“Odo” in History

Thanks to Brigitta, Fliss, Sherry Lynn Coakley, and Talia Myres for their research and compilation of the following tidbits!

Mere Coincidence? We Think Not…

In Japanese, Odo (sometimes rendered “oudo” or “oudou”) refers to principles of royalty or rule by right. Also in that language, “Odo” is both a family name and a place name. In fact, the original Godzilla movie has scenes that take place on an “Odo Island.”

It is irresistible to include this literary reference from the Harry Potter saga. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Hagrid and Professor Slughorn sing a song about “Odo the Hero” when they are drunk right after Aragog’s funeral. And after Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour’s wedding in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Hagrid, Charlie Weasley, and a “squat wizard in a purple porkpie hat” sing “Odo the Hero” just before the Death Eater attack.
“And Odo the hero, they bore him back home
To the place that he’d known as a lad,
They laid him to rest with his hat inside out
And his wand snapped in two, which was sad.”

The Middle Ages are full of historic Odos. The name was most used in France, sometimes spelled “Eudo” or “Eudes”. It is believed to be an early form of the German name “Otto.”

Following is a concise list of important historical and current figures named “Odo.” Additional details for some of them appear farther down the page.

  • Odo of Metz built the magnificent cathedral in Aachen (Germany) for the emperor Charlemagne (Charles the Great). It was finished in 805, and the emperor was buried in it in 814.
  • Odo of Glanfeuil was a ninth-century French monk and author. He became abbot of the Glanfeuil in 861, but fled from a Norman invasion a year later. In 868, he became abbot of St. Maur-des-Fosses near Paris. He wrote a “Life of St. Maurus,” the founder of Glanfeuil, and an account of how he saved the saint’s relics from the Normans and transferred them to St. Maur-des-Fossés.
  • Saint Odo of Cluny (878 or 879 to 942) was a French monk, the second Abbot of Cluny. One of the great abbots who spread the influence of the Cluniac reforms and enhanced the prestige of the Benedictine Order, St. Odo was also a musician and poet. Many anecdotes are told showing how he combined the strictest discipline with a sympathetic heart and a lively sense of fun. His feast day is November 18, the anniversary of his death.
  • Odo, Count of Paris: in 886-887, he successfully defended the city of Paris against Norman (Viking) attackers. Count Odo became the ancestor of the French royal dynasty of Capet, and thus the ancestor of all those famous kings in French history.
  • Odo, Count of Blois and Touraine, was a French nobleman of the tenth century. He is described as a vicious, cruel man who lost his left arm in a sword-fight.
  • Odo (Eudes) of Aquitaine: At least two Dukes of Acquitaine (one born around 1012), which included much of southern France between about 1000 and 1200, were named Odo.
  • Odo, Bishop of Bayeux was the half-brother of William, Duke of Normandy and later William I (the Conqueror) of England. Born around 1035, he was one of William’s most trusted advisors and a leader of the invasion of England in 1066. The Bayeux Tapestry, portraying the Norman Conquest, was commissioned for the dedication of Odo’s new cathedral in 1077.
  • Odo of Cambrai (1050-1113) was a Benedictine monk and teacher. Chosen Bishop of Cambrai in 1105, he was exiled in 1110 because he refused to grant the Holy Roman Emperor’s claim of authority over his diocese.
  • Odo of Deuil was the French King’s chaplain, elected Abbot of St. Denis in 1151. One of his monks, William of St. Denis, wrote a famous scholarly dialogue defending him against criticism of his administrative abilities.
  • Odo of Canterbury (died in 1200) was an English monk and theologian, known as Odo Cantianus or Odo of Kent. He became Abbot of Battle Abbey in Kent and a supporter of Thomas à Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury who was murdered for opposing royal influence in religious affairs. A great theologian who preached in three languages (French, English, and Latin), he was known for his humility and modesty as well as for his learning and his love of books.
  • Odo of Cheriton was an English preacher (died in 1247). He wrote several volumes of sermons, often including fables to illustrate moral points.
  • Odo (or Otho) of Lagery (c. 1042-1099), a French-born monk and priest, this most famous medieval Odo of all is best known under a different name: Pope Urban II (1088-1099). He called the First Crusade to capture the Holy Land and the city of Jerusalem from the Muslims, and is remembered as one of the great warrior-popes of the Middle Ages.
  • In more recent years, Lord Odo Russell was the English ambassador to Germany in 1873. He was also the English representative to the Vatican and Home Secretary in England in the 1860s.
  • Eugene Odo of Ohafia, Nigeria is a lawyer, philanthropist, and member of the Enugu State House of Assembly (in 2008). Born in 1967 and educated in Nigeria as a lawyer, he has built two schools for children, four hospitals for the less prvildged people in society, and a church. These institutions are free for all and Odo of Ohafia pays the bills for everyone, including salaries for doctors, nurses, teachers, and staff.

And today, there is an Odo Road in Perth, Australia!

