Welcome to the blog of the Gloucestershire cross-slab survey. Cross-slabs are a class of medieval stone grave markers which are decorated with a cross motif; they are most commonly found at churches and monastic sites, although some are held in museums. The survey aims to record all surviving medieval cross-slabs across Gloucestershire, compile a gazetteer database, and publish a corpus of Gloucestershire cross-slabs.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

'Pale death knocks...'

A visit to Gloucester Cathedral to finish recording the wonderful Lancault font gave a spare hour to admire the architecture and have a quick look for cross-slabs that we can record....once we have finished the east of the county.

In the early 20th century Frank Greenhill recorded twelve cross-slabs and 17th century memorials in the cathedral; at that time several of the older slabs were lying loose in the crypt and it will be interesting to see if they still survive. I didn't have time to get down into the crypt, but there are several slabs set in the floor of the north and south transepts and they are an interesting mix of later styles of cross-slab. 

There aren't any of the familiar bracelet crosses and cross patee of our Cotswold churches, and the earliest slab may be a (now blank) tapered slab. Instead there are large, rectangular slabs including a couple that originally had ornate brass crosses inset (which are now missing although the fixing studs remain in place), with one design reminiscent of one recorded at St John the Baptist, Cirencester. A rectangular 15th century cross-slab has suffered badly and all but the lower shaft and pedestal is worn away, Greenhill records it as being for Elizabeth Berkely (or? Beckeley) with an inscription in Latin around the margin of the slab. Greenhill also recorded two cross-slabs which had been re-used for later memorials in the 18th century.
Composite cross-slab, now missing a brass inlay

But the prize slab is not actually a cross-slab, but a poignant memorial to a young James Clenit who died in 1645 aged just 16. His memorial in the south transept carries an inscribed image of a skeleton reclining on a mattress, above a line of Latin.

James Clenit's memorial, 1645
Detail of skeleton from memorial

Here lieth interred

James [the] sonne of James

Clenit of this City

Gent: who died August

9th Anno D[omi]NI: 1645

        AETAT 16

allida mors aequo pulsat pede

The Latin is from one of Horace's Odes (1.4.13-14), in full it reads:

pallida mors aequo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas regumque turris

"Pale death knocks at the doors of all alike, be it the pauper's garret or the king's tower"

Also of note are four medieval stone coffins that were built into a wall by the Little Cloister, these are not accessible as they are within Kings school grounds, but we may be able to get access. They were recorded by HH Wilmore in 1939 for his study of Stone Coffins in Gloucestershire.


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