Sunday, 30 September 2012

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Mourning clothes


Maltese Death, Mourning, and Funeral Customs
A. Cremona
"Folklore"  Vol. 34, No. 4 (Dec. 31, 1923)

© Godric Godricson
"The wearing of special mourning clothes was general in the fourteenth century, but became less marked by the year 1700. Women used to wear woollen trailing skirts and dark shawls over their heads. Some better-class people wore one black transparent veil over the head and another veil of black silk taffeta over the gown, reaching to the waist. A sort of Majorca woollen cloth is prescribed for mourning wear to the heirs under a will of A.D. 1543.

The Grand Master's suite wore a special garment called Scoto, of thin light serge. Although it is nowadays customary with some families to put on as little mourning as possible and to shorten its period, a full mourning dress is worn by others for two full years after the death of parents. The simplest style of mourning, a black necktie and a crape arm band, is in general use after the death of a distant relative".

Frances Jane Hamilton - Chale

Saint Andrew - Chale, Isle of Wight [Link]

© Godric Godricson

Friday, 28 September 2012

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Table tomb - Chale

17th Century Table tombs
Saint Andrew - Chale, Isle of Wight [Link]

© Godric Godricson

Obelisk - Chale

Obelisk at Saint Andrew - Chale, Isle of Wight [Link]

© Godric Godricson

Christianity as a cult of death

Edwin Bedingfield
Senglea - Malta
© Godric Godricson
The study of burials and the origins of burials has sparked interest in Christianity as a cult of the dead. Christianity is heavily involved with death and this affinity arises from a clear association between the Church as a place of worship and the cemetery as a place of burial.

Early researchers  often made broad generalisations about the cult of the dead, ancestor worship and the saints as a manifestation of earlier, pagan, deities.  From the early studies we can perceive a lack of empirical knowledge, broad generalizations and a lack of methodology.  A cult of the dead is, however, evidenced in this blog and the more I submit pictures and words the more I become aware of the affinity of Christianity, death and the nature of Christianity as a cult of the dead. Just look at the proximity of the living and the dead in many villages and centres of population.


© Godric Godricson
I’m not suggesting that Christianity is merely another “mystery religion” and I’m not suggesting that Christianity is ‘wrong’ or ‘evil’, instead I am saying that Christianity has an agenda that is not always clear and explained. It is as if  the cult of the dead went on to fuel a world religion rather than a religion forming a cult of the dead. This may be pure semantics although we apparently have a cause and effect here. In some parts of the world, such as South America, the earlier cults of the dead from indigenous cultures are even clearer and have a synergy with Christianity

Paganism has many more links with Christianity than people would often like to acknowledge and this affinity is stronger with Catholicism than more puritan religion, although the cult of the dead is more evident  in puritan sects than Evangelicals would like to acknowledge.

© Godric Godricson
It is time to see the cemeteries beside the Church as centres of ancestor worship, history and art rather than just cemeteries. Why else would Christians pay so much time and attention to burying the dead so close to the living. The work of Edwin Chadwick shows how bad the situation was in he 19th Century. In this period the living sank wells for  water beside cemeteries and actually absorbed the dead through drinking water, they sat in pews above the dead and they walked past stinking burial grounds to gain access to the Church.  The pollution of the environment by this obsession with death is apparent and evident and shines through Chadwick’s work.

Over the next few months I want to return to the idea of Christianity as a cult of the dead and see what happens.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Royal Burial Sites

Saint Andrew - Chale, Isle of Wight [Link]
© Godric Godricson



Have a look at this fantastic page for European burials sites around Europe. This site is well researched and well written and a joy to view. The photographs are new and show vaults etc that are not normally seen.




http://www.unofficialroyalty.com/royal-burial-sites

Helen Bishop - Chale

Helen Bishop
Saint Andrew - Chale, Isle of Wight [Link]

© Godric Godricson

William Bailey Died 1875

Sunday, 23 September 2012

The Art of Embalming


From: The Art of Embalming
Thomas Greenhill
1709






The
Soul flies back to Heaven from whence it came. Our mouldering Bodies Mother Earth does claim.Lent us but for a fleeting space to wear and then they to their first abodes repair

Burial in the nave - Blofield

Saint Andrew - Blofield  [Link]
© Godric Godricson

Granite

Rosary Cemetery - Norwich [Link]

© Godric Godricson

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Friday, 21 September 2012

Old Maltese practices



Maltese Death, Mourning, and Funeral Customs
A. Cremona
"Folklore"  Vol. 34, No. 4 (Dec. 31, 1923)

© Godric Godricson

"The following are the most characteristic features of existing Maltese practices, many of which are comparable to those of Sicily, while a few show some Eastern influence :-

(a) The washing of the dead body before shrouding. This is not a religious rite, and has no connection with that of Islam.

