Tomb Recesses in the Province of York, c. 1250-1400: Their Social and Architectural Context

Markus, Mary (1994) Tomb Recesses in the Province of York, c. 1250-1400: Their Social and Architectural Context. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The facility to choose a tomb-type and burial position was not universally available in the 14th century, but this was an option open to those who held a minimum of land in the locality of their chosen burial church. Wealth and status were so closely allied with land- ownership, that patrons in a feudal society felt impelled to make all necessary provisions to establish their entitlement to these privileges while alive, in order to pass secure status on to the next generation after their decease. Moreover, church teaching about life after death, and the need to make permanent provision for the soul, resulted in active concern for identifiable and permanent burial sites. Tomb recesses, or tombs which were physically bonded into the building fabric, were an obvious solution, and now repay close attention because, although many are extremely simple, by their nature they mostly remain undisturbed, so that favoured burial locations can be recorded. Many tomb recesses would have contained tomb chests and/or effigies, some of which have been destroyed, but the effigies which remain are often valuable in identifying tomb patrons. When studied as a body of sculpture, the effigies fall into a number of stylistic groups which reflect those influences affecting the wider body of 14th century sculpture in the north. The impact of major architectural and sculptural programmes, especially at York and Beverley, is clearly reflected in the various groups of effigies, and in the design of tomb canopies. A group of particularly talented and prolific sculptors has been identified, and their careers traced through prestigious monuments at York, Beverley, Chester and elsewhere. The influences which shaped the work of these men were the same as those identified in the architecture of the recesses themselves, and in a few cases it can be shown that the patrons were instrumental in bringing about this cross-fertilisation. As a response to a culture in which death was often unexpected, greatly feared, and therefore an ever-present aspect of life, tomb recesses are just one of the measures adopted by patrons. Funerary arrangements belong to a wider range of activities, and are considered in the context of popular piety as manifested by different social groups. The founding or endowment of chantries, and architectural patronage associated with tomb locations is examined, showing that, among the patrons of tomb recesses, no social group gravitated towards the chancel for burial. Even among churchmen, the tendency was for burial in the nave, reflecting the strongly-felt need for visibility among their local communities, even after death, and making clear statments of family allegiance and public piety. In understanding the motives of tomb patrons, some of the most useful documents are their wills. These document the neccesary legal steps taken by patrons to provide for and protect their families and friends, but more importantly for this study, they underline the testators' concerns for their "soul's health", a phrase which occurs frequently. Wills therefore provide evidence of the last minute anxieties of tomb patrons, underscoring the direction of their lifetime's religious aspirations.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: Robert Gibbs
Keywords: Medieval history, Architecture, Religious history
Date of Award: 1994
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1994-75569
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2019 19:25
Last Modified: 19 Nov 2019 19:25

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