Monument of the Month

February 2015
A medieval miniature adult?
An unidentified female miniature effigy at St Giles’s church, Coberley (Gloucestershire)
The small village of Coberley is situated not far from Cheltenham. Access to the parish church is through an arched doorway and across a private farmyard. The church houses a number of interesting monuments, including a small wall memorial depicting the half-length figure of a knight clasping a large object in both hands (Fig. 2 below). This memorial commemorates the heart burial of Sir Giles II de Berkeley (1240–1294), who fought in the Crusades and whose body was buried in Little Malvern (Worcestershire). It is claimed by some to be the only memorial of its kind in the Cotswolds, but that is far from true: a second such heart tomb is located within the same church, just opposite Sir Giles’s memorial.
Fig, 2
When viewing the large double monument of Sir Giles’s son Sir Thomas I de Berkeley (1289–1365) and his wife Joan, visitors may be forgiven for assuming the diminutive tomb alongside it is to commemorate the couple’s unnamed daughter (Fig. 1 and 3). This is how it has often been incorrectly described in guidebooks in the past and perhaps still today. True, there is nothing child-like about this small fourteenth-century tomb effigy apart from its size, but its appearance might easily confirm the popular misconception that medieval children were regarded as miniature adults. The figure is certainly dressed like an adult and her feet rest on what appears to be a dog – the conventional footrest for female effigies.
Fig. 1
Fig. 3
Yet this rather sentimental reading of the monument must make way for a perhaps less palatable one, for this miniature effigy probably commemorates not a child but an adult – or at least the heart of an adult. If we study the effigy closely (Fig. 4), it becomes evident that the figure does not have her hands raised in the conventional attitude of prayer. Instead she holds a glove in the left hand and with the right hand she reaches into her bodice, thereby indicating the heart that was removed from her body after death and buried separately on this spot. In 1931 Ida Roper already hinted at this possibility when she wrote that ‘no decided opinion has been formed by antiquaries concerning the meaning of this and similar diminutive effigies – whether they represent children or adults, or are placed over the heart buried beneath’.
Fig. 4
The medieval custom of burying the heart – and sometimes also the flesh and the viscera – of the deceased was originally intended for people who died far away from their preferred burial site. In order to preserve the corpse for transport the body was embalmed by removing the internal organs (evisceration) and burying these separately. Sometimes just the bones were preserved by boiling the body, a process known as excarnation. An early example is that of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa (b. 1122 – d. 1190), who drowned in the Göksu (then Saleph) River on the Third Crusade: the plan was to bury him in Jerusalem, but when efforts to preserve his corpse in vinegar proved unsuccessful it was decided to bury his flesh in Antioch, his bones in Tyre and his heart and internal organs in Tarsus.
A famous English example is that of Queen Eleanor of Castile (b. 1240 – d. 1291), who underwent triple burial after her death in the village of Harby outside Lincoln. Her husband Edward I had her viscera buried in Lincoln Cathedral, her heart in the Dominican convent of Blackfriars in London and her body in Westminster Abbey, where her gilt copper-alloy effigy may still be seen: her viscera and heart memorials were lost centuries ago.
Division of the corpse actually became a matter of prestige among royalty and the aristocracy across Europe, irrespective of where the deceased had died. It allowed people to show their allegiance to a particular church or order, while there was the additional benefit of prayers to be said for their souls in different locations. For example, Robert the Bruce (b. 1274 – d. 1329) was buried in Dunfermline Abbey, but he had wished his heart to be buried in the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in token of his vow to undertake a crusade against the Saracens. When Sir James Douglas, to whom the heart had been entrusted, was killed in battle fighting the Moorish kings of Granada, the silver casket was recovered and interred at Melrose Abbey (Roxburghshire). Although the church frowned on bodily division and papal degrees forebade the practice, it was possible to obtain dispensation. The custom continued in modern times, for example among the Habsburgs in Vienna.
The Berkeley family seem to have been particularly keen on division of the corpse. Apart from Sir Giles’s heart memorial in Coberley, three more miniature effigies can still be found on the window sills of the nave of St Mary’s church next to the family seat of Berkeley Castle, of which two were probably holding hearts: these, too, have frequently been mistaken for child effigies and one may compare the famous case of the so-called ‘Stanley boy’ monument in Elford (Staffordshire), which was the Monument of the Month in January 2010. The unknown female whose heart was buried in Coberley presumably belonged to the Berkeley family as well.



