Cadaver Tombs

St. Peter’s Church of Ireland, Drogheda, Co. Louth, Eire.

This information taken from the Drogheda page of the Louth Online site.

St. Peter’s Church of Ireland.

This church was built in 1751 replacing the earlier St. Peters, which dated back to the 1200's. The earlier church must have been quite large for the time; it housed no less than seven chapels and its steeple was reputed to be 'the highest in the world' before it was destroyed by a storm on January 27th, 1548. That steeple was replaced with a wooden version, which was burnt on Oliver Cromwell's orders during the siege of Drogheda. Although much controversy surrounds Cromwell and the number of citizens killed as a result of the siege, it is alleged that the townspeople who had sought refuge within were killed by the blaze; those who escaped the inferno were slaughtered. The church that exists today was built in 1753; the spire and porch were designed by the renowned Irish architect Francis Johnston and added in 1793. In the northeast corner of the graveyard, embedded in the wall, is a life-size 'cadaver' tombstone slab and pieces of the sides of the same tomb.

Photograph taken from the Drogheda page of the 'Louth Online' site.

The ‘Cadaver Tomb’ at St. Peter’s COI

This type of cadaver sculpture is a great rarity in Ireland. The style emphasises bodily decomposition, a motif that was more popular with mainland Europe countries from the 14th to the 16th centuries. During these years the infamous 'Black Death' plague gripped Europe, and this type of rendition is considered a by-product of the plague, when people became more aware of the frailties of mortality. The slab has been dated to 1520 and contained Sir Edmund Golding and his wife Elizabeth Flemyng, the daughter of the Baron of Slane.



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