Following are more Odos, and some additional details about several of those listed above:

  • A female Odo: Laia Osaiedo Odo
    A famous revolutionary, author of Analogy, Prison Letters, Society with Government, and other books.

Odo did most of her writing while in prison. The world revolution she fostered brought on an anarchist society, typified by communal Odonian Houses. Although her husband and fellow-revolutionary, Taviri Odo Asieo, died young, Odo lived well into her seventies. The symbol of the Odonian revolution was the circle of life. The Ninth Month Uprising was a major event of this revolution.

  • Odo of Glanfeuil (Saint-Maur-sur-Loire)

Abbot, ninth-century hagiographer. He entered Glanfeuil not later than 856 and became its abbot in 861. In 864 he issued a “Life of St. Maurus”, a revision, he claimed, of a “Life” originally written by Faustus of Montecassino, which makes St. Maurus the founder and first abbot of Glanfeuil, and is the chief source for the legendary sojourn of that saint in France. It is so anachronistic that it is generally believed to have been composed by Odo himself, though Mabillon and a few modern writers ascribe it to Faustus [Mabillon in “Annales O.S.B.”, I, 629-54, and in “Acta SS. Ord. S. Ben.”, I, 259 sq.; Adlhoch in “Studien und Mitteilungen aus dem Benediktiner und Cistercienser Orden”, XXVI and XXVII (Brünn, 1905 and 1906); Plaine, ibid., XVI (1905); Huillier, “Etude critique des actes de S. Maur de Glanfeuil” (Paris, 1903); Halphen in “Revue historique” LXXXVIII (Paris, 1905), 287-95]. The “Life” is printed in “Acta SS.” January, II, 321-332. Another work of Odo, “Miracula S. Mauri, sive restauratio monasterii Glannafoliensis”, has some historical value. The author narrates how he fled with the relics of St. Maurus from the Normans in 862 and how the relics were finally transferred to the monastery of St-Maur-des-Fossés near Paris in 868. It is printed in “Acta SS,”, January, II, 334-42. In 868, Odo became also Abbot of St. Maur-des-Fossés.

  • St. Odo

Second Abbot of Cluny, born 878 or 879, probably near Le Mans. He was raised in the households of Count Fulk II of Anjou and Duke William of Aquitaine, received the tonsure when he was nineteen, received a canonry at St. Martin’s in Tours, and then spent several years studying at Paris, particularly music, under Remigius of Auxerre. He spent several years at the court of William, Duke of Martin at Tours. Odo became a monk under Berno at Baume-les-Messieurs near Besancon in 909, and was named director of the Baume Monastery school by Berno, who became abbot of the newly founded Cluny in 910. In 924, Odo was named abbot of Baume. He succeeded Berno as second abbot of Cluny in 927, and continued Berno’s work of reforming abbeys from Cluny. Authorized by a privilege of John XI in 931, he reformed the monasteries in Aquitaine, northern France, and Italy. The privilege empowered him to unite several abbeys under his supervision and to receive at Cluny monks from abbeys not yet reformed; the greater number of the reformed monasteries, however, remained independent, and several became centres of reform.

Odo was called to Rome by Pope Leo VII in 936 to arrange peace between Alberic of Rome and Hugh of Provence, who was besieging the city, and succeeded temporarily by negotiating a marriage between Alberic and Hugh’s daughter; Odo returned to Rome twice in the next six years to reconcile Alberic and Hugh. Odo spread Cluny’s influence to monasteries all over Europe, encountering and overcoming much opposition, and successfully persuaded secular rulers to relinquish control of monasteries they had been illegally controlling.

Between 936 and 942, he visited Italy several times, founding in Rome the monastery of Our Lady on the Aventine and reforming several convents, such as Subiaco and Monte Cassino. He was sometimes entrusted with important political missions (for example, when peace was arranged between King Hugo of Italy and Alberic of Rome). Among his writings are: a biography of St. Gerald of Aurillac, three books of Collationes (moral essays, severe and forceful) a few sermons, an epic poem on the Redemption (Occupatio) in several books (ed. Swoboda, 1900), and twelve choral antiphons in honour of St. Martin.

Odo wrote hymns, treatises on morality, an epic poem on the Redemption, and a life of St. Gerald of Aurillac. He died at Tours on the way back to Rome on 18 November 942.

  • Odo, Bishop of Bayeux
    Ruled England for William after 1066 when William was in Normandy. Odo was given the bishopric of Bayeux by his brother William, a political move, as Odo was below the required age of 30.

