Picture Library - Shrouds and Skeletons

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Shrouds and Skeletons

From the late fourteenth century, tombs were produced showing the person commemorated as they would be in death. Woulter Coupman's Flemish brass at Bruges is amongst the earliest surviving brasses of this type. Only about 90 examples with this memento mori theme survive in England out of many thousand brasses and incised slabs. Though they were never a very popular choice of tomb commemoration, they are very interesting from an iconographical viewpoint.

The person commemorated is shown either as a corpse, as at Bruges and Shipton-under-Wychwood, or as a skeleton, as at Aylsham. Some particularly gruesome examples, like the Oddington brass and the Nykoping incised slab, show the corpse being devoured by worms. Most examples, even of skeletons are depicted in their burial shroud, though some examples, as at Norwich, show a bare skeleton. Normally only the cadaver is shown, sometimes, like that at Sherborne St. John, the person is also shown as he was in life; this sort of dual representation is much more common on carved tombs, particularly the so-called 'double-decker' tombs.

 Although many examples, notably the corpse with closed eyes to Elizabeth Horne, indisputably show the figure dead, many of these tombs contain resurrection imagery. At Lavenham, Noyon and possibly Oudeland the figures are rising from their graves on the Day of Judgement. The examples at Brampton, Nykoping and Ashby Folville show the deceased casting aside their shroud, suggesting that they too are rising at the Last Trump; in the case

of the Ashby Folville slab the resurrection text from Job 19, verses 25-6 at the top of the slab reinforces this interpretation.

Click the links below for the corresponding thumbnail image. Click any image for an enlarged view. 

Woulter Coupman, 1387, Bruges, Belgium


Incised slab to Ingeborch, 1429, Nykopinghus Museum, Nykoping, Sweden


Thomas Childes, 1452, St Lawrence, Norwich


Isabel Brampton, c. 1483, Brampton, Norfolk


Thomas Spryng, 1486, Lavenham, Suffolk


Bernard Brocas, 1488, Sherborne St. John, Hampshire


Incised slab to Ralph Wodford, 1498, Ashby Folville, Leicestershire


Cecily Howard, 1499, Aylsham, Norfolk


Ralph Hamsterley, c 1515, Oddington, Oxfordshire


Mariken Cor, 1517, Oudeland, Zeeland, the Netherlands


Incised slab to Canon Gilles Coqueville, c. 1530, Noyon, France


Elizabeth Horne, 1548, Shipton-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire




Woulter Coupman, 1387,

Bruges, Belgium








Incised slab to Ingeborch ..., 1429

Nykopinghus Museum

Nykoping, Sweden


Norwich St Lawrence

Thomas Childes, 1452,

 St Lawrence, Norwich




Isabel Brampton, c. 1483,

 Brampton, Norfolk






Thomas Spryng, 1486,

Lavenham, Suffolk










Bernard Brocas, 1488,

Sherborne St. John, Hampshire








Incised slab to Ralph Wodford, 1498,

Ashby Folville, Leicestershire






Cecily Howard, 1499,

Aylsham, Norfolk




Ralph Hamsterley, c 1515,

Oddington, Oxfordshire




Mariken Cor, 1517,

Oudeland, Zeeland, the Netherlands



Incised slab to

Canon Gilles Coqueville, c. 1530, Noyon, France


Shipton-under-Wychwood brass


Elizabeth Horne, 1548,

Shipton-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire

A wide range of relief cadaver tombs is illustrated on the Church Mouse website. To access this site, click here. This will take you to another website; to return to the MBS website, click the 'back' button on your browser bar.

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Copyright © 2002 Monumental Brass Society (MBS)

Page last updated 02 May 2007