2.4.5 Research presented at the Monuments and Monumentality Conference at Stirling in 2011

Black and white drawing of two stone canopied tombs - with lying figures and ornate carving, within a ruined cathedral with trees and sky visible behind

Figure 34: Tomb of Bishop Gavin Dunbar at Aberdeen Cathedral, Aberdeen City. Crown Copyright: Historic Environment Scotland

Fawcett (2013) examined design influences for canopied tombs in more detail as part of a 2010 multi-disciplinary conference on later medieval funerary monuments (Penman 2013a). The conference proceedings contain five papers that include evidence for later medieval practices in Scotland, including Fraser’s chapter section 2.4.4. Fawcett notes that although Scottish nobles were clearly influenced by continental tomb designs after 1400, this did not manifest itself as the wholesale adoption of French fashions. He points to several canopied tombs where individual creativity is evident. Interestingly, Fawcett is also able to highlight a group of monuments in north-east Scotland where designs were copied for later monuments over an extended period (for example the tomb of Bishop Gavin Dunbar at Aberdeen Cathedral—Figure 34—appears to have inspired the one to William Forbes of Tolquhon at Tarves Church, Aberdeenshire—Figure 35). In the same paper he also proposes that some of these tombs were used as Easter sepulchres. The relationship between liturgy and monuments is expanded upon by Holmes (2013) who uses a 13th-century liturgical commentary to interpret how clergy were taught to think about burial during the later medieval and post-Reformation period. Holmes argues the primary purpose of the monument was to provoke passers-by to pray for the deceased above any function of marking social status and that evidence for this can be seen in the tomb’s placement within the geography of sacred church spaces. Holmes’ paper emphasises how church monuments were at the centre of a lost complex of rituals and remembrance that related to the salvation of the soul. Viewed in this context, Holmes shows how the imagery and metaphor conveyed by commemoration, for example the depiction of vestments, could bear a more particular reading.

Colour photograph of a canopied tomb within a wall of a ruined church - with carving of shields, animals and momento mori

Figure 35: Tomb of William Forbes of Tolquhon, Tarves Church, Aberdeenshire. Crown Copyright: Historic Environment Scotland

In common with Fawcett, Oram’s 2013 consideration of bishop’s tombs (Figure 34) also reveals evidence for localised responses to widespread changes in European mortuary practices. There are very few written references surviving for Bishop’s tombs that document places of burial. A preliminary audit of surviving monuments identified how the placement of bishop’s tombs was structured within three categories of cathedrals (Oram 2009). Much practice appeared to follow widespread European trends that supported increasingly individualised responses to burial and commemoration (for example, through interment in private transeptal or aisle chapels). However, Oram found tomb placement at St Andrews did not follow this pattern, possibly indicating a clear division between pre-plague collectivism and post-plague individualism. Oram argues that the influence of specific cults and local traditions held greater sway at St Andrews. Accordingly he suggests future research should seek more nuanced readings to take into account localised responses to widespread changes in mortuary practices. In contrast to Oram’s paper, given the absence of material remains, Penman (2013b) relies on documentary sources to investigate the case for Scottish royal burials adopting ‘programmatic’ tomb designs. Penman demonstrates how English and continental practices were designed to create a programme of tomb building, embodying ideologies of ‘kinship’, influenced Robert Bruce and his successors. He shows that the Stewarts followed suit and placed dynastic relationships as the fundamental element of their tomb design, albeit at different burial sites. Penman sees this long-standing tradition ending with the tomb of James V, when the burial of post-Reformation Scottish monarchs in Westminster Abbey became more closely subject to the influences of English politics and aesthetics.

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