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Death in Scotland

Chapters From the Twelfth Century to the Twenty-First


Peter C. Jupp and Hilary J. Grainger

For the past twenty years, Scottish death culture has emerged as a focus of scholars drawn from a wide variety of disciplines. Death comes to us all but too often we treat it as a private or personal matter. The former taboo about death is slowly lifting and contemporary research is playing an increasing part. Accordingly, the fifteen essays gathered in this book probe the multi-facetted role of death in Scottish history and culture. They explore personal fears of death, anxieties about Predestination, prayers for the dead and the appeal of Spiritualism. They analyse the public face of death in law, economics and medicine: changes in capital punishment, funeral poverty, the teaching of anatomy and prevention of stillbirths. Within the worlds of religion and ritual, they consider the making of saints, burial practice following the Scottish Reformation and the tradition of keening within the Gáidhealtachd. With an Introduction by Professor Jane Dawson, these essays by specialists in the field not only highlight the richness of the primary sources for studying death in Scotland but reveal how death studies identify key features of Scottish life and society across ten centuries.

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4 The Architectural Setting of Prayers for the Dead in Later Medieval Scottish Churches (Richard Fawcett)


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4 The Architectural Setting of Prayers for the Dead in Later Medieval Scottish Churches


This paper explores the ways in which those who were granted the privilege of burial within a Scottish church in the middle ages attempted to avert the risk of eternal damnation through the arrangements they made for the location and prominence of their tombs, together with the provisions