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Pax Romana had come to an end, violently, by Teutanic invasion. Centralized government, arts, laws, education, scientific research, etc. were replaced by Feudalism. The Dark Ages had begun. History dates the Dark Ages from 476 AD, when Odoacer disposed the last Roman emperor Romulus Agustulus, to the fall of Constantinope in 1453. Constantinople was conquered by the Islamic armies.

History- Dark Ages


Roman peace.

Pax Romana


A territorial system with established small fiefdoms interconnected by blood and marriage aliances and based on inequality and social ranking of the population.



  1. Dead in white garments
  2. Funeral procession
  3. Soul shot
  4. Preparation
  5. Catafalgues
  6. Funeral feast

Funerals and Funeral Behavior (changes that occured)


Funeralizing the ___________ symbolizing purity and equality in the early Roman church was changed to garments indicating social rank.

Dead in White Garments


The _________ utilizing the bier (persons bed or catafalque) remained intact from the early church.

  • Wake
  • Requiem mass
  • Committal service

Funeral Procession


Mortuary fees paid to the church from the estate of the deceased for complete funeral service was instituted. (Decani getting the money)

Soul Shot


______ of the deceased was evidence of evisceration and vatting (or drypacking) on a small scale for nobility was also evident. Most however, were anointed with oils (extreme unction) and spices and wrapped in shrouds (face was the only area shown).



The deceased was placed on a draped _____ (bier) and illuminated with as many as 400 candles for a three or more day wake period. (The poor only got a few candles).



The _______, after the committal service, was quite expensive, the estate was divided and an heir was named. This was important because the fasting before this was now concluded.

Funeral Feast


It was the responsibility of the _______ to care for his mother, if still alive. Estate generally went to this person. Sisters were generally married off or sent to a convent. By year two, brothers are given a choice of working for this person or moving on with a small sum of money.

Eldest Son


  1. Constantine's Edict of Toleration
  2. Emperor Theodosius
  3. Legal code of Justinian
  4. Pop Gregory the Great
  5. Charlemagne
  6. Archbishop of Canterbury
  7. Cardinal Bourbon
  8. God's Acre

Church and Cemetery Burial in the Middle Ages


In 313 AD, encouraged intramural internments without regard to sanitation- also developed church yard (Generally rich people were interred in Church floors).

Constantine's Edict of Toleration


381 AD, re-instituted extramural interment by law for sanitation reasons (bad odors in churches).

Emperor Theodosius


534 AD, required extramural interment by law for sanitation reasons.

Legal Code of Justinian


590-604 AD, encouraged intramural internment as a right to every Christian. (Last Judgement- body and soul will reunite- wants to be near the church).

Pope Gregory the Great


742-814 AD, (French) attempted to stamp out intramural burial by creating extramural cemeteries consecrated by the Roman Catholic Church away from population centers. He was buried intramurally in the church.



Rebuilt the Cathedral in 1705 with intramural crypts only for clergy and parishioners of merit.

Archbishop of Canterbury


1581 AD, ________, Archbishop of Rouen stated not even the rich should be buried in churches. Supported extramural burial for sanitation reasons.

Cardinal Bourbon


Name given to intramural church yard, cemeteries built next to churches.

God's Acre


Extramural burial was still the exception, not the rule. During the beginning of the plague years, intramural interments were the majority.

  • A significant rise in extramural cemeteries consecrated for that purpose arose out of necessity because of the bubonic plague.

Disposal and Contagion Associated with Bubonic Plague


A state in which those whose souls are not perfectly cleansed undergo a process of cleansing before they can enter heaven.

Catholic Doctrine of Purgatory


_________ date back before Christianity, to pagan Rome, to defray funeral costs. With the rise of Christianity, purgatorial societies replaced or absorbed these. (Contempory example: Perpetual Mass cards).

Lay Burial Organizations


To bury the dead and pray for the deliverance of the soul from purgatory.

Purpose of Purgatorial Societies


The _____ of the guild made the necessary funeral arrangements which included and Requiem Mass. Burial with Soleminity, the payment of the soul shot for Mortuary fee (fees paid to the church), and a liberal distribution of Alms to the poor.



