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Remembering and Forgetting the Medieval Dead

Exploring death, memory and material culture in monastic archaeology
  • Howard Williams

Abstract

Focusing on the excavations at three later medieval religious houses - Sandwell Priory, Bordesley Abbey and Carmarthen Greyfriars, this paper seeks to explore the relationships between death, memory and materiality in the later Middle Ages. Combining the study of graves, their location, monumentality, stratigraphy and relationships with church space and fabric, it is argued that medieval strategies of remembering and forgetting had many material components. It is suggested that monasteries were not simply places were memories of the elite patrons were ‘stored’ and ‘inscribed’, but contexts within which relations between the living and the dead were ‘performed’ and ‘incorporated’ through ritual practices and the uses of material culture. In this way it is possible for archaeology to isolate and develop the study of both the social and sacred dimensions of remembrance for both patrons and monastic communities in later medieval society.

Key words

abbey burial death friary material culture medieval memory monuments priory 

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2003

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  • Howard Williams

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