Monday 26 October 2015

Halloween tombstones ...

As Halloween draws nearer I've been enjoying some macabre tomb carvings. The carving below used to adorn a grave in St. Lawrence's Churchyard, Exeter. Today it lives in the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter. It dates from the 1600s when such tomb ornaments were very much the vogue. They lived through some pretty tough times back then. There was the English Civil War (1642 - 1651), followed by the religious excesses of Cromwell's Commonwealth and Protectorate, the Black Death raised its deadly face in 1665 and, after the Restoration, there was considerable apprehension as to the direction in which the House of Stuart was leading the country. It was a time of intense religious debate and radical politics. And normal folk, convinced that they were living in the last days, and that the end of the world was nigh, took to the macabre to underline their own fragile mortality ... .

Beside the carved skull the museum exhibits a cherub, which was also a grave carving from the same period. I'm not sure what it says about my own state of mind, but I find the cherub almost as creepy as the skull ... . It must be something to do with the unseeing eyes that still seem to stare intently, or maybe it's the unsmiling mouth that seems to have been fixed in a grimace. 

My favourite creepy grave carving, however, adorns the fine tomb of William Hogarth, which can be found in St. Nicholas's Churchyard on the bank of the Thames in Chiswick.

Those eyes really do seem to be staring straight into your soul. 

All the best for now,

Bonny x

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