(b) The shutting of the eyelids, if open, and the raising of the chin by means of a band, usually a white kerchief, tied on the head.

(c) The removal of door knockers and knobs; house doors are kept closed for several days; neighbours half-shut their own".

The South Side

All Saints - Billockby [Link]
© Godric Godricson

Ironwork

Rosary Cemetery - Norwich [Link]

© Godric Godricson

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Ossuary

Beauty in the vernacular

The tombs of the rich are often to be admired and marvelled at and then walked past as we consign their memory to oblivion and that is arguably as it should be. The joy of English parish Churches is that there is much that is ordinary and in the vernacular. England doesn’t have much in the cemetery that is showy and brash. That would never do! Instead, England has the sandstone stele monument or the Celtic/Cornish granite headstone that marks the seasons in moss and decay whilst very slowly mouldering into the soil. On the Continent it is very different and monuments seem to have surpassed the life of the individual they commemorate. The monument is grater than the man.

Just as the Sexton in “Dealings with the Dead” written in 1856 is clear that there is an aristocracy of the dead, it also clear that the English have maintained a fine and traditional indifference towards monuments and remained, instead, happy to have either a low monument or no monument at all. The grass and the wildlife seem enough for us as we are layered into the ground to await our fate. There are clearly some grand monuments and the one at Saint Remigius at Hethersett is a great favourite of mine as it stands by the edge of the field as if about to escape into the landscape. There are great monuments in Churches and we all recognise the marble plaques about to crush us in their monumentality if they were ever to fall from their walls. They say much and also nothing about the person they commemorate and in reality the large plaques aren’t very English.

Englishness is about recognising wealth, power and privilege and then doing absolutely nothing about it. Englishness is about understanding social prestige and admiring that prestige before going to supermarket and buying beer for the hot summer we all hope for. It is that we are really quite casual about titles and honours and we are also quite aware that the exteriors doesn’t always match the interior. The grand lady wrapped in furs may be starving from a lack of breakfast and the great lord may have threadbare socks. Not everything is as it seems. The great monument may be built of shoddy materials and the lettering on the stone may be mispelt through ignorance or haste. The English understand these possibilities and naturally sneer at aristocracy whether that aristocracy is in blood, monuments or the grave. It’s all so much flim flam at the end of the day.

The tombs of the rich are admired and marvelled at that much is true although the English do not worship long at any one altar and we do not marvel over much at any one tomb. We do not over monumentalise the folly of human lives and we do not deify the living. It is hard to worship at a tomb when the occupant of the tomb was as mortal as us and had the same foibles and follies. So, let people have their aristocracy in the grave and have their 30 seconds of adulation as we walk past before we walk away and forget them until the next visit and the next sunrise.

Dark and stormy

All Saints - Billockby [Link]
© Godric Godricson

Chale - Isle of Wight

Saint Andrew - Chale, Isle of Wight [Link]

© Godric Godricson
Saint Andrew - Chale, Isle of Wight [Link]

© Godric Godricson

The Rosary Cemetery

Rosary Cemetery - Norwich [Link]

© Godric Godricson

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Merovingian Tomb

The South Side

All Saints - Billockby [Link]
© Godric Godricson

Moving to dereliction

All Saints - Billockby [Link]
© Godric Godricson
All Saints - Billockby [Link]
© Godric Godricson


Burial in Church

Hemblington - All Saints [Link]

© Godric Godricson

Genesis 50:26


Table Tomb
Felmingham - Norfolk
© Godric Godricson





"So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt".

Cross at the Rosary

Rosary Cemetery - Norwich [Link]

© Godric Godricson

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Katherine Heath Died 1st January 1709

Katherine Heath Died 1st January 1709

Hemblington - All Saints [Link]

© Godric Godricson

Church - Haddiscoe

William Heath Died 14th July 1747


William Heath Died 14th July 1747

Hemblington - All Saints [Link]

© Godric Godricson


Skinner - Billockby

All Saints - Billockby [Link]
© Godric Godricson

Karl Barth and "Wonderment"


Hemblington - All Saints [Link]

