Beginning in the 15th century, cadaver tombs were a departure, in tomb architecture, from the usual practice of showing merely an effigy of the person as they were in life.
The tombs were made only for high-ranking nobles, usually royalty or bishops, because they had to be rich, to afford to have one made, and powerful, to be allotted space for one in a church. The ones for royalty were generally double tombs for a king and his queen, and those are the ones usually meant by the term "cadaver tomb."
|The first cadaver tomb ever constructed, shown to the left, is in Lincoln Cathedral (England). It is the one of Bishop Richard Fleming, who founded Lincoln College, Oxford, and died in 1431.|
|The tomb on the left is the one of Henry Chichele, archbishop of Canterbury (1414 - 1443), in Canterbury Cathedral.|
|The example on the left is a cadaver tomb which does not show the live person. It is a tomb for John Wakeman in Tewkesbury Abbey. Wakeman was abbot of Tewkesbury Abbey 1531 - 1539, then the abbey was dissolved, he retired, and he later became 1st bishop of Gloucester. He prepared this tomb himself, with vermin crawling on his skeletal corpse, but never used it; he is buried in Forthampton.|
|Some of the finest examples of cadaver tombs are those of the French kings in Saint Denis Basilica. The tomb on the left is the one of Henry II and his wife Catherine de Medici, constructed in the late 16th century.|