Symbol of the Month – The Lily Cross

The magnificent Lily Cross on the Goodhart memorial in St Georges churchyard, Beckenham.
©Carole Tyrrell

 

I have always loved the magnificent Lily Cross in St George’s churchyard,  Beckenham as it’s such a bold and well carved one.  It’s also one of the largest memorials with the churchyard and is dedicated to a prominent local family, the Goodharts.  There is a poignant epitaph as well.

The epitaph to the Goodhart family beneath the Lily Cross. St Georges churchyard, Beckenham
©Carole Tyrrell

The Lily Cross is in the form of a Celtic Cross with the  four arms of the Cross each ending in a lily flower.

Lilies have always had a special and long significance with death.  In the 19th century their pungent, heady aroma was purportedly used to disguise the smell of the recently deceased’s body when it was the custom to have them rest at home prior to the funeral.   But the lily has also been seen as a representation of the soul’s return to innocence after death.

This is because of the lily’s strong associations with purity and innocence and with its colour of pure white it’s especially linked with the Virgin Mary.  Hence its other name the Madonna Lily.  In Christian Art, the Archangel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary are often depicted as holding a lily.

But there are other variants on the Lily Cross and these are:

  • The Flore Cross
  • The Patonce Cross
  • The Fleur de Lys Cross

These are more stylised versions of the Lily Cross.  In the Flore or Fleury Cross the arms end in a representation of flower petals and usually a lily. They often have three points at the end of each arm which represent three petals which is the version that I have usually seen without realising it.  A variation may be two points or horns or crowns but I haven’t seen this variation  yet.

A Flore cross in St Nicholas churchyard, Sevenoaks
©Carole Tyrrell

The Patonce Cross is any form of cross which has expanded end in which each arm ends in floriated points like the Flore or Fleury Crosses. In heraldry, the three petals represent faith, wisdom and chivalry and the four arms of the cross spread these to the four corners of the world. As a Christian Cross, the three petals represent the Trinity and the total of twelve petals symbolise the Apostles.

According to seiyaku.com, it’s claimed that the term Patonce is derived from the French word for the paw of an ounce or Snow Leopard. However it looks nothing like the paw print of a leopard but has been interpreted as the French being whimsical or romantic.

 

 

The Fleur-de-Lys Cross has similarities to both the Fleurie and Patonce Crosses in that it has liliform ends to the arms of the cross as they do. But these represent barbed fighting spears which are used in French heraldry.   The entire cross is a very stylised lily that has heraldic associations  especially in France where it was traditionally connected with royalty.  When Pope Leo II crowned Charlemagne as Emperor he was reputed to have presented him with a blue banner emblazoned with a golden fleur de lys.  However, after the French Revolution the fleur de lys was less obviously  associated with royalty.    Edward II is said to have used it in his coat of arms to emphasise his claim to the French throne.  Iwww.senyaku.com it’s claimed that this cross has been adopted by modern sub cultures such as the Goth movement who know it as the Gothic cross and New Agers who call it the Lotus Cross.

But a brief word on the cross as symbol.  It wasn’t always the primary emblem of Christianity and in fact, it wasn’t adopted until after the 2nd century. Prior to this it was the fish symbol, the ichthys, that was used by early Christians to identify fellow believers and often appears carved or written on their tombs.

The Ichthys, the symbol used by the early Christians prior to adopting the cross.
Shared under Wiki Creative Commons

In Christianity, the cross represents the Crucifixion and is a sign of Christ and faith.

But the cross also appears throughout many cultures and civilisations in several forms.  The cross of Horus, or the ankh, was used by the ancient Egyptians and, as it was often held in the hand of a god or powerful person, it’s a symbol of power.

