Hands & Heart Coffin Slab, St Mary’s Luddenham, Kent

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On Easter Sunday on a visit to Kent, we managed to look at couple of churches and one I remember from sixteen years ago when we lived in Kent.  St Mary’s Church in Luddenham, near Faversham, was an over run desolate building when we first visited, standing in a working farmyard, it stood empty and forlorn.  But not long after our first visit the Churches Conservation Trust took over the building, and now you can walk through a wild but managed graveyard, and explore the church which is now opened daily.  This post is not about the church, hopefully that will come later, but about something special inside the church.

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When you enter the church you cannot miss this wonderful coffin slab.  The stone is not original to the church, but came from Stone Chapel nearby.  The chapel is the ruined church of Our Lady of Elwarton of Roman and Saxon origins. The 13th century Purbeck stone coffin slab depicts a cross, and a pair of hands holding a heart.  I doubt if there is any records of the coffins at Stone Chapel as there are only ruins left, we didn’t have time to visit, but its on the list for the next time.

I just wondered if this is possibly a crusaders coffin slab.  When knights went on crusades, and knowing that their chances of survival were slim, they wanted their hearts to be sent home to be buried in their local churches.  There are some wonderful stone tombs, but in many, you would only find a casket with the remains of a Crusaders heart.  As this one shows a heart, maybe its one knight who did not return home.

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April 2015

8 comments

  1. How fascinating, Lynne! I feel you may be right. I am assuming that these are two pieces from different graves? It would be nice to put a name or date to it, so that you could perhaps do some more research! I look forward to hearing more about the church. Just by coincidence I have been reading about the Crusaders for one of my next posts.

    1. Yes I think you are right about it being two different parts of a stone, they are not lining up quite right, but it is lovely and was quite unexpected. My grand-daughter came in with me and she even liked it, being 18 she has yet to start liking historic buildings of any kind, mind you, this is the second time she has come into one with me 🙂 Looking forward to your one about Crusaders.

      1. Haha, I remember trying to get the girls interested at that age! Or even earlier. I remember how appalled they were at the ‘pile of stones’ which was Stonehenge. So you’re doing well! 🙂

  2. Lynn, an intriguing post ~ I cannot help but think the carved hands from a much later date as the style is so much more sophisticated and delicate~ very very rare to see , at least in English medieval carving , something that expressive with such a sinuous line~ not impossible of course as there are some very fine ones , just not quite so much movement and feeling or expressiveness in most. I know you might just find something more sophisticated if by an Italian artisan of the period but it is very intriguing. A mystery to solve. would love to know what if anything you can learn!

    1. Yes it is very much a mystery and I am not sure that I can solve it, but I think the first step is to visit Stone Chapel next time we are in Kent 🙂 We are off tomorrow for 5 days to visit Herefordshire for a short holiday, so fingers crossed we find some interesting places to explore, the weather here is beautiful at the moment, just hopes it stays like it for the next few days 🙂

  3. Just saw your reply Lynn to mine a day after you wrote it. Herefordshire and Shrops are my ‘stomping grounds” as they say .so am familiar with many really fine places. I always fervently hope for these two counties to stay exactly as they are and off the beaten track , never ‘developed’. as they are so special , well enough said. Hope you have a lovely time. I will send you a very interesting bit about a skeleton recently found at Hereford cathedral of a knight with obvious tourney or jousting injuries if you like. 🙂

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