Layers upon layers of burials revealed
With All Souls' Day set to be celebrated on Sunday, the University of Exeter has been exploring the history of tombs and commemoration in England and Wales – including at the city's cathedral.
The building, completed in 1400, has long been central to receiving the city's dead, according to the research funded by the European Research Council and Leverhulme Trust.
According to academics, 500 years ago, the cathedral green was the main graveyard in Exeter, with no other gravestones from the period found in the city. Archaeologists have identified layers upon layers of burials, which took place over a millennium, under the now popular walking and picnic spot. Inside the cathedral itself unnerving skeletal tombs, dating back to the 1400s, that depict rotting corpses, give an indication of past attitudes towards death and the afterlife. Lecturer Dr Naomi Howell said: "The intention of the deceased, who would have come from a wealthy family, was for worshippers of the parish to consider their own fate."
Elsewhere in the cathedral, the concern of the Christian faith at one time about idol worship is evident, with various headless figures and defaced busts. Whereas small wax doll-sized body parts, dating to medieval times but only discovered during the Second World War, indicate people's attitudes to saints and healing. A two-day exhibition takes place at the cathedral on November 1 and 2.
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