One in such society originally Roman Catholic, but after the Reformation became part of the Church of England. The burial guilds survived the Reformation.

The League of Prayer


A death crier dressed in black with a skull and crossbones on both sides of his gown would ring a bell to announce the death of a Guild member. (Each guild would have a death crier).

Death Watch


Characterized by rioting and drunkenness and obscene customs of "Rousing the Ghost", a kind of necromancy or black magic to call out or raise the soul of the departed.

The Wake During the Middle Ages


Possessions were divided and an heir named. Usually the oldest son, nephew, or son-in-law.

At the Funeral Feast


Only for the nobilty and chuch leaders, involved long wakes and there is evidence that crude embalming practices were used to deter putrefaction.

Funerals of State During the Middle Ages


Usually a death mask and sometimes an entire caricature, were used to represent the deceased. (Death masks were made before men went to war, in case they didn't come back. The death mask and mannequin could be used in the wake).

The Waxen Effigy


Because of the intramural interments in churches for the nobility, crypts were made from the finest materials: silver, gold, bronze, and jewels that could rival Egypt were common.

Tombs and Monuments During the Middle Ages


Black Death. Claimed the lives of 50% of the European population.

  • Caused by Yersina pestis (formally called Pasturella pestis) carried by infected fleas on black rats. 
  • People thought that this was punishment from God. They did not know the true transmission of the disease.

The Bubonic Plague


Originated in Germany and Austria. It was an antisemetic order of lay men who blamed the Jewish population of Europe for the Bubonic Plague.

The Flagellant Society


In 542 AD, in one day 10,000 people died in Constantinople.

Early Plague Period


1664-1665. 68,596 people died in a population of 460,000 at the end of the plague period. In 1666, the Great fire of London killed the rats that carried the infected fleas. Stamped out most of the Bubonic plague.

Great Plague of London


The effect of the plague on the cemeteries. An extramural burial pit used to inter bubonic plague victims near London. The pit was utilized during the hours of darkness. 

Aldgate Plague Pit


Burying plague victims during the hours of darkness was changed with this act. It forbade burial between six and in the evening and six in the morning. This was based on a false belief of safety during the day.

Act of 1547


With all the stress and circumstance of incredible numbers of dead in Europe, no thought was ever given to ______. The solution was extramural burial pits consecrated by the church to adjunct the churchyard. (If you were a nobleman, you got intramural burial).



  • "Ring around the rosie"- Circular rash around the puss filled hole.
  • "Pocket full of posies"- Spring of Rosemary made into a wreath, worn around the neck to ward off death.
  • "Ashes, ashes, they all fall down."- Ashen look of the near dead.

Nursery Rhyme Realted Directly to the Bubonic Plague and its Results:


Derived from the Greeks word kofinos meaning basket, coffer, or chest- sarcophagus= "Greek body eater."

The Word Coffin


The term coffin in Ancient and Medieval history really means:

An Outside Enclosure, a Vault Like Structure


The coffin and later the casket was an evolutionary development of the Bier or litter (used to carry the deceased). (Coffin with sides and top to contain bodily purge).

Most Were Buried Shrouded and Uncoffined


The ____ as we know it today does not appear to have wide useage until the 18th century in Europe.



A rented coffin used as a bier during the middle ages.

Parish Shell


The rise of the new _______ and the desire for social status, not any commercial organization of Funeral Service, developed to force expenses for funerals up. Modern funeral practices are a phenomenon of a rising _________ which never existed before.

Middle Class


  1. The Merchant Class
  2. The Military Class
  3. Trade Guilds

All Constituted the New Middle Class


This new middle class is:

  1. Small in number
  2. For the first time others beside the wealthy have money.

At the End of the Middle Ages


Were most common among Guild members and other laboring or serf classes. They would collect a Quarterage or dues to defray for masses, pall (tunic, mort cloth), chaplain fees (each Guild had a chaplain), bier rental, shroud, etc. (Eventually these were absorbed into the Guilds and purgatorial societies).

Development of Burial Clubs


Payment to the guilds which later becomes the soul shot paid to the churches.



