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Eleanor's viscera funeral in Lincoln Cathedral

December 1, 2014

(Lincoln Cathedral: Photo Tilman 2007)

There is a gap in the records between Eleanor’s death until 4th  December when the cortege is reported stopped at Grantham.  During that period the body was embalmed, and the viscera were buried in Lincoln cathedral.  But also the site of the memorial cross was picked out – and if the course that was followed for the rest of the procession held good, the body would have lain one night at this spot.  It therefore seems likely to me that the viscera were buried on  1st or 2nd  December, and that the cortege made a start on its journey on 3rd  December, making an overnight stop at the first cross site, just outside Lincoln’s city walls.

However to allow for a stopover at a well known mythical cross site, we’ll have the funeral today, and the Lincoln cross tomorrow …

And so, to Eleanor’s viscera funeral at Lincoln cathedral. For those who haven’t (yet!) read the book separate heart burial was fairly common at this time, and triple burial (viscera/heart/body) was having a “moment” in the late 1280’s.  Louis IX, Charles of Anjou and Eleanor’s brother Alfonso X had all followed this route.

It is likely that the night before the funeral Eleanor’s embalmed body plus the containers with her heart and viscera were brought into the Cathedral, where a vigil would have been held with prayers for the dead being offered throughout the night.  When St Hugh of Lincoln’s body was brought to Lincoln in 1220 it was borne into the church on the shoulders of King John and various Earls and Barons.  It is likely that a similar approach was followed for Eleanor’s body.

(The famous representtion of Eleanor and Edward on the exterior of the cathedral.  Photo Von Lincolnian (Brian))

The next day the viscera were buried in the Lady Chapel at the east end of the north side of the cathedral.  It is usually stated that a full size replica of the Westminster Abbey tomb, with a full length gilt bronze effigy by William Torel, and a tomb chest decorated with Eleanor’s coats of arms was created.  However the record created for Sir Christopher Hatton in the early C17 suggests that it may have been slightly different.  That drawing (c07932-08 in the British Library’s images online catalogue) shows four heraldic shields on the side of the tomb, as opposed to the six in London. In addition the gable above Eleanor’s head appears simpler, her hair seems straighter, and there may be a difference in the way her right hand lies.   There therefore seems to me to be a real possibility that the tomb in Lincoln was a two thirds size tomb; a not unprecedented approach.  The "Viscera" (but more probably heart tomb of CHarles of Anjou looks to be a half size affair.

The tomb chest (by Alexander of Abingdon and Dymenge de Leger, both later involved in the design and construction of the Eleanor crosses) was paid for in the course of 1291, and the image was likely to have been completed in 1293.

The original tomb was destroyed during the Civil War but a replica was placed in the Angel choir of the Cathedral in the C19.

(photo Richard Croft for geograph.org.uk)

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