Open main menu

ODO[1] OF BAYEUX (c. 1036–1097), Norman bishop and English earl, was a uterine brother of William the Conqueror, from whom he received, while still a youth, the see of Bayeux (1049). But his active career was that of a warrior and statesman. He found ships for the invasion of England and fought in person at Senlac; in 1067 he became earl of Kent, and for some years he was a trusted royal minister. At times he acted as viceroy in William's absence; at times he led the royal forces to chastise rebellions. But in 1083 he was suddenly disgraced and imprisoned for having planned a military expedition to Italy. He was accused of desiring to make himself pope; more probably he thought of serving as a papal condottiere against the emperor Henry IV. The Conqueror, when on his death-bed, reluctantly permitted Odo's release (1087). The bishop returned to his earldom and soon organized a rebellion with the object of handing over England to his eldest nephew, Duke Robert. William Rufus, to the disgust of his supporters, permitted Odo to leave the kingdom after the collapse of this design (1088), and thenceforward Odo was the right-hand man of Robert in Normandy. He took part in the agitation for the First Crusade, and started in the duke's company for Palestine, but died on the way, at Palermo (February 1097). Little good is recorded of Odo. His vast wealth was gained by extortion and robbery. His ambitions were boundless and his morals lax. But he was a patron of learning and, like most prelates of his age, a great architect. He rebuilt the cathedral of his see, and may perhaps have commissioned the unknown artist of the celebrated Bayeux tapestry.

See the authorities cited for William I. and William II., the biographical sketch in Gallia Christiana, xi. 353–360; H. Wharton Anglia Sacra, i. 334–339 (1691); and F. R. Fowke, The Bayeux Tapestry (London, 1898).  (H. W. C. D.) 

  1. Odo must be distinguished from two English prelates of the same name and also from an English earl. Odo or Oda (d. 959), archbishop of Canterbury, was bishop of Ramsbury from 927 to 942, and went with King /Ethelstan to the battle of Brunanburh in 937. In 942 he succeeded Wulfhelm as archbishop of Canterbury, and he appears to have been an able and conscientious ruler of the see. He had great influence with King Edwy, whom he had crowned in 956. Odo (d. 1200), abbot of Battle, was a monk of Christ Church, Canterbury, and was prior of this house at the time when Thomas Racket was murdered. In 1175 he was chosen abbot of Battle, and on two occasions the efforts of Henry II. alone prevented him from being elected archbishop of Canterbury. Odo or Odda (d. 1056), a relative of Edward the Confessor, during whose reign he was an earl in the west of England, built the minster at Deerhurst in Gloucestershire.