In 1067, Odo became William’s deputy in England, assisted by William fitz Osbern, until Osbern’s death in 1071. Odo also became the Earl of Kent and his wealth and land became conciderable. He commissioned the Bayeaux Tapestry which was first shown at the dedication of his new cathedral on 14 July 1077. The Tapestry shows the three brothers, William, Odo, and Robert before the battle of Hastings. Odo is talking, while William is listening, possibly showing Odo as the architect of the battle plans. Odo was imprisoned by William in 1083. Odo was planning to become the Pope. He had bought a palace in Rome and had bribed several Romans, recruiting many knights to fight his cause. William intervened as Odo prepared to leave England, and brought Odo before a council. The council was slow to convict Odo and so William had Odo taken to Rouen and imprisoned there. Odo was released on the death of William in 1087 and attended the funeral.

  • Odo of Cambrai

Bishop and confessor, also called Odoardus; born at Orleans, 1050; died at Anchin, 19 June 1113. In 1087, he was invited by the canons of Tournai to teach in that city, and there soon won a great reputation. He became a Benedictine monk (1095) in St. Martin’s, Tournai, of which be became abbot later. In 1005, he was chosen Bishop of Cambrai, and was consecrated during a synod at Reims. For some time after, he was unable to obtain possession of his see owing to his refusal to receive investiture at the hands of Emperor Henry IV, but the latter’s son Henry restored the See of Cambrai to Odo in 1106. He laboured diligently for his diocese, but in 1110 he was exiled on the ground that he had never received the cross and ring from the emperor. Odo retired to the monastery of Anchin, where he died without regaining possession of his diocese. Many of his works are lost.

  • 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 à Becket to Pope Alexander as his representative to attend an appeal, fixed for 18 October 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. In 1166, 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 favour of ecclesiastical authority. In a meeting on 1 September 1172 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 (6 October). 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, a great fire occurred at Christ Church and Odo went to the Council of Woodstock on 1 July 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 19 July. His blessing took place on 28 September, at the hands of Archbishop Richard at Malling. On the death of Richard in 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 until 1188 and occasioned a correspondence between Odo and Urban III (Epp. Cantuar., no. 280). Odo died on 20 January 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 à 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).

  • Odo of Cheriton

Preacher and fabulist, died in 1247. He visited Paris, and it was probably there that he gained the degree of Master. Bale mentions a tradition that he was a Cistercian or a Præmonstratensian; but he can hardly have taken vows if, as seems most likely, he was the Master Odo of Cheriton mentioned in Kentish and London records from 1211 to 1247, the son of William of Cheriton, lord of the manor of Delce in Rochester. In 1211-12, William was debited with a fine to the crown, for Odo to have the custodia of Cheriton church, near Folkestone. In 1233, Odo inherited his father’s estates in Delce, Cheriton, and elsewhere. A charter of 1235-6 (Brit. Mus., Harl. Ch. 49 B 45), by which he quitclaimed the rent of a shop in London, has his seal attached, bearing the figure of a monk seated at a desk, with a star above him (St. Odo of Cluny?).

Like Jacques de Vitry, he introduced exempla freely into his sermons; his best known work, a collection of moralized fables and anecdotes, sometimes entitled “Parabolæ” from the opening words of the prologue (Aperiam in parabolis os meum), was evidently designed for preachers. Though partly composed of commonly known adaptations and extracts, it shows originality, and the moralizations are full of pungent denunciations of the prevalent vices of clergy and laity. The “Parabolæ” exist in numerous manuscripts, and have been printed by Hervieux (Fabulistes Latins, IV, 173-255); a thirteenth-century French version is extant, also an early Spanish translation. Some of the contents reappear, along with many other exempla, in his sermons on the Sunday Gospels, completed in 1219, extant in several manuscripts; an abridgment of which, prepared by M. Makerel, was printed by J. Badius Ascensius in 1520. The only other extant works, certainly authentic, are “Tractatus de P nitentia”, “Tractatus de Passione”, and “Sermones de Sanctis”; but the “Speculum Laicorum” also cites him as authority for many other exempla. Hauréau’s contention (Journaldes Savants, 1896, 111-123), that the fabulist was a distinct person from the author of the sermons and treatises, is not supported.

  • Odo, cardinal-bishop of Ostia
    (a city in Italy on the coastline near Rome)

Had been Prior of the famous monastery of Cluny (France). He was Pope from 1088 to 1099 under the name Urban II. He had immense diplomatic skills and on 26 November 1095 he gave a speech in Clermont-Ferrand (France) that became absolutely famous, because with it he initiated the crusades. He ordered the European nobles to go to the holy grave and take it out of the hands of the “infidels” (meaning the Muslims) who had conquered the region in 1071. The following First Crusade ended with the conquest and bloody and cruel loot of Jerusalem in July 1099, two weeks before Urban II died.

Although the name “Odo” has developed into the modern version “Otto”, including famous “Ottos” — like the German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, who must have met the British Ambassador Lord Odo Russell for sure — tracing all of the possible historical and literary connections with that name (for example, a recent German Home Secretary, Otto Schily, who had a haircut like Spock… and Kevin Kline’s character Otto in the film A Fish named Wanda…) would be going too far!

Would you like to add a significant historical Odo to our list? Contact us and we’ll see about including your fun fact!