Brass of the Month

April 2006: St Albans Cathedral, Hertfordshire, c 1450-60

 April's brass of the month is from St Alban's Abbey, Hertfordshire and commemorates a rare example of a brass to a monk, Brother Robert Beauner, who died in the mid fifteenth century.

The number of surviving monastic brasses is relatively few. When this brass was laid down in the Benedictine abbey at St Albans (now St Albans Cathedral) in c.1450-60, it was one of the richest monastic houses in England. It boasted many fine brasses, a number of which have survived in varying states of completeness or as indents only, notably the fine Flemish brass of Abbot Thomas de la Mare, engraved c.1360. That any brasses and slabs survived the Dissolution of the abbey by Henry VIII in December 1539, is largely due to the fact that some years later, the mayor and burgesses of the Abbey acquired most of the remaining ecclesiastical building for use as their parish church. .


The long, slender figure of Brother Robert Beauner is now slightly worn, but he is dressed in full monastic habit, with plain tunic and cowl (a hood). His hair is tonsured, and unusually on surviving brasses of this type, he is holding a heart in his hands bearing six drops of blood. Here it represents the deceased’s wish for his redeemed or cleansed heart to be made new, as represented in the words on the scroll. The mouth scroll ascending from the figure has a text directly relating to his wish, bearing the commonly found Latin words:

“Cor mundum crea in me deus” [Make me a clean heart, O God]


The words are taken from Psalm 51, verse 10.


 The long and laudatory Latin inscription beneath his feet tells us that Brother Robert lived and worked at the monastery for 46 years, during which time he held offices of varying importance, including sub-refectorer, spicerer, third prior, kitchener, refectorer and infirmarer. It would seem he cared both for the monks culinary and their domestic needs. The inscription ends by asking the other ‘bretheren’ to say prayers to the Lord Jesus Christ so that he may be granted pardon for his sins.


The brass bears no date of death, but can be identified stylistically and by its inscription to be c.1450-60 and to be the product of the workshop known as London D. It is currently located on the floor of the Presbytery, just below the altar rail, though this is almost certainly not its original location.


The figure is 770 mm (just over 30 inches) high and the foot inscription 690 mm wide by 145 mm high.

©  Richard Busby

Click here for the Brass of the Month feature

Copyright © 2002 Monumental Brass Society (MBS)

Page last updated 31 March 2006