Death and Burial

Anglo-norman tombs and funerary monuments

Gravestone from NorthamptonFrom near the beginning of Christian era in England, in the late 7th / early 8th century, there has been a tradition of marking graves with stone monuments, although the practice became more widespread than hitherto from the 10th century onwards. These monuments usually existed as upright tombstones or as stone slabs either laid horizontally over the grave or serving as a lid for a stone coffin.

Gravestone from DoncasterEarly grave monuments are rarely found in their original positions; the graves themselves have usually been disturbed in later times and the stones were often re-used as building materials. It is clear, however, that in the 11th - 12th centuries there was a considerable variety of stone grave monuments and many regional styles, defined in terms of both form and decorative treatment, have been identified.

As far as horizontal slabs are concerned, they may be either flat-topped or coped, i.e. triangular in cross-section, and both types usually taper from the head end to the foot. Decoration on both vertical and horizontal monuments is, in its most basic form, a simple Latin cross, sometimes composed of just two incised lines. A little more elaborate was the cross pattée which was sometimes set in a circle. By the end of the 12th century crosses incorporating simple floral motifs, largely buds and leaves, began to appear.

The Warenne monument There are a few very elaborately carved monuments including a slab from Conisbrough (South Yorkshire) which is thought to have been a memorial for the third Earl of Warenne killed on crusade in 1148. It is of similar date to the carved marble gravestone of Gundrada, his great grandmother, buried in Lewes Priory (Sussex). Monuments of this sort were given to the wealthier members of society, the nobility and senior clergy. By the end of the 12th century some of them, such as the abbot on a grave monument in Peterborough Cathedral, thought to be Benedict who completed construction of the nave, were depicted in portrait form.


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