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Amongst the curious remains of ages disfigured by religious bigotry, shrines hold a conspicuous place. These have been concisely defined as the sepulchres of the saints; and, as such, they were at once ornamental and profitable to a religious establishment.
It will be recollected that canonization had virtually its rise in Pagan Rome; and was a remote offspring of that disgusting policy, and tyranny over the prostrate human intellect, which induced the deification of the Roman emperors. The first Christian saint is supposed to have been Suibert, eanonized by Leo the Third, in the 9th centary; and the last Englishman thus distinguished (according to Foller) was Thomas Cantilupe, Bishop of Hereford, who died in 1282
The bones and other reliques of canonized persons were exhibited by the religious, as objects deserving of reverence-and of rich offerings. Shrines were provided for the reception of these remains; and the sanctified fragments were carried in procession, on marked days, for the amazemeut of such of the vulgar as were poor, and for the allurement of such as were affluent.
It would appear, that, by the term shrine, we are to understand the fixed monument of the saint, which was usually placed above (i. e. behind) the high altar. This was an erection of considerable magnificence, and generally of rich stone-work, enclosing the body, or other reliques, of the respective saint. The enclosed and portable parts of shrines, containing the bones and reliques, were denominated Ferelra ;* and these were carried in
procession, procession, on the anniversary of the saint's day and on other grand celebrations. . .
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greatly assist in enabling the examiner to ascertain the intention of any variety in the attitude, or disposal, of monumental figures of the chivalric ages, if their fidelity could be relied on. But it is believed that if those rules were, in fact, ever observed, their operation was confined to the continent.
huis observed by Mr. Gough (Sepulchral Mons. Vol. II. Introduction, p. 194,) that " we should carefully distinguish between feretories, containing the whole body, and portable only on anniversaries of the saints, or grand occasious; and shrines, though sometimes called feretra, portable, and
Some of the principal shrines now remaining (although divested of their feretories, and more solid treasures) are those of Edward the Confessor, at Westminster; Bishop Cantilupe, at Hereford; of St. David, (now ruinous) in the cathedral of St. David's; of St. Werburgh, (mutilated) at Chester; and of St. Frideswide, at Oxford. These are costly monuments of stove, with the exception of St. Frideswide's, the material of which is wood.
The portable part of the shrine was, indeed, often enclosed by an encasement of wood; as in the instance of Becket's shrine at Canterbury, where we are told “ the wooden case, being drawn up by cords, discovered one of gold, whose riches were inestimable. Gold was the least valuable article amid the display and lustre of rare jewels ; some of so large dimensions as to exceed a goose's egg."*
The modes of revealing the shrine of a saiot, and of receiving offerings on ordinary occasions, are shewn in the following passage respecting the shrine of St. Cuthbert, at Durham.
made of wood, and covered with enamelled plates of metal of various, and small proportions, and containing a single relique of a particular saint, or various reliques of different unes.”—These latter shrines may, with propriety, be denominated reliquuries; and were generally placed round the upper and high altar of the church to which they appertained. One of these, formerly in the possession of Mr. Astle, is engraved in the Velusta Monumentu.
• Sepulchral Mons. Vol. II. Introduction, p. 183-4. We may readily suppose that the gems, and other valuables, appertaining to shrines, were greatly over-rated by ordinary obserrers. Dart, describing the shrine of Edward the Confessor, observes that « over the stone work is a frame of wainscot, said in times past to have been curiously plated with gold, and adorned with precious stones ; the frame is very neat and regular, but seems never to have been covered; and as for the jewels that adorned it, they are still there; for, on the pilasters between the arches, is a kind of mosaic word of stained glass, a customary ornament at that time." Dart's History of St. Peter's Westminster, Vol. II. p. 24.