Nefertiti receiving the ankh.
©https://goodlucksymbols.com/ankh/

The swastika was another ancient form of the cross. But is now unfortunately associated with death and destruction due to its adoption by the Nazis.  But originally it was seen as a sign of good fortune and came from the East as these two examples show:

However, even for Christians, there were uncomfortable connotations to the cross. For centuries, it had been used as a method of punishment, not only for early Christians, but also for wrongdoers such as criminals. However, its adoption as the central symbol of the Christian symbol is attributed to a dream of the Roman Emperor, Constantine, in AD 320. In this he decided to abandon the Roman pagan gods and pray to the Christian god.  According to Douglas Keister:

‘During a midnight prayer Constantine gazed towards the heavens and saw a group of star that looked like a huge, glowing luminous cross.  After he fell asleep, Constantine had a dream in which he saw Christ holding the same symbol and instructing Constantine  to affix it to his standards.  He defeated Maxentius.  As a result he had the emblem applied to all of his standards and emblems’

When I began researching this post, even I had no idea of how many variants there were on the Lily Cross or, indeed, on crosses in general.  It makes a stroll through a churchyard or cemetery even more intriguing now that I can spot the subtle differences between the various types.  Although I have often seen lilies carved on headstones and memorials I have yet to see one as lovely as the St George’s Lily Cross.

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated

References and further reading

Stories in Stone, Douglas Keister, Gibbs Smith, 2004

http://agraveinterest.blogspot.com/2011/04/different-types-of-crosses-in-cemetery.html?m=1

https://www.seiyaku.com/customs/crosses/fleur-de-lis.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fleur-de-lis

http://www.ancientpages.com/2016/10/10/ancient-symbol-fleur-de-lis-its-meaning-and-history-explained/

https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-symbolism-of-a-fleur-de-lis

http://www.ancientpages.com/2018/07/28/10-christian-symbols-explained/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_symbolism

https://www.google.com/search?q=the+different+types+of+crosses+explained&oq=the+different+types+of+crosses+explained&aqs=chrome..69i57j69i64l3.7747j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

https://www.britannica.com/topic/cross-religious-symbol

http://www. headstonesymbols.co.uk/

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Symbol of the Month – The Church Bell

Detail of the Judd headstone, St Michael’s churchyard, Betchworth, Surrey
©Carole Tyrrell

 

This month’s symbol is the Church Bell and was inspired by the three bells that I saw on a Mr Judd’s headstone in St Michael’s churchyard, Betchworth, Surrey. It must be an ex-bellringer I thought and sure enough the epitaph stated that Mr Judd was:

‘ for 36 years Captain of the Bellringers at this Church.’

The central bell on the three appeared to be ringing but was it a specific peal?  A secret message to other bellringers?

Full view of the Judd headstone, St Michael’s churchyard, Betchworth, Surrey.
©Carole Tyrrell

I then found another similar headstone in Beckenham Cemetery which was dedicated to Henry Robert Taylor but with no further information on it.    This time all three bells appeared to be static.

So I contacted The Central Council of Church Bellringers (yes it does exist) to find out if they could shed light on the bells.  Firstly, they were very interested in my photos as these are rare memorials and they didn’t know that they existed.  One of their members, a retired Captain of Bellringers and historian,  was kind enough to reply and said  that the Taylor headstone was probably the grave of a bellringer which was close to the door of the bell ringing chamber. He added that the bells depicted were inaccurate for English church bell ringing and thought that it might be a standard pattern designed to fit a printed headstone.

However, with the Judd headstone in Betchworth he thought that the bells were a much better representation of a church bell hung for ‘change ringing’.

The churchwarden at St Michael;s, Bernard Hawkins, was kind enough to reply to my questions and said that the Judd tombstone was originally dedicated to Clara Judd  by eventually William Henry (Bill) was added to the inscription.  He also confirmed that Bill is buried close to the door of  the church’s bell-tower. In 1910, Canon Sanders paid tribute to his astonishing 36 years as Captain of the Bellringers by saying that’…the whole parish owes a debt of gratitude.’  And here he is:

Change ringing is an English form of bell ringing and if you wish to know more there is a link in the references and further reading section.

These two headstones and the bellringing references made me think of the links between church bells, the rituals of the church and death.  The most obvious one is ringing the ‘death toll.’ which appears in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 71:

‘No longer mourn for me when I am dead,

Than you should hear the surly, sullen bell,

Give warning to the world that I am fed

From this vile world with vilest worms to dwell.’

 

There is also the often quoted final lines from John Donne’s 1624 Meditation 17, from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions:

‘Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee’.

