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Reviews 185 Daniell, Christopher, Death and Burial in Medieval England: 1066-1550, London and N e w York, Routledge, 1997; cloth; pp. ix, 242; 13 b / w iUustrations; R.R.P. US$49.95, £35.00. This Uvely and interesting book commences its examination of death and burial with a discussion of the theological preoccupation with death in the medieval period. It is clear that the fate of the soul after death was a central medieval concern, and that this was expressed through Uterary genres such as the meditation on death and moraUty plays; through Christian rituals such as the Mass (which offered proof of Christ's death and the possibuity of salvation for all) and anniversary services; and through architectural structures such as chantry chapels. DanieU demonstrates convincingly the way in which the various aspects of medieval Christianity, such as pilgrimages, the trade in reUcs, the burning of heretics and witches, the sale of indulgences and other activities concerned with the growth of the doctrine of purgatory aU coalesced to produce an elaborate set of processes to deal with the death-bed experience and the disposal of the body, whUe ensuring that the soul had the best possible chance of salvation. Although this is a general study, Daniell is careful to note the differing quantity and quality of evidence for different types of deaths and burials. The best documented are monastic burials, followed by those of wealthy or aristocratic lay people, with those of the c o m m o n people being known only from surviving archaeological evidence. Chapter Two, 'From Death Bed to Remembrance', considers the rituals prior to death, which include the making of wills; the giving of extreme unction and the sacrament after the 'seven interrogations' (p. 36) which determined that the dying person had confessed their sins and was at peace with God; and the gathering of friends and relatives which enabled the dying person to be especially benevolent and reconciUatory, as the importance of "making a good death was everywhere acknowledged. Death is a medical as w e U as a theological event, and the medical manuals of the times frequently included Usts of the 'Signs of Death'. It is also a legal and financial process, and belonging to a religious 186 Reviews guUd affected the type of funerary rituals which were performed. Most medieval people died at home, but the bodies of the dead were generaUy speedily removed to the church to prepare for burial, which normally took place three days after death. Burial is rarely represented in medieval art, but there are descriptions of funerals to supplement our knowledge. Guild members might receive a procession, with fellow members and mourners carrying lighted torches. The Office of the Dead was recited once the body was in the church, and mourners gathered. Legal requirements included the paying of mortuary fees. DanieU discusses the theme of death in a wide range of medieval Uterature in Chapter Three, 'Themes of Death'. This discussion is of necessity rather brief and general. Chapters Four and Five, "The Geography of Burial' and 'The Bodily Evidence', shift the book's attention away from death to focus on burial itself. A burial place had to be authorised for the purpose, and this was often a hotly contested process, as burial was a profitable part of the Church's activities. The various rituals which were conducted at places of burial are mentioned, and the significance of family resting-places for aristocratic famines, in terms of signifying permanence and wordly magnificence, is stressed. Fascinating details such as the levels of holiness ascribed to various burial places within church wails and the circumstances surrounding the removal and reburial of bodies make these chapters Uvely reading: 'a medieval church can be described as a series of concentric rings. The most holy area was the high altar ... the holiness lessening towards the west end and into the churchyard. All holy areas were enclosed within the boundary of the cemetery' (p. 95). The discussion of the excavation of medieval cemeteries is informative and readable. It is from material remains that most of what is known about the death and burial of the c o m m...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1832-8334
Print ISSN
0313-6221
Pages
pp. 185-187
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-03
Open Access
No
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