* Among the officers of the church were a master and keeper of the feretory, who was also vice prior; and when any men of bonour or worship were disposed to offer their petitions to God and St. Cuthbert, or to offer at his shrine, if they requested to have it drawn, or to see it, the clerk of the feretory gave notice to his master, who brought the keys of the shrine, giving them to his clerk to open it; his office was to stand by and see it drawn. It was always drawn up in mattins time, when Te Deum was singing; or in high mass time, or at evening song, when Magnificat was sung; and when they had made their prayers, and did offer any thing, if it were gold, silver, or jewels, it was instantly hung on the shrine; and if it was any other thing, as a unicorn's horn, elephant's tooth, or sach like, it was huny within the feretory, at the end of the shrine; and, when their prayers were ended, the clerk let down the cover thereof, and locked it at every corner, returning the keys to the vice prior." *
It is said by Dart,t “ that the custoins in enshrining were very different. Sometimes the coffin was placed level with the surface of the earth; sometimes upon it; and sometimes IN ALTUM. The first was for men of exemplary piety, who had suffered no more for religion than what self-denial, self-imposed severities and abstinence required; the other for men of more early example, and was first a custom, as in the case of Cuthbert before lie was sainted, and others, but afterwards grew a favour to saints of the second rank ; the elevated body was usually for such who had suffered martyrdom for religion.”-It must, however, be observed that no ancient authorities are given for the above assertions.
It is found impracticable to present in these pages such an examination of the fashions prevailing at different periods, in regard to armour and attire, as might assist the topographer in
• Rites of Durham, p. 117, 118, &c.
researches amongst the sepulcbral monuments of England and Wales. This is to be regretted, as the figures on such monu. ments may be deemed, for several ages previous to the familiar use of the art of painting, the historical portraits of our ancestry; and are, as such, the clear, though unintended, chronicles of the modes of dress prevailing at their respective dates. An attempt towards the performance of such a task would be useless and contemptible, if not full at every point. Restrained, by the unavoidable limits of the work, from presenting comprehensive and satisfactory remarks on this subject, it is the duty of the writer (as the best substitute for detailed intelligence) to remind the reader of the places in which the desired information may be obtained.
The principal annalists of Great Britain were merely the chroniclers of battles, the registrars of royal births and deaths, and the investigators of political intrigue, until Dr. Heury arose, to shew that the people, and the progress of arts, customs, and manners, were entitled to a large share of the historian's notice. In the judicious “ History of Great Britain," written by Dr. Henry, are presented some remarks on the modes of dress prevailing amongst the inhabitants of this island, from the earliest period to the latest on which he treats. His dissertations are well-adapted to the purpose of general history, but are not sufficiently precise and minute for the gratification of the antiquarian reader.
The observations of Mr. Granger, in his “ Biographical history of England,” are still less satisfactory: a deficiency which is almost reprehensible, when his numerous opportunities of intelligence are duly considered.
Mr. Strutt affords some judicious, but limited remarks.*
Each of these writers preceded Mr. Gough; and all are rendered of secondary importance by his great work on “ Sepulchral Monuments.” In the maguitude of such an undertaking
* In works noticed in the List of Books appended to these pages
many errors must necessarily occur; but, for a rich fund of information concerning all the varieties of regal ornaments, and those appertaining to the nobility; armour, and knightly appendages; fashions in apparel, and the numerous circumstances relating to dress, as exhibited in monumental sculpture; the reader is referred, with confidence, to the introductory discourses prefixed to the first and second volumes of Mr. Gough’s valuable publication. Detailed examples of each custom, there stated in general terms, are afforded by the monuments illustrated and described in the body of the work.
In concluding these ANTIQUARIAN SKETCHES, it would appear that the writer cannot do better than to apply to each section the tenour of the preceding paragraphs. He has endeavoured to compress within determinate limits as much information as was attainable; and where the subject under discussion required more extended or minute remarks, he has availed himself of the research connected with his labours, to direct the attention of the reader to more elaborate and fertile sources of intelligence.
END OF THE INTRODUCTION.