Tomb of Bishop Nigel (1138-69)

Image of the feature "V. Furnishings: 2. Tombs/Graveslabs: Tomb" at Ely.

by Ron Baxter.

Tomb of Bishop Nigel (1133–69), N choir aisle. Nigel was buried at the E end of the nave, next to the altar of the Holy Cross. This tomb slab, assumed to be his, was discovered upturned in the floor of St Mary's, Ely, in 1829 (see Zarnecki 1958; Ladds 1937; Esdaile 1973). It is of black Tournai marble and tapers markedly towards the foot. Its edges are hollow chamfered. The slab depicts a standing figure of St Michael, facing forward with his wings behind and a beaded halo. In a fold of his clothing he supports a small frontal naked figure with hands raised. This is the bishop's soul. Michael stands under an arch with flat, square jambs, fictive volute capitals and a chamfered round head. On the arch chamfer is carved the inscription, SCS MICHAEL ORE PRO ME.

Above the arch is an architectural canopy. A pair of three-storey turrets stand above the capitals, their lowest storeys inscribed with fictive masonry and the upper two with round-headed arcading. These turrets are capped by gables with fictive tiling. Above the apex of the arch is represented a house-shaped structure with a tiled roof and a row of arcading at the front. Between this and the turret to either side is a smaller, sloping building, again with a fictive tiled roof, and articulated on its front face with a row of arches over narrow slots. The archangel's drapery is articulated with long pinch folds, and a good deal of skill is shown in the carving of decorative borders and the feathers of the wings.

The condition of the slab is generally good, with its carving still crisp in the resilient stone. There is considerable damage, however, some of it deliberate. The most significant is the loss of both faces. St Michael's has been chipped off, perhaps to allow the slab to lie flat when upside-down, whereas the bishop's has a loss at the top but is otherwise rubbed smooth. There are more general losses at the foot of the slab, especially on the left side. The lower edge is lost.


max. l. 1.73 m
w. at bottom 0.72 m
w. at top 0.90 m