© Godric Godricson
For Barth, the ‘study of God’  inherent in the term ‘theologian’ is not enough to define his own specific perception of what it is to be a  ‘theologian’ and I want to say something about Barth and his view of "Wonderment".
Theology is ‘real’ for Barth and framed within the human experience of time and space rather than being a purely dry or dusty academic pursuit. Theological study is not some ‘fantastical’ pursuit or  the study of some heroic fable set in some remote and mythological time. Unlike the story of Gilgamesh or mythical stories from the Middle East, the history of Jesus is real for Barth and what may be described as the ‘Risen Christ’ is to be discovered and pursued in both an historical period but also in humanities  continuing encounter with the mystical reality of God. Barth is not describing a new 'Osiris', a death cult or anything other than the 'Risen Christ'.
The normal tools of the theologian in the study of the reality of God are not enough for Barth who tries to step outside of human experience and  who presents the concept of theological ‘wonder’ as a central feature of how the theologian may conceptualise  God and perhaps then go on to encounter God through Jesus as the second personality of the triune God.  Barth has a very clear conception of the role and nature of theology, defined in opposition to totalitarian oppression, that may be at variance with more usually accepted conceptualisations in a more liberal and ‘humanistic’ tradition . 
Hemblington - All Saints [Link]

© Godric Godricson
Barth may be seen to define ‘ wonder’ occurring “when someone encounters a spiritual or natural phenomen that he has never encountered before”.  
However, Barth indicates that the pursuit of theology  and  theological ‘wonderment’  leaves an indelible imprint on the theologian  and this is for Barth is expressed in terms that sound similar to descriptions of an ordination in that unspecified ‘indelible’ changes occur. The person who studies theology and experiences theological “wonderment” is said to be “afflicted” by theology. It is clear that, for Barth, there is an intensity involved in the study of theology and one suspects that in the ideas of Barth there is a personal cost involved in the pursuit of theology. Barth is arguably stating  that there is a cost  to the individual in encountering the Risen Christ that cannot be found in other study and research? Intense and committed; as the ideas of Barth undoubtedly are, how do we analyse Barth’s arguments and evaluate them? Certainly, Barth is correct in seeing that the Old Testament as pointing to Jesus as the fulfilment  of God’s plan, however, is Barth’s ‘other worldliness’ always helpful in an understanding of the nature of God and Revelation?  Does Barth diminish too much the role of humanity in his wish to describe the centrality of God? Hpw does death and seperation become defined for Barth?
Hemblington - All Saints [Link]

© Godric Godricson
Barth  introduces biblical stories about ‘wonders’ as evidence of the smaller lights that lead to the larger light. We may perceive the image of a finger that consistently and irrevocably points towards Jesus in a specific historical epoch. The signs and symbols of Biblical events are merely that; signs and symbols, all of which point like a finger to the divinity of Jesus and the cosmic significance of Jesus. Barth goes into depth about the manner in which Jesus fulfils scriptural accounts about the Messiah. Using the metaphor of “lights”;  Barth expands the concept of ‘clues’ that are there laid out and to be found by the theologian, all of which point to God.
The concept of theological “wonderment” is one which implies a single minded focus on the study of God to the exclusion of all other areas and in some ways Barth advocates a single minded focus on God which is commendable but which may also restrict thought and development. 
An evaluation of Barth and “Wonderment”  should consider the thought of Barth himself who in “wonderment” emphasises the eternal and unapproachable ‘otherness’ of God and how God (as the eternal creator) mystically points to Himself through Jesus rather than through the experience of humanity.  In his work; Barth points to the centrality of the Word of God rather than the actions of humanity. At Cana; human beings are the extras, or perhaps the little lights, that point to the centrality of Jesus and the greater light  made evident there. 

Hemblington - All Saints [Link]

© Godric Godricson
Struggles within pre-war German theology  influnced Barth and we must generally question  the effects of German National Socialism on German religious observance and the challenges presented to Christianity of all persuasions and ‘confessions’ by Nazism. Similarly, translation from the German langauage  may have to inadvertent emphasis on certain aspects when compared and contrasted to a more ‘Anglo-Saxon’ approach to theology. 
Barth appears to contain a particular intensity that springs from the German experience and which may not be applicable to other experiences of Christianity. Barth may not have relevance to others ‘theologies’ and in any attempt to place tradition at the centre of faith he may also restrict thought and change. Tradition is hardly likely to be sympathetic to ‘liberation theology’, ‘feminist theology’, ‘black theology’ or even ‘Queer theology’.
In essence, Barth’s works fit into a German speaking post war epoch when german theologians tried to exorcise the ghosts of their own past. Some of the ideas presented by Barth are part of this intellectual and historical process. Equally, Barth’s views are perhaps focussed on an overly traditional ‘other worldliness’ that reduces the need to consider the human response to God and the natural world.

Mary Jary Died 29th September 1839

Hemblington - All Saints [Link]

© Godric Godricson