 Further reading:

  Bradford, Charles Angell, Heart burial (London, 1933).

● Oosterwijk, Sophie, ‘“A swithe feire graue”. The appearance of children on medieval tomb monuments’, in Richard Eales and Shaun Tyas (eds), Family and dynasty in the Middle Ages (1997 Harlaxton Symposium Proceedings), Harlaxton Medieval Studies, 9 (Donington, 2003), pp. 172-92, esp. pp. 188-89 and pl. 44.

● Roper, Ida M., The monumental effigies of Gloucester and Bristol (Gloucester, 1931), pp. 377-378.

Warntjes, Immo, ‘Programmatic double burial (body and heart) of the European high nobility, c.1200-1400. Its origin, geography, and functions’, in Karl-Heinz Spieß and Immo Warntjes (eds), Death at court (Wiesbaden, 2012), 197-259.

Weiss-Krejci, Estella, ‘Heart burial in medieval and early post-medieval Central Europe’, in Katharina Rebay-Salisbury, Marie Louise Stig Sørensen and Jessica Hughes (eds), Body parts and bodies whole. Changing relations and meanings (Oxford, 2010),  pp. 119-133.

Figure captions

Fig 1. Unidentified female miniature tomb alongside the double monument to Thomas Berkeley (d. 1365 and his first wife in St Giles’s church, Coberley (Gloucestershire). (Photo: Cameron Newham)

 Fig 2. Wall memorial commemorating the heart burial of Sir Giles Berkeley (d. 1294) in St Giles’s church, Coberley (Gloucestershire). (Photo: Tim Sutton)

 Fig 3. Miniature female effigy alongside the double tomb monument to Sir Thomas I de Berkeley (d. 1365) and his wife Joan in St Giles’s church, Coberley (Gloucestershire). (Photo: Cameron Newham)

 Fig 4. Fourteenth-century miniature female effigy in St Giles’s church, Coberley (Gloucestershire). (Photo: Cameron Newham)


        Monument of the Month - Contributions Wanted!
This page is designed for the general reader and is intended to feature monuments of all types and all ages: those to the famous and to the unknown, those by famous sculptors and those by unknown local craftsmen, the artistically spendid and the simple but beautiful or curious. So far mostly members of the Council have contributed but contibutions are welcome from everybody - members or non-members of the Society. We would welcome a photograph or two and a short text telling us why the monument interests you: it may be of an ancestor, of someone you admire, something you have discovered or just something you just like or find interesting.
Please send the text as a word document and the photographs as separate jpg files ; please do not send the photographs embedded in the text as I cannot then edit the document. However, it is always useful - but not essential - if an embedded version could be sent as well, as then I can lay out the document as you intended. Please send contributions to . We will feature the monument for a month and it will then be archived.