Change of shroud from linen to wool in England.

  • Shrouds were in the form of linen cerecloth, a kind of double duct canvas (tarp) treated with wax, alum, or gum to make them waterproof. (very heavy material).
  • Linen was desprately needed to make high grade paper for the new printing industry.
  • The wool industry was in depression thus the British Crown passed this act to save the wool industry and conserve linen for the paper industry. All shrouds and coffin linings were to be made of wool. 
  • The act was not repealed until 1814 (about 150 years).

Burial in Woolen Act of 1666


In the later Middle Ages:

  • The color white, the ancient mourning color, was replaced by black.
  • The color purple was the mourning color for royalty and many Christian groups.
  • It has only been since 1970 that the black and purple palls have changed back to white, the mourning color of the early Christians.

Mourning Colors


Similar to those worn by nuns symbolized the mourning garments of the widow during the Middle Ages. (Widows assumed the look of nuns).

The Black Cloak


Varied from minimal to most expensive depending on the grave site,

  • Within the church
  • Intramural churchyard
  • Extramural burial pit

And whether or not the deceased was in a coffin or shroud.

Burial Fees


  • Code of Conduct
  • Widow's clothing
  • Dowry
  • A widow's annuity

The Widow During the Middle Ages


The widow of an important man would retire to a convent or dower house (house with other widows) garbed as a nun. Remarriage was considered unthinkable particularly for a woman of high station.

Code of Conduct


White cuffs, widow's bonnet, black veil, the barbe (pleated bib of fine linen) are examples of what was required.

Widow's Clothing (Widow's Weods)


The portion of interest in the real estate of a deceased husband that is given by law to his widow during her life.

  • The money, goods, or estate that a woman brings to her husband in marriage- a gift of property (furnature, silver, money, etc) brught into the marriage by the bride.

Dowry (Dower)


Should she outlive her husband- the amount to which she was entitled- was linked to the amount she originally brought into the marriage. The percentage varied according to time period involved. (How long the marriage lasted). Sliding scale 50% to 10%. Put into British law at the end of the 18th century during warfare.

A Widow's Annuity


  • Protestant custom
  • Jewish custom
  • British custom
  • Sin-eater
  • Upside down burial

Influence of Local Customs


To sprinkle a handful of dirt on the corpse. (Roman Catholics sprinkled holy water) (Ashes to ashes, dust to dust).

Protestant Custom


Of placing a bag of earth in the coffin- Earth from Palestine. 

Jewish Custom


A Spring of Rosemary was falsely believed to be a disinfectant against plague was thrown into the grave

British Custom


By eating a loaf of bread, drinking a bown of stale beer over a corpse, and accepting six pence, a man was able to take unto himself the sins of the deceased, whose ghost thereafter would no longer wander. ( It would settle the spirit).



_______ were buried with feet toward the east in the belief that Christ would appear to summon the world to judgement.



On Judgement Day, the world would turn upside down, turned around, you would rise in the proper position.

Upside Down Burial


The spirit of time, the view men take of death.

  • Example: "Everyman" (describing the middle ages): The human race is summoned to judgement by God by his servant Death.



  • Death dance, public execution, bubonic plague, and warfare emphysized the fact that death was commonplace. The significance of the play is man's  morbin preoccupation with the physical side of death. (In contrast with today's modern society generally held as death denying).
  • The Christian view point of death during the Middle Ages was "Sleeping in Christ."

Medieval Preoccupation with the Physical side of Death


Replaced the Decani in the Prodestant Church. A semi-secular under officier of the church, delegated to care for church property, the ringing of the bells and digging of graves by the Renaissance had emerged particularly among Prodestants, in a powerful position in the funeralization process.

Increasing Importance of the Role of the Sexton


This practice was usually associated with relics; that is the hearts were removed from religious leaders and were preserved as relics.

Divided Burial- Independent Heart Burial


This practice was usually associated with transporting war dead from the Crusades, the Hundred Years War 1337- 1453, and other wars, back home to be interred. Dead bodies were boiled down to skeletons and the bones shipped for funeralization.

