difference with this one against others is that this is a rare "Verminous Cadaver" with a mouse gnawing at his bowels, a snake in his shroud near his feet, a worm on his left knee, a beetle on his left arm and a frog near his head. There is also what is thought to be a lizard on his left thigh. Wakeman was consecrated as the first Bishop of Gloucester in 1541 and is buried elsewhere.

A reproduction of the canopy of this memorial is incorporated in the throne in the House of Lords. (There is one also in Fyfield Oxfordshire.)

 

 

 

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