Although only the ‘death toll’ is used today, originally there were three tolls that were rung and they denoted different stages of death.  I am indebted to the headstonesymbols.co.uk blog for this:

‘There was superstition that evil spirits would gather around a dying person, trying to catch the departing soul. To give the soul a chance of ascending to heaven, church bells were rung at the time of death to frighten away these demonic forces. It was even added to the rules of the early Church of England that:

…when any is passing out of this Life, a Bell shall be Tolled, and the Minister shall not then slack to do his last Duty. And after the Parties Death (if it so fall out) there shall be rung no more than one short Peal, and one other before the Burial, and one other after the Burial.

Church of England Canon law; 1604

The Passing Bell

The first ringing to indicate an impending death was called the “Passing Bell“. This was to alert the priest that he was needed to perform the Last Rights.

The Death Knell

A “Death Knell” was rung immediately after the death. This was a slow solemn peal and each strike or teller identified the sex and age of the deceased. In small communities they would know from this who had passed and who’s souls to pray for.

From the number of strokes being formerly regulated according to circumstances, the hearers might determine the sex and social condition of the dying or dead person. Thus the bell was tolled twice for a woman and thrice for a man. If for a clergyman, as many times as he had orders, and, at the conclusion, a peal on all the bells to distinguish the quality of the person for whom the people are to put up their prayers. In the North of England, are yet rung nine knells for a man, six for a woman, and three for a child.

Old Church Lore by William Andrews

Lych or Corpse Bell

The last bell, the Lych or Corpse bell would be rang at the funeral, and is the only one that survives today.’

 

The Funeral Toll was also rung as the procession approached the church and was known as ‘ringing home the dead’.

The Dead Bell

A worn hand bell symbol on a headstone. Courtesy of http://headstonesymbols.co.uk
©http://headstonesymbols.co.uk

However, in Scotland and parts of Northern England, a hand bell was rung which was known as the dead bell.  This was used with deaths and funerals until the 19th century.  The dead bells were rung for two  reasons; to protect the newly deceased from evil spirits and to also seek prayers for the dead person’s soul.  These ‘dead bells’ are often carved on monuments and tombstones in Scotland and Northern England.  There are two men ringing dead bells on the Bayeux Tapestry at the funeral of Edward the Confessor:

The funeral procession of Edward the Confessor as depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry. Note the dead bells held by the two people next to (below) the deceased.From: Lucien Musset The Bayeux Tapestry, translated by Richard Rex, published by the Boydell Press, Woodbridge, UK. 2005. ISBN 1-84383-163-5. pp. 160-165
Shared under Wiki Creative Commons

But there are also superstitions and beliefs concerned with church bells particularly during the medieval period. They were thought to have special protective powers to drive away evil spirits for example and were often baptised. After all, most people know of the Houses of Parliament’s world famous Great Bell in its clock house, Big Ben. The  Catholic church still has a blessing for new bells in which they’re  given the power to protect those who hear it, repel storms and triumph over evil.

There are also several legends concerning bells that have ended up underwater either due to cliff erosion, a reservoir or hidden in lakes.  They are reputed to ring from their watery graves at dead of night and Simon Marsden, the celebrated photographer, mentions them in in his books.

Bells have always been an intrinsic part of church life whether ringing to denote the end of a life or jubilantly pealing at the beginning of a new life in marriage.  They have been held in reverence and also awe due to their supposedly magical powers.  Even today, they sometimes have names and are seen as part of the community.  Both the Betchworth and Beckenham headstones record a connection between man and bell that has lasted for centuries.

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated.

References and further reading:

http://headstonesymbols.co.uk/headstone-meanings-and-symbols/bell-on-headstone/

https://www.reddit.com/r/westworld/comments/5gpwyx/symbolism_of_the_bells_in_the_graveyard/

http://www.solwaypast.co.uk/index.php/structures-in-stone/13-mem/90-st

https://churchmonumentssociety.org/resources/symbolism-on-monuments

http://www.gmct.com.au/media/720756/gmct-information-sheet-_cemetery-symbols_lr.pdf

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_bell

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_knell

http://www.sacred-texts.com/etc/fcod/fcod08.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taphophobia

http://headstonesymbols.co.uk/headstone-meanings-and-symbols/bell-on-headstone/ http://www.famousliteraryworks.com/donne_for_whom_the_bell_tolls.htm

https://cccbr.org.uk

https://surrey.cc.org.uk – grateful thanks to Martin Higgins

https://fromtheedges.wordpress.com/2015/03/20/the-sound-of-sunken-bells/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Change_ringing

 

Names from the Necropolis – No 1 in an occasional series.

