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narrow galleries stretching in every direction, and scooped out into a low-arched labyrinth, afforded on each side receptacles for the dead in cells, ranging one above the other, in sizes fitted to the body, and closed afterwards with brick-work and mortar. Within these the body itself lay, wrapped either in folds of linen and covered with perfumes, or dressed in its richest robes—a vase to hold either the blood of the martyr, or lustral water, embedded in mortar at the side-leaves of evergreen laurel or ivy (not cypress) strewed under them; the instruments of martyrdom (if they died martyrs) entombed with them, such as nails, forceps, leaden bullets, axe or cross; sometimes the name engraved within the tomb; sometimes a leaden tablet with an account of their martyrdom, and on the exterior the sign of the cross, the mystical symbol of the name of Christ, or some other Christian emblem, engraved or painted, as the palm branch, the dove, the fish, the anchor, or the crown. A bronze lamp suspended from the arch betokened the belief in immortality. And if the heathen sarcophagus was retained, its sides were charged with sculptures of our Lord, the apostles, or scenes and characters from Scriptures, such as the history of Jonah, the ascension of Elijah, the sacrifice of Abraham, Moses striking the rock, or the Israelites passing the Red Sea—all typical of some holy doctrine connected with the resurrection of the dead. The same is to be observed of the paintings which decorate the ceilings of the vaults or oratories. And the reverence shown to the dead is seen in another little instance, which must shame those who in modern days have the management of our cemeteries. They never piled body upon body.
• Illud haud silentio prætereundum est,' says the author of Roma Subterranea,' quod inviolabili consuetudine a Christianis receptum servatumque fuisse novimus, ut dum tumuli defunctorum corpora locarentur, si forte aliquando plura eodem monumento cadavera reponi contingeret, haud unquam unum alteri superponeretur, sed unumquodque ad latus adjacentis consisteret.'-Lib. i. cap. 26. And the rule was subsequently confirmed by ecclesiastical councils.
These expressions, however, of natural piety soon passed into a desire less rational. The efforts made to honour the dead, and to spare the survivors perhaps from the sight of the painful work of corruption, easily lapsed into an endeavour to prevent corruption altogether: an endeavour not only futile, but leading to much that is inconsistent with the true reverence due to the mortal remains of our brethren, and with a just view of Christian doctrine in regard to death.
To these efforts to save the body from corruption we seem to owe the rise of our first sepulchral monuments. "It was natural in
the first place to mark the place where they lay, that their remains might not be disturbed, and on a similar principle, those who could afford it, in a spirit far from thoroughly Christian, instead of permitting the bones to mingle in the natural course of decay, earth with earth, ashes with ashes, dust with dust,' — would make ineffectual attempts to save them from the more loathsome circumstances of death, or at least to delay the approach of them. Hence the adoption of the stone coffin, which has been the germ of all our Christian sepulchral memorials; and perhaps the very fact that these coffins were accessible only to the wealthier classes would in itself imply a defective principle. In the death which levels all, all should be equal ; and artificial distinctions here, of whatever kind, founded on mere wealth, can scarcely be consistent with truth or reason. That there is something erroneous in this vain contest against the laws of universal decay, in this struggle to maintain a property in our crumbling frame, even when all bas departed that made its possession and command valuable, may be inferred even from the practical difficulties connected with it, which have been so elaborately discussed in Lord Stowell's judgment on the subject of iron coffins.
