(active 1420s)

Tomb of Henry Chichele, Archbishop of Canterbury

Polychromed stone
Cathedral, Canterbury

The 'transi' or transitory tomb became popular in the early fifteenth century in northern Europe, but not in Italy or Spain. The worldly honours of the deceased are juxtaposed with the mortal body's inevitable decay. The Tomb of Henry Chichele, Archbishop of Canterbury illustrates the basic form of the transi. Dressed in his full episcopal regalia and accompanied by two angels at his head and two monks reading from prayer books at his feet, Chichele embodies the renown of his high office. Yet the base of the tomb is pierced to reveal a second likeness of Chicele, now as an emaciated corps lying on a simple shroud. Interestingly, the tomb was made during his lifetime and stood opposite to the archbishop's seat. Chicele, who only died in 1443, therefore had ample time to contemplate his own mortality and to read the inscriptions on the stone slabs beneath both gisants (the reCumbent effigies): 'I was a pauper born, then to primate here raised, now I am cut down and served up for worms ... Whoever who may be who will pass by, I ask for your remembrance.'

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.