 

The Bellchambers headstone, St Mary’s, churchyard, Rverhead, Kent
©Carole Tyrrell

 

Pottering about cemeteries, burial grounds and graveyards as I do while undertaking research can often lead to  unexpected discoveries.  As  I search for symbols and epitaphs, and the occasional wildlife, I often find unusual names recorded on headstones and memorials,  They’re often names that you don’t see every day and so, if you’re a writer like myself, cemeteries can often provide inspiration for naming characters especially if it’s a historical piece.

So here is a small selection from St Mary’s churchyard, Riverhead, near Sevenoaks, Kent that I saw earlier in February 2019 on a lovely Spring like day, Crocuses and snowdrops clustered around the headstones and seeing a name like Mercy Bellchambers on a headstone felt really appropriate.  Now that’s a name really crying out to be used in a historical novel…..

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell

Symbol(s) of the month:  A camel and a family of cats

Due to a major mistake by my internet provider I have been offline for over two weeks but shadowsflyaway is back again!

The circular stone in Brompton’s Garden of Remembrance featuring the family motifs.
© Carole Tyrrell

 

Animals increasingly appear on modern memorials and I’ve often wondered if they are a totem for the deceased or maybe they just like them or maybe they had a pet.  Cats are very common and I’ve seen them either in 2D carved on a  headstone or in 3D form as a small statue.

But this one is unusual as it’s very personal, almost in a code, and is on a memorial stone in Brompton Cemetery’s Garden of Remembrance.   Most memorial stones are small and people use calligraphy or a very small motif due to the limited size.   The family name isn’t stated on this stone and the images are almost playful.

I was lucky enough to meet the widow of the man commemorated on the plaque. She is Maria Kacandes-Kamil and the mommy cat represented her.  The two her cats were her daughters and the camel depicted her husband, Steven, who died in 2011.  The significance of the camel is a reference

to the family name (you may have guessed it already) which is Kamil.   Also note that the mommy cat, Maria, is pointing at the camel to possibly denote the marital bond.

It was lovely to find a modern memorial which had a touch of humour as well as being very personal.

How many casual passer-bys like myself would have guessed the significance of the animals?

RIP Steven.

 

© text and photo Carole Tyrrell

 

 

How a piece of glittering Venice came to SE18 – a  visit to St Georges Garrison Church, Woolwich

The Victoria Cross memorial in full.
©Carole Tyrrell

For years a romantic ruined church fascinated me whenever I saw it from the bus as we sped along Grand Depot Road in Woolwich.   There seemed to be no reason for it to be there, standing quietly under spreading trees with an unlovely corrugated roof over part of it and no sign nearby. Sometimes I could see what I thought was a large mural at the very back of it and always meant to get off and have a closer look.  Then the bus would move on and I would forget about it again.

Exterior view of St George’s which doesn’t indicate of the riches inside
Shared under wiki Creative Commons

 

So it wasn’t until 2017, on an Open House weekend, that I finally visited it and discovered what makes this church, or what’s left of it, unique.  The mural was actually a mosaic and one of the glittering, restored mosaics which is assumed to have been made by a famous workshop in Venice.   They are the survivors of an interior which was once richly decorated with them.  But why are they here in SE18?

The marching feet of the parade ground may have now become the marching feet of commuters on their way to the DLR but there’s still many reminders of Woolwich’s military past to be found. The church’s official name is St George’s Garrison Church and it was built to serve the Royal Artillery. Once an important and landmark building that could hold 1700 people inside, it didn’t always sit in solitude. When it was originally built in 1862-63 in the Italian-Romanesque style it was part of the Royal Artillery barracks with the parade ground before it.

St George’s was built as many other garrison churches, hospitals and barracks in response to the outcry about soldiers living conditions after the Crimean War of 1853-1856 and to improve the ‘moral wellbeing’ of the soldiers.

However, St George’s decline began in the First World War when it was bombed and its rose window destroyed. But, on 13 July 1944, a flying bomb started a fire that gutted the interior.    During the 1950’s there were suggestions about it being rebuilt but these came to nothing.  The widening of the Grand Depot Road in the 1960’s finally separated St George’s from the parade ground and it has sat marooned ever since.