And its futility must be impressed strongly on the minds of those who turn over the pages of the Archæologia,' and other antiquarian works, when they read of the disturbed graves, and the prying, inhuman, unchristian curiosity, which, under the pretence of science or of historical accuracy, bas violated so often the last receptacles of the dead. Alfred's bones, deposited in Hyde Abbey, there is every reason to suppose, have been scattered about by the hands of convicts.* In 1552, the tomb of William the Conqueror was opened at Caen. In 1562, the Calvinists broke open that of his queen, Matilda, when, among other acts, the ring was stolen from her finger. Edward the Confessor's body was exposed in James II.'s reign; Canute's in 1766, in repairing Winchester cathedral; Sebert's, king of the East Angles, in Henry III.'s reign. In Charles II.'s reign, that of William Rufus. In 1770, Edward I.'s, in Westminster Abbey, in order to ascertain the meaning of the renewal of the cere' about his body, for which frequent orders were given. The remains of our Saxon kings, removed from their places of rest, lie in boxes on the side screens of the choir of Winchester cathedral, and not even these have been safe from prying eyes; but not many years since + were allowed to be examined by · Edmund Cartwright, Esq., of the York militia, to whom, with two other gentlemen of the regiment, the then Dean of Winchester gare permission to open any tombs in the cathedral, provided it was * See Archæologia, vol. xiii. p. 310. + See Gough, vol. ii. p. 337.
done done with privacy and decency, and under the direction of the mason of the chapter !!! Edward IV., and Elizabeth Woodville, his wife; Catherine, wife of Henry V.; Queen Catherine Parr, at Sudeley, under circumstances most revolting and shocking; and King Charles I., within the last few years, have all been disturbed in their graves; not to speak of King John, in Worcester cathedral, of whom it is added*
One man stole a finger-bone, and sent it up to London to be tipped with silver, and refused a large sum for it; but afterwards lost it on the road. Mr. Thompson of Worcester—the name ought to be perpetuated—took some of the maggots to bait his angling-rod; but it was three days before a fish would bite, and when he drew out a dace he carried it in triumph through the streets.'
Our ancestors, under the influence of a corrupted and corrupting form of Christianity, did, indeed, at times lay open the remains of those whom they accounted saints; but it was with reverence, to honour and enshrine them more nobly than before; not to carry off a bone to lie in a cabinet of curiosities, or a lock of hair, as we have seen ourselves, from King Charles I., to be handed about in a lady's drawing-room ; or to taste the liquor of embalment, or to pry into some singularity of dress or usage—to ·be recorded at the next meeting of the Antiquarian Society-without a thought of the curses which the wise and good of all ages have denounced on the violators of graves.
But to return. Abroad, to the present day, coffins are rarely used. The lower classes of society even in this country,' says Cotman, following Gough, f up to the time of Elizabeth, had no other coffin than the winding-sheet.' In many old country churches might lately be seen a wooden box, ridged, with one or two lids, which was used as a bier to inclose and carry out the poor dead ; and though such a seeming disrespect would be most painful in the present day, if it were confined to the poor, it may be questioned whether the simple depositing of the body in consecrated ground, with proper security against its being disturbed, but without unnatural attempts to prevent it mingling with its native earth, may not be the most proper form of sepulture :
• The Barons of Roslin,' says Father Hay, 'were buried of old in their armour, without any coffin, and the late Roslin, my goodfather (or father-in-law], grandfather to the present Roslin, was the first buried in a coffin, against the sentiments of King James VII., then in Scotland, and several other persons well versed in antiquity, to whom my mother Jean Spoteswood, grandmother of Archbishop Spoteswood, would not hearken, thinking it beggarly to be buried in that manner. The great expense she was at in burying her husband occasioned the sumptuary acts which were made in the following parliament.?-Grose's Scotland, p. 47. (See also Lay of Last Minstrel, vi. 23, and Note.) And Sir John Moore did not repose less honourably, because
* See Green's History of Worcester.
† Brasses, introductiov.
occasioned * We trust, from the appearance of a recent blue book, that the next session of parliament will produce an Act, most necessary and far too long delayed, on this important, but, in its details, most painful and disgusting subject. † Monumental Remains, p. 4.
• No useless coffin enclosed his breast,
Nor in sheet nor in shroud they bound him,
With his martial cloak around him.' It is assumed, of course, that no frightful accumulations of interment would be crowded into a narrow space, such as are now found in our metropolitan cemeteries—and that no burials would take place in churches, or under circumstances which may render it necessary to guard against infection and disease.* In these cases much more is
necessary than the mere inclosure of the body in wood; and the whole question is altered.