Some tips on the photographs:
1. It is always polite to ask the vicar or rector of the church for permission to take photographs, stressing they are not for profit or commercial purpose. It is important to confirm when the church is normally open. Don't forget to enclose a stamped addressed envelope for your reply.
2. Cathedrals and some other large churches have a visitors' desk and permission may often be obtained there on the day; sometimes there is a modest cost. Some of these churches do not normally allow photography although permission may be obtained if one writes before hand. To date the only place that I have been refused  is Durham Cathedral. Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral also do not allow photography.
3. Try to carefully remove items that block the view of the monument if you are able. Especially don't leave your camera case in the way as I have on occasions! Or alter the angle of the photograph to minimise this problem.
4. Try to avoid excessive contrast in taking the photographs - dark shadows and bright sunlight. In other words, try to see what the camera sees, not your eyes! Flash can be difficult to use as it creates harsh shadows and burned out highlights; this is especially difficult when a photograph is taken of a subject of some depth when the foreground becomes too bright and the background too dark, because of the rapid falling off of the brightness of the flash with distance.
5. Please send photographs as jpg or gif attachments; do not embed them in the text where they cannot be edited and require a lot of memory space. If you wish I can scan printed photographs if they are sent to me; they will always be returned.
Click on the link below to see earlier Monuments of the Month
January 2010 Thomas Moore (d. 1586) & his widow Marie at Adderbury (Oxfordshire) Sally Badham FSA
February 2010 The so-called ‘Stanley boy’ monument at Elford (Staffordshire) Dr Sophie Oosterwijk  FSA
March 2010 William Shakespeare’s monument, HolyTrinity, Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire Dr Adam White PhD
April 2010 The Lovell Tomb at Minster Lovell, Oxfordshire Dr Ellie Pridgeon PhD
May 2010 The chantry of Humphrey Duke of Gloucester 1391-1447 at the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban Jane Kelsall
June 2010 Thomas Babington of Dethick (d. 1518) and his wife Edith at Ashover (Derbyshire) Dr Kelcey Wilson-Lee PhD
July 2010 Baptist Noel, Third Viscount Campden (c. 1612-1683) at Exton, Rutland C B Newham
August 2010 Isabelle of Angoulême at Fontevraud Abbey J K Bromilow MInstP
September 2010 The Monument to Thomas Strode at Beaminster, Dorset Dr Clive J Easter PhD
October 2010 The cadaver monument of Guillaume de Harcigny (d. 1393) at  Laon (France) Dr Sophie Oosterwijk FSA
November 2010 The John Donne Monument (d. 1631) by Nicholas Stone in St Paul's Cathedral, London Dr Philip Cottrell
December 2010 Walter Helyon (d. c. 1357) at Much Marcle (Herefordshire) Sally Badham FSA
January 2011 Hungerford, Berkshire Dr Ellie Pridgeon PhD
February 2011 The Schaw Monument Dumfermline Abbey Church Dr Jenny Alexander
March 2011 Two wooden Epitaphien from Königsberg Jerome Bertram
April 2011  Abbot Adam of Carmarthen, Neath Abbey South Wales Dr Rhianydd Biebrach Ph D
May 2011 Sir John Newdigate, 1610, Harefield, Middlesex Jon Bayliss
June 2011  The joint tomb of João I of Portugal (d.1433) and his queen, Philippa of Lancaster (d. 1415) Founder’s Chapel, monastery of Our Lady of Victory, in Batalha, Portugal  Joana Ramôa
Photographs by  José Custódio Vieira da Silva
July 2011 Today and not tomorrow’ Doctor James Vaulx and his two wives Editha and Philip   St Mary’s Church, Meysey Hampton Joan and Robert Tucker
August 2011 The Bourchier Monuments in St Andrew’s Church, Halstead (Essex) Mark Duffy
September 2011 Two Monuments in Bedfordshire Cameron Newham
October 2011 Floor slab of Joost Corneliszoon van Lodensteyn, burgomaster of Delft (d. 31 April 1660), his wife Maria van Voorburch, and their descendants, Oude Kerk (Old Church), Delft (Netherlands), Belgian hardstone, 223 x 136 cm. Dr Sophie Oosterwijk  FSA
November 2011  Berengaria of Nevarre, Queen of Richard the Lionheart in L'Épau Abbey J K Bromilow MInstP
December 2011  The Watton Monument at Addington, Kent Dr Clive Easter
January 2012  The monument of Lady Margaret  Grey (d. 1330) at Cogges  Oxfordshire Sally Badham
February 2012 The Effigy of Walter Stewart, Earl of Menteith, at Inchmaholme Priory, Scotland Mark Downing FSA
March 2012  Thomas Walwyn (d. 1415) and his Wife  at Much Marcle (Herefordshire)   Sally Badham 
April 2012  Lady Barbara de Mauley, St Nicholas, Hatherop   Joan and Robert Tucker  
May 2012 The tomb of John Marshall in Llandaff Cathedral Dr Madeleine Gray PhD FRHistS
June 2012 The double tomb monument to Reinoud III van Brederode (d. 1556) and Philippote van der Marck (d. 1537) in Vianen (Netherlands) Trudi Brink
July 2012 Lowsley Family Tomb, Hampstead
Norris, Berkshire
Dr Andrew Sargent
August 2012 Oliver Cromwell's Coffin Plate J K Bromilow MInstP
September 2012 A Monument in Holy Trinity Church Hull Sally Badham FSA
October 2012 East Worldham (Hampshire) Sally Badham FSA
November 2012 Floor slab of Cornelis Pietersze (d. 1532) and his wife Jozijne van Domburch (d. 1557), Sint-Maartenskerk, Sint Maartensdijk (province of Zeeland, Netherlands), Belgian hardstone, 254 x 141 cm. Dr Sophie Oosterwijk  FSA and Kees Knulst BA
December 2012 An exercise in white marble and whitewashing: Cenotaph of Lieutenant-Admiral Jacob van Wassenaer Obdam (d. 13 June 1665), by Bartholomeus Eggers, situated in the choir of the Jacobskerk, The Hague (Netherlands), white, red and black marble and wood. Dr Sophie Oosterwijk  FSA
January 2013 Martin Kistenmaker and his Parents
Heiligenkreuz, Rostock
Jerome Bertram
February 2013 The monument to Archbishop James Sharp (d.1679) in Holy Trinity Church, St Andrews (Fife) Phoebe Armstrong
March 2013 The Monument at Sheriff Hutton (Yorkshire).
Is this the tomb of Richard III’s son?
Dr Jane Crease
April 2013 Zacharias Johannes Szolc, 1682, and Stanisław Bużenski, 1697 Frombork Cathedral, Poland Jerome Bertram
May 2013 The monument to Dr Thomas Turner, died 1714. Stowe-Nine-Churches, Northamptonshire  Dr Clive J Easter FSA  
June 2013 'Left for dead' Major Thomas Price Robert Tucker
July 2013 An unusual saint: Floor slab of Jacopmine Huyghendochter, wife of Foert Christiaenszoon (d. 1553), Sint-Maartenskerk, Wemeldinge (province of Zeeland, Netherlands), Belgian hardstone, 185 x 114 cm Dr Sophie Oosterwijk  FSA
August 2013 Thomas and Mary Acton, erected 1581, Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire Jon Bayliss
September 2013 Cholmondeley Monument, St Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London  Dr George Roberts
October 2013 Revd Theophilus Pickering (d. 1710) and John Dryden, Poet Laureate (d. 1700), Titchmarsh (Northamptonshire) Sally Badham FSA
November 2013 Thomas Manners, 1st Earl of Rutland, 12th Baron de Ros of Helmsley (c.1492 – 1543) Bottesford, St Mary (Leicestershire)   Edward Higgins MA BSc (Hons)
December 2013 Maria Rebekka Schlegel, 1736, Stadtmuseum, Meissen, Germany Jon Bayliss
January 2014
Lady Elizabeth Clinton (d. 11 September 1423) Haversham (Buckinghamshire)
 Sally Badham
February 2014 LUGENS MŒRENSQUE Moira Ackers
March 2014 A son’s delayed memorial to his dead mother: The tomb of Catharine of Bourbon, Duchess of Guelders (d. 1469), Stevenskerk, Nijmegen (Netherlands). Sophie Oosterwijk and Trudi Brink
April 2014 Robert Crane (d. 1500), Chilton (Suffolk) Sally Badham
May 2014 A monument with a story
Double monument said to commemorate Lady Constantia and her son John, St Leonard’s church, Scarcliffe (Derbyshire).
Sophie Oosterwijk and Sally Badham
June 2014 A military effigy
St James's Church, Iddesleigh, Devon
John K Bromilow MInstP
July 2014 Brecon Cathedral: a post-Reformation cross slab Dr Maddy Gray PhD
August 2014 The monument to Lady Wolryche, 1678: the Lady with the Lute Dr Clive J Easter FSA  
September 2014 Row On Row (1) Robert Tucker
October 2014 A Fool’s Monument?
The Tomb Slab of Hans Has at Wertheim, Germany
Dr Martin Spies
November 2014 A Ledgerstone at Aldenham, Hertfordshire Dr Jean Wilson
December 2014 Heaven under our feet: the Laleston triple cross Dr Madelaine Gray PhD
January 2015 Llancarfan and Carisbrooke: some thoughts on a seventeenth-century cross slab in the Vale of Glamorgan Dr Madelaine Gray PhD