Exterior view of St George’s which doesn’t indicate of the riches inside
Shared under wiki Creative Commons

The upper levels were demolished during the 1970’s and the church became a memorial garden. This is when the functional corrugated roof was placed over the mosaics. The Royal Artillery moved to Wiltshire in 2007 and so they will forever be apart.

The corrugated roof has been replaced by a much more attractive canopy. However The Friends of St George’s Trust information leaflet warns visitors:

‘not to stand beyond the altar, the apse and to be ‘careful of fragile/falling fabric as you explore the sanctuary and chapel.’

That sounded scary but I was careful as I didn’t want to become one of the residents of the memorial garden just yet.

View of St George’s from the entrance showing the rather more aesthetically pleasing canopy roof – even from here St George gleams.
©Carole Tyrrell

But it was the large central mosaic of St George and the Dragon that attracted me. I’ve always been fascinated by mosaics and have seen many in cemeteries.  After years of glimpsing it from a bus it was wonderful to be able to see it close up and to admire the quality of its workmanship. According to the Friends of St George’s Trust website:

‘the mosaics are thought to be based on the Roman and Byzantine mosaics in Ravenna, Italy. St George and the Dragon and those around the chancel arches are assumed to have been made in Antonio Salviati’s workshops in Venice.’

But who is Antonio Salviati?  The St George and Dragon mosaic form the centrepiece of the impressive Victoria Cross memorial behind the altar.  This was funded by subscriptions in 1915 with no expense spared.  The importance of this monument, dedicated to the 62 Royal Artillery men who received the prestigious VC, is emphasised by the fact that they went to one of the 19th century’s leading Italian glassmakers to create it.

Antonio Salviati shared under wiki Creative Commons.
Th is is in the public domain in the USA.

Antonio Salviati (1816-1890) is considered to be one of the leading figures in 19th century glassmaking.  Originally a lawyer, he became involved in the restoration of St Mark’s Cathedral in Venice.  This led to him becoming interested in glassmaking and establishing his own factory. Salviati also re-established the island of Murano, near Venice, as a major centre of glassmaking and it still has that reputation today. He also created a European interest in brightly coloured pieces of Italian glass as decorative objects.  Salviati’s factory soon began receiving commissions from France and England and it’s credited with creating the mosaic glass on the altar glass of Westminster Abbey and part of the Albert Memorial.  There are also other surviving works in many churches and cathedrals in the UK.

Restoration work on St George’s mosaics was carried out in 2015 and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Although some of the tesserae from the mosaic – these are the small blocks of stone, tile, glass or other material used in its the construction  – are missing, the conservators made the decision not to replace them

The chancel mosaics feature birds and vines. The lovely peacocks are appropriate symbols of immortality and rebirth and vines for abundance and as reminders of Christ and his followers. (see Symbol of the Month – the vine for more information.) There are also phoenixes which are traditionally associated with rising from a raging fire and are an ancient symbol of Christian resurrection.  It felt appropriate as St George’s is a remarkable survivor of Woolwich’s military past and has risen again.  But it’s still a building at risk.

There are pieces of the church on site such as the capitals to two of the broken columns.  These feature winged lions and winged griffins.  I walked around the memorial garden and thought how lucky we were that its mosaics had survived for us to still enjoy.

St George’s remains consecrated and holds 4 services each year.  It’s now open on Sundays and you can admire  the newly installed iron entrance gates. Archive photos show what an imposing building it once was but imagine it when newly built as the sun shone through the rose window illuminating the beautifully decorated interior making St George and the Dragon dazzle.

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated.

References and further reading:

https://www.ianvisits.co.uk/blog/2018/10/03/go-inside-the-ruined-st-georges-garrison-church-in-woolwich/

https://www.stgeorgeswoolwich.org/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_George%27s_Garrison_Church,_Woolwich

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Antonio-Salviati

 

Symbol of the Month – The Mourning Woman

 

A fine example from Kensal Green Cemetery on the Isabella Shaw memorial.
©Carole Tyrrell

 

This month’s symbol is the Mourning Woman who is derived from Classicism and its association with ancient Greece and Rome.  I would hesitate before describing their presence in Victorian cemeteries and churchyards as a monstrous regiment but they have mostly been on duty for over a hundred years.  They patiently watch over and grieve for the departed.  An eternal mourner, often with a veil covering her head and swathed in flowing robes, she keeps vigil.

