Friday, 28 February 2020

Heart Burial?

A fine day's church crawling in Gloucestershire yesterday (though, after all this rain, many of the tracks and byways were more like mud-fringed rivers than paths). Picturesque stone-built villages, blues skies, early blossom, primroses, snowdrops, violets, celandine, daffodils – and a magical daytime sighting of a barn owl, which one of our number inadvertently flushed from, yes, an old barn. And then there were the churches, one little gem after another. In the first, Holy Rood, Ampney Crucis, was this grand Elizabethan monument.
The Renaissance-classical design is a good deal more sophisticated than the carving of the figures and decorative detail, but the effigies definitely have presence.

It was a detail, though, that particularly struck me. What are George Lloyd (died 1584) and his wife holding between their praying hands? Each of them seems to be holding a human heart...
What can this mean? It's a detail I've never come across before, and, from what I can find out, it's something that was sometimes used in medieval times to denote a 'heart burial' – a burial of the heart separately from the rest of the body. Does this later monument carry that meaning? Did George Lloyd and his wife both elect this strange mode of burial, and if so, why? Or could it be a curiously literal expression of love? I guess we'll never know...

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