Stapledon the Cathedral Cat: My Very Important Name

29 May 2020

Hello everyone, Stapledon here! I hope you are well. This week I’m going to tell you a little bit more about my name, and why the name is important to this beautiful place.

 

I have the name Stapledon because there is a long tradition in my family of taking our names from the monuments and tombstones that are inside Exeter Cathedral.

I am very lucky to be named after one of the most important people buried in this Cathedral. His name was Walter de Stapledon, and he was the Bishop of Exeter over 700 years ago!

Walter was born in Devon in 1265. But the first time that we can read about him in historical records is in 1286, when he was accused of taking somebody else’s land!

Walter had some important sounding jobs, even before he became the Bishop. He was Canon of Exeter Cathedral, then Precentor of the Cathedral, then Doctor of Civil Law, before becoming Bishop of Exeter in 1307. When he was Bishop, Walter helped to raise lots of money for building the Cathedral, and he encouraged other people in Devon to do the same.

Walter got to know the royal family of England as well – especially the King, Edward II. But a lot of powerful people didn’t want Edward to be King. So the people of England started fighting with each other in a civil war, even though England was also at war with Scotland and France. This was not cheap, so the King gave Walter the job of finding enough money to pay for everything. To find more money, Walter made the people of England pay more money in taxes, which made him very unpopular too!

Later, Walter travelled to France with the Queen. But when he got there, he had a horrible feeling that the Queen was making a plan with the French court to invade England and finally get rid of Edward II. So Walter fled back to England. However, he had become so unpopular by this time, that people set fire to his London house, and then an angry mob attacked him, cutting off his head with a breadknife! Gruesomely, the head was sent to the Queen, who then had it sent to Exeter Cathedral along with the rest of his body for burial.

In his lifetime, Walter gave an enormous amount of money towards the building of Exeter Cathedral. That is why his magnificent tomb is in a special place of honour. I can get a good view of it from the North Quire Aisle:

The tomb of Bishop Stapledon seen from the North Quire Aisle.

When I walk past the red rope at the High Altar, I can see the other side of the tomb. From this side I can easily see that the tomb shows Walter as the Bishop of Exeter:

Bishop Stapledon’s tomb, taken from the High Altar.

I can also see a secret painting that is on the roof of Walter’s tomb! It is a picture of Jesus, showing where he was hurt when he was crucified.

The secret painting on the roof of Bishop Stapledon’s tomb

So now you know a little bit more about the man whose name I was given.

By the way, my friends and I are really looking forward to welcoming you back to the Cathedral as soon as possible. But for now, why not email me if you have a favourite story about the tombs and people buried in Exeter Cathedral? I would love to hear them!

Stapledon

 

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