The Mourning Woman can be a free standing statue on top of a monument or plinth looking sorrowfully down on the viewer.  She can also be in the form of a 3D relief weeping over an urn containing the beloved’s ashes as in these examples:

 

At West Norwood cemetery there is this example of one resting on a lifesize cross (I hate to say it but whenever I see her I’m always reminded of the George Formby song ‘I’m Leaning on a lamp post…etc.).

A full view of the mourning woman as she rests on a cross on the Herbert Warren memorial, West Norwood Cemetery.
©Carole Tyrrell

 

Classicism held sway when London’s Magnificent Seven cemeteries were created. The anti-Catholic movement from the Georgian era was still a major influence with the cry ‘No Popery!’ loudly shouted.   So no crosses, no statues of Jesus or any angels were permitted.  Instead the clear cool lines of the ancient world were used as well as some of their traditions.

Mourning women were one of these as women played an integral part in the funerary ritual in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome.   In the latter they were paid professional mourners as the more mourners there were at a funeral the more wealthy and prestigious the departed had been in life.  In the funeral procession which took place prior to the cremation the professional mourning women, who were not part of the deceased’s family, would loudly wail, rip out their hair and also scratch their faces in mourning according to contemporary records.  It was felt that women could more easily express emotions as it was unacceptable for a man to weep in public.

There are several Biblical references to the mourning women.  They are mentioned in Amos 5:16, Chronicles 35:25 and also in Jeremiah 9:17 as below

Thus saith the LORD of hosts,

Consider ye, and call for the mourning women,

that they may come;

and send for cunning women, that they may come:
King James Bible

 

The reference to ‘cunning’ women means ‘skilled’ women.

They would often weep noisily and copiously spilling their tears into vessels known as tear catchers or lachrimosa.  At the recent excellent Museum of Docklands exhibition, The Roman Dead, there were some on display.  They were small glass vessels and were placed in tombs, presumably overflowing, after the funeral was complete. Again, if many tears were collected, it signified that the deceased was held in high esteem and those crying the most would receive a higher payment.

Incidentally the tear catchers became fashionable again in the 19th century with the Victorian cult of death.  But this time the bottles had special stoppers that allowed the tears to evaporate and when they did the mourning period would be over.  There is also a Biblical association with the practice of collecting tears in bottles in Psalms 56:8:

Thou tellest my wanderings:

put thou my tears into thy bottle:

are they not in thy book?

King James Bible

 

In ancient Greece it was again women who prepared the body and then laid it out ready for viewing on the second day.

Kinswomen, wrapped in dark robes, stood round the bier, the chief mourner, either mother or wife, was at the head, and others behind. This part of the funeral rites wasthe prothesis. Women led the mourning by chanting dirges, tearing at their hair and clothing, and striking their torso, particularly their breasts.

Wikipedia

 

Here is a 6th century depiction of ancient Greek professional mourning women in full flow:

Body lying in state attended by family members with the mournign women ritually tearing their hair, Terracotta plaque – late 6th century BC. Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, USA
Shared under Wiki Creative Commons

 

So for centuries women have been associated with, and played a major part, in the funerary process which may have been one of the reasons for the Mourning Woman appearing in cemeteries.

I feel that these women could be seen as a forerunner of the winged angels that flew into cemeteries towards the end of the 19th century.  Both of them were guardians of the dead protecting them for eternity.

To end on, here is an lovely example that I unexpectedly discovered while on a Sunday afternoon stroll in the ‘secret’ graveyard behind St Nicholas’s church in Sevenoaks.  She stands, surrounded by back gardens, and is a particularly elegant version.  The memorial beneath her feet is dedicated to Elizabeth Dick and was erected by her sorrowing husband.

Sleep well for eternity Elizabeth and all those guarded by the mourning women.