With the prevalence of this Egyptian contest against decay, we may trace the rise also of the superstitious legends respecting the remains of the martyrs. For a body to be found undecayed was in itself assumed as a sufficient evidence of sanctity; and we little know how many of the worst features of Popery in the worship of relics and the multiplication of false miracles, and the adoration of saints, may be traced to the unreasonable indulgence of that human weakness which shrinks from becoming a prey to the worm, and from thus paying the last debt of its sinful mortality.
If there is anything sound in these views, the first corruption in our church sepulchral monuments must be looked for in the use of stone coffins. They were first formed of different blocks. Subsequently they were hollowed out of a single stone; sometimes with a circular cavity for the head; and sunk but slightly beneath the surface of the ground. It was a natural accompaniment to set upon the lid some mark to describe who lay beneath, in a rude inscription or carving but little relieved.
Effigies,' says Mr. Stothard,t are rarely to be met with in England before the middle of the thirteenth century: a circumstance not to be attributed to the causes generally assigned, which were either that they had been destroyed, or that the unsettled state of the times did not offer sufficient encouragement for erecting such memorials; but it rather appears not to have been before become the practice to represent the deceased. If it had been otherwise, for what reason do we not find effigies over the tombs of William the Conqueror, his son William Rufus, or his daughter Gundrada (nor, it may be added, of his wife, Matilda, or his daughter Cecilia, at Caen)? Yet, after a time, it is an undoubted fact that the alteration introduced by the Normans was the addition of the figure of the person deceased ; and then it appeared not in the bold style of the later Norman monuments, but partaking of the character and low relief of those tombs it was about to supersede. Of these, and of the few perhaps that were executed, Roger, Bishop of Sarum, is the only specimen in good preservation.
* About the beginning of the fourteenth century the coffin-shape entirely disappears, and the effigy is represented in full relief.'
In this individualizing tendency, perhaps, we may find the source of the second great corruption of our tombs. Christianity cannot regard death except as the Church regards it; and the Church cannot regard the dead any more than the living, as individuals, unless they are especially marked out for honour by holding some divine commission, or by possessing some worthy spiritual claim to be singled out for commemoration. The whole body, not any separate limb, should be the object of the Christian contemplation. Everything which confers a solemn and venerable character on the general Christian cemetery or place of rest (voluntapuov), as the last common home and receptacle of all our perishable bodies, “where the small and the great lie together, and the servant is free from his master,' is consistent with the spirit of the Gospel, and therefore with truth, and therefore with good taste. But it may be doubted whether the still retaining our individual distinctions beyond the house of death, except in some rare instances, is not akin to the same false and dangerous tendency, which in the gradual growth of Popery drew minds from contemplating the whole body of the Church to particular teachers and founders of sects; and from the whole body of the elect departed to the mediation of particular saints. Place an Englishman on the field of Waterloo by one of those spots where he knows that hundreds of his countrymen are buried, who died fighting for their country; and his thoughts will be fixed on a grand social spectacle, elevating and refining them by its abstraction from all selfish tendencies. Let a thousand widows and orphans stand there mourning over the separate graves, each of their own kinsman; and domestic feelings and affections may indeed be roused, but the greater lesson of patriotism will be lost and forgotten. There is, then, no longer to be read in death the great maxim of social life on which the wisest politicians have known that the safety of their countries depended—a maxim as true and as necessary in the Church as in the State—that the individual is far more concerned in the welfare of society than Society in the welfare of the individual:-καλώς μεν γαρ φερόμενος ανήρ το καθ' εαυτόν διαφθειρομένης της πατρίδος ουδέν ήσσον ξυναπολλυται, κακατυχών δε εν ευτυχούση πολλώ μάλλον διασωζέται.* And * Thucyd. lib. ii. c. 60.