From Purgatory to a Feminine Heaven The Commemoration of Women in Norfolk Monuments from the Reformation to the 20th Century
A lecture given by Richard Cocke for the Norwich Society
The album contains all the photographs used in the lecture.
The lecture showed the impact in church monuments of Henry VIII’s break with Rome in 1534 and the reforms of Edward VI, abolishing belief in purgatory together with imagery in churches. Both the monuments at Ingham and Brass at Holme once called for prayers to speed passage from purgatory. The Suckling monument illustrates the full range of new beliefs: that their mother slept and that she would see the Lord in the land of living. These traditional monuments were supplemented (and later replaced) by wall monuments of local dignitaries kneeling directly in prayer with their bibles, accompanied by their families, and long inscriptions replacing armorials. At North Barningham the pious Margaret Palgrave appears at prayer, but protected by angels pulling back the curtains, perhaps inspired by death-bed scenes. Other monuments show the figures shrouded, as at Sprowston, or rising from the tomb at East Barsham. Lady Williamson, while not shrouded is dressed sombrely, with a hood, while Dame Katherine Paston awaits a joyful resurrection in her finest clothes. This was echoed a century later by Susannah Hare, whose monument provoked a very different response from her sister Sarah, whose apparent presence at the service echoed the change in wall monuments evident at St Nicholas, King’s Lynn. By contrast the rector of Mulbarton commissioned the wonderfully private monument of his wife beckoning him to join her in heaven. At Tittleshall the almost completely secular monument to the Ist Earl has fine busts by one of England’s greatest sculptors, Roubiliac. The earliest monument with figures accompanied to heaven by angels, at Earsham, was to a young boy who died in Madras. Elizabeth Wogan in nearby Redenhall must have known it and chose the same artist to show an angel guiding her to heaven in the Reredos she commissioned. Ten years later Flaxman began to produce more elegant versions and at Tittleshall Nollekens showed an angel descending to show Lady Coke the way to heaven. At Sprowston Lady Micklethwaite is carried to heaven, having entrusted her son to faith, while at Melton Constable a flaming chariot is greeted with laurel and a palm of victory in memory of two young girls. The contrast between the two Bagge monuments at Stradsett shows the different conventions used by the same artist, Westmacott. The monument to the Marquis of Lothian at Blickling is accompanied by full size angels, reflecting its commission by his wife, commemorated opposite on her bier attended by angels. At Glandford Adela Jodrell is commemorated by an angel pointing to heaven while holding a bunch of flowers,. At Ringsfield in Suffolk another Italian sculptor showed a terrifying (but beautiful) Angel of the last trump in the monument for Princess Murat and Ursula Pratt wakes at Ryston to a trumpet call with the rising sun based on Christ’s aureole after the Resurrection, the theme of Gilbert Bayes’ war memorial at Aldeburgh.