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated

References and further reading:

https://victorianmonsters.wordpress.com/victorian-funerary-practices/https://victorianmonsters.wordpress.com/victorian-funerary-practices/

https://www.ancient.eu/article/96/the-roman-funeral/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_funerary_practices

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/secondary/SMIGRA*/Funus.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/understanding-grief/201802/professional-mourners-ancient-tradition

https://biblehub.com/jeremiah/9-17.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Professional_mourning

http://www.lachrymatory.com/History.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Greek_funeral_and_burial_practices

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/secondary/SMIGRA*/Funus.html

 

 

 

 

A mother and daughter’s last good-bye?

Welcome to 2019! and we begin with an unusual variation on a common funerary symbol which I recently discovered in Brompton Cemetery

 

The shaking hands symbol on the Chesterton memorial in Brompton Cemetery. Note the male/female cuffs.
©Carole Tyrrell

One of the most common symbols in a large Victorian cemetery is that of the shaking or clasped  hands.

Usually, most of the hands illustrate the right hand in a grasp with fingers overlapping the other hand while the left hand is open. This is often interpreted as a man holding a woman’s hand which could indicate marriage or a close bond between two individuals. Clasped hands are also symbolic of a farewell or last good-bye. If you look at the cuffs of each hand you can soon guess who is the man and who is the woman as the latter usually has a frilly cuff.

There are also several other explanations of this image: the clasped hands may mean ‘Farewell’, marriage, or the that first one to die holds the surviving spouse’s hand guiding them to heaven. If on a family tomb they can mean either hope or reunification in the next life or simply ‘see you soon’ which may not be as comforting as it sounds with the Victorians high mortality rate.

But, while pottering about in Brompton Cemetery over Christmas and New Year, I found this variation on the theme.  It’s undoubtedly two women shaking hands in farewell as each has a frilly cuff and is remarkably well carved.

The cross and hands in full.
©Carole Tyrrell

At the base of the cross there is an inscription saying ‘In Loving Memory of our Beloved Mother.’  Beneath that at the very base of the monument there is a date, a name and the age at death.

It was such a cold day that I didn’t loiter too long except to take photos but I am intrigued enough to plan to do further research.  Brompton Cemetery’s burial records have been digitised which is very helpful and once I have the name and date of death I should know more.

Watch this space….

© Text and photos Carole Tyrrell

 

Symbol of the Month – The Shrouded Cross

The Shrouded Cross on the family grave of the Beckley family, St Nicholas church, Sevenoaks
©Carole Tyrrell

This month’s symbol is a rare one and I discovered it in my local churchyard, St Nicholas in Sevenoaks. It’s on the grave of the Beckley family.

A draped cross in West Norwood Greek section.
©Carole Tyrrell

However, I have also previously seen crosses with real cloth draped on them in two big London cemeteries One was in the Greek Section of West Norwood.  At that time I thought that perhaps it was to commemorate an anniversary or a particular religious festival. However, during my research for this post. I have discovered that the colour of the   West Norwood cloth, white,  is associated with Easter Sunday.

As you can see from the above photo of the Beckley headstone, the cloth is wrapped loosely around the cross  and, according to my research, it’s a resurrection symbol.  In fact it’s known as the Resurrection Cross or the Shrouded Cross. Some of its other names are: the Draped Cross, the Empty Cross, the Risen Cross or the Deposition Cross. The latter is a further reminder of Christ’s descent from the cross

It’s intended to be a representation of Jesus no longer being on the cross. Although there are also plain crosses on graves unless they have the cloth they are not Resurrection crosses. The cloth is a supposed reference to Christ’s grave clothes or shroud that were found in the tomb after he rose from the dead. It emphasises to the bereaved left behind that death isn’t the end.

Within the church calendar, the cloth draped around a cross during important dates in the Christian calendar particularly Easter has special significance according the colours of the fabric. These are white, purple – the colour of royalty, and black.  The latter is used from Palm Sunday (the week prior to Easter) until Good Friday and denotes mourning after Christ’s death on the cross.

The shrouded cross on the Beckley headstone is a striking image which caught my attention and really stood out in a churchyard containing several headstones with fascinating symbols on them.

So this one may be an affirmation of faith on behalf of the deceased  or a strong belief in the afterlife with death being seen as the beginning of a new life.

 

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell

 

References and further reading

https://www.seiyaku.com/customs/crosses/shrouded.html

http://www.thecemeteryclub.com/symbols.html

https://answers.yahoo.com/question/ind?qid=20170406140444AAUuXdc