Divided Burial- Independent Bone Burial


Outlawed by Pope Boniface III, who pronounced it "an abuse of abominable savagery, practiced by some of the faithful in a horrible and inconsiderate manner."

Independent Heart and Independent Bone Burial (Divided Burial)


Was rarely practiced because it violated the doctrine that "the body was the temple of the Holy Spirit" but there seems to be occasions when the prohibition was allowed.

Embalming During the Middle Ages


  • Making relics from those deemed Martyrs and by Saints by preserving their bodies or parts of their bodies (Hearts and bones)
  • Intramural interments in churches usually of monarchs and religious leaders. They demanded some kind of preservation.
  • Transportation of prominent leaders to their homes during warfare.
  • Preserve remains for anatomical study in the Renaissance period during the age of enlightenment with the Rise of Universities.

Situations when Bodies were Allowed to be Embalmed, Eviscerated, and Vatted by the Church



  • Henry I of England (1135)
  • Edward I of England (1307)

Prominent Monarchs Known to be Embalmed for Intramural Interments


Used by the monks. Was usually complete evisceration of all cavities, cranial, throacic, abdominal, and pelvic and then vatting in some kind of brine and/or alcohol solution (could have been drypacked).

Embalming Procedure


Prior to the rise and development of the Barber-Surgeon Guild (replacing the monks as emblamers), Medieval embalming was secondary fuction of the surgeon and anatomist. The embalmers were called the short robes, surgeons were called long robes. The embalming done by the anatomist in the late middle ages was to make cadavers to study anatomy related to the practice of medicine. No thought was given for funeralization.

Introduction of the Surgeon and Anatomist


  • Pietro d'Argellata
  • Galen of Pergamon
  • Vesalius
  • Mundinus

The Reason for Interest in Dead Human Bodies was Academic Research, Thus Some Systems of Preservation had to be Derived


In his "Chirurgia" a treatise of surgery in six books, not published until 1480 (after his death 1423), he describes the earliest complete account of Medieval embalming describing three varients of the basic cavity method: As a professor of anatomy at the University of Padua he performed embalming called "Anatomies" on executed prisoners. He also noted low temperatures slowed decomposition.

Pietro D'Argellata


130-200 AD (Early Middle Ages)- Had the only credible work in human anatomy which dominated medicine for almost thirteen hundred years. (Dark Ages few Books Written).

Galen of Pergamon


In 1453 wrote "De Corpora Humani Fabrica." One of the best studies of anatomy during the Renaissance.



Mondino De Luzzi (1270-1326). Professor at the University of Bologna from 1314-1324, dissected two cadavers. He is considered to be the first serious anatomist of the Middle Ages.



It allowed the surgeons and anatomists to research the structures and function of the human body.

The Importance of Developing Methods of Preservation


Basically evisceration and vatting (could be drypacking) for scientific and anatomical study, not funeralization. There is little evidence of any extensive use of visceral embalming during this period.

  • Exception: Religious leaders and the wealthy for intramural burial purposes.

Embalming Procedure


Influence of the Protestant Reformation in Christian funeral beliefs and practice.

Around 1500-1600


With the abolition of _____ orders and burial and purgatorial brotherhood, guilds and leagues, the new protestent funeral procession lost most of its solemnity.



In England, growing Puritanism found an outlet in ________. The Puritans within the Anglican Church stripped away the last vestiges of ostentation and pagenantry of the Roman Catholic Church as it related to funerals.

Vestiarian Controversy


By Martin Luther 1483 to 1546 reshaped funeral beliefs in Germany- Later the funeral or requiem mass was also rejected.

  • Indulgences
  • Lying in state

Rejection of the Doctrine of Purgatory and Indulgences


Remission of part of the temporal punishment due to sin offered for the soul of the deceased.



Was also rejected for a time by Protestants (Restored later).

Lying in State


  • Reading of scripture and singing of hymns
  • Brief discourse on death and resurrection from the Bible
  • Sermon on the life and death of the deceased
  • Blessing of the dead for benediction was retained by most denominations

The Emerging Protestant Funeral by 1600 (At end of Reformation) Contained: