The Anglo-Norman Territories

7

Death and burial

 

    An impression forcefully created by both written sources and iconographic material is that in the 10th 12th centuries Christian people were obsessed with the power of death and with the need to prepare themselves for the day when judgement would be handed out to the saved and the damned. Burial in holy ground was considered essential to salvation, and archaeological evidence in both England and Normandy is beginning to show how church cemeteries were organised. On the whole it seems that discipline was hardest to exercise in towns where pressure on graveyard space often meant the continual disturbance of earlier interments by later ones.

Excavation reveals that the usual burial practice was to lay the deceased directly into a shallow grave in the ground, but on occasions wooden coffins were used and wealthy people might have a stone sarcophagus. Graves, once again usually those of the wealthy, might be marked by a stone monument and a few favoured individuals were buried inside churches. Another aspect of archaeological research which has been vigorously pursued both sides of the English Channel in recent years is the study of the human remains themselves which can tell us about such matters as age of death, physical condition and racial type of ancient populations.

New sources, exavations in the urban cemeteries
Burial customs in Norman England
Tombs and funerary monuments
Archaeology and anthropology

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