publication . Article . 2019

Charnel practices in medieval England: new perspectives

Elizabeth Craig-Atkins; Jennifer Crangle; P. S. Barnwell; D.M. Hadley; Allan T. Adams; Ian Atkins; Jessica-Rose McGinn; Alice James;
Open Access
  • Published: 15 May 2019 Journal: Mortality, volume 24, pages 145-166 (issn: 1357-6275, eissn: 1469-9885, Copyright policy)
  • Publisher: Informa UK Limited
  • Country: United Kingdom
Studies of English medieval funerary practice have paid limited attention to the curation of human remains in charnel houses. Yet analysis of architectural, archaeological and documentary evidence, including antiquarian accounts, suggests that charnelling was more widespread in medieval England than has hitherto been appreciated, with many charnel houses dismantled at the sixteenth-century Reformation. The survival of a charnel house and its human remains at Rothwell, Northamptonshire permits a unique opportunity to analyse charnel practice at a medieval parish church. Employing architectural, geophysical, and osteological analysis, we present a new contextualisation of medieval charnelling. We argue that the charnel house at Rothwell, a subterranean room constructed during the thirteenth century, may have been a particularly sophisticated example of an experiment born out of beliefs surrounding Purgatory. Our approach enables re-evaluation of the surviving evidence for charnel practice in England and enhances wider narratives of medieval charnelling across Europe.
Persistent Identifiers
Fields of Science and Technology classification (FOS)
03 medical and health sciences, 0305 other medical science, 030502 gerontology, 030504 nursing
free text keywords: Philosophy, Religious studies, Health (social science), Classics, Purgatory, Documentary evidence, History
Related Organizations
  • Digital Humanities and Cultural Heritage
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