Odon, also named Odo, de Conteville is a prime example of a warrior bishop and a man who chose to live dangerously in a ceaseless search for power and riches. He was appointed Bishop of Bayeux in 1049 by his half brother William. Although fighting bravely at Hastings for which William rewarded him with more than 400 English lordships this immense power and wealth failed to meet his ambitions. What drove him? A member of the College of Heralds in the 19th century described him thus - “Ambitious, arrogant, rapacious, turbulent, tyrannical, ungrateful and licentious this bold bad man appears to have been destitute of every virtue”. Such qualities, if they are an accurate description of Odo’s persona, ensured he would be a source of much trouble to his contemporaries.
He first seized lordships belonging to the Archbishopric of Canterbury requiring the intervention of William I who ruled in favour of the Archbishop. In spite of this setback he continued to support his half-brother by suppressing many regional disputes. William entrusted the government of England to Odo when he had to return to Normandy to deal with several insurrections. Odo availed himself of every opportunity to amass wealth by robbing the churches of revenue, land and religious treasures. On William’s return to England Odo was arrested and imprisoned in Rouen until the death of William in 1087.
He next conspired against William Rufus and eventually broke into open rebellion. The rebellion was suppressed, Odo was stripped of his titles and wealth and sent to govern Normandy, now in a state of lawlessness. There he became involved in numerous battles for power between William Rufus and his brother Robert. Contemporary accounts record many barbaric acts carried out by Odo during these campaigns.
His last act was to join the Crusade of 1096 but he got only as far as Palermo where he died in February 1097. Odo seems to have had no redeeming qualities except that he may have been responsible for commissioning the Bayeux Tapestry. But learned scholars also dispute this!