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Odo of Canterbury

Abbot of Battle, d. 1200, known as Odo Cantianus or of Kent

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Odo of Canterbury, Abbot of Battle, d. 1200, known as Odo Cantianus or of Kent. A monk of Christ Church, he became subprior in 1163 and was sent by Thomas a Becket to Pope Alexander as his representative to attend an appeal, fixed for October 18, 1163, against the Archbishop of York who, in spite of the remonstrances of St. Thomas and the pope, still continued to carry the cross in the southern province. In1166 Christ Church appealed against the archbishop and Odo applied to Richard of Ilchester for help (Foliot, Ep. 422, in Migne). In 1167 he became prior with William as subprior. Until the murder of St. Thomas he seems to have wavered in his allegiance between king and archbishop, but then took a decided stand in favor of ecclesiastical authority. On September 1, 1172, in a meeting the monks of Christ Church put forward Odo as worthy of the archbishopric. The king however procrastinated, and no result followed a second meeting at Windsor (October 6). Odo with other monks followed Henry to Normandy and urged that a monk should be chosen as archbishop (Mat. Becket., IV, 181). After protracted negotiations the choice fell upon Richard, Prior of Dover, formerly a monk of Canterbury, in whose behalf Odo wrote to Alexander III (Migne, CC., 1396). In 1173 occurred a great fire at Christ Church and Odo went to the Council of Woodstock on July 1, 1175, to obtain a renewal of the charters on the model of those at Battle Abbey. St. Martin de Bello had been without an abbot for four years and the monks who attended the council caused Odo to be chosen. He was elected on July 10. His blessing took place on September 28, at the hands of Archbishop Richard at Mailing. On the death of Richard (1184) the monks of Christ Church again put Odo forward for the archbishopric, but Henry again refused, fearing no doubt that he would be too inflexible for his purpose. Baldwin who was appointed quarreled with the monks, a dispute which lasted till 1188 and occasioned a correspondence between Odo and Urban III (Epp. Cantuar., no. 280). Odo died on January 20, 1200, and was buried in the lower part of the church at Battle. Leland speaks of him as a most erudite man and a great friend of Thomas a Becket and John of Salisbury who describes him as an ardent lover of books. He was a great theologian and preached in French, English, and Latin, and was noted for his humility and modesty. There is some uncertainty as to his writings, owing to a confusion with Odo of Cheriton and Odo of Murimund, but a list of thirteen works, chiefly writings on the Old Testament and sermons, can be ascribed to him. He was venerated at Battle as a saint and in the relic list at Canterbury Cathedral is mentioned “a tooth of the Ven. Odo Abb. of Battle” (Dart. Ap. XLVII).

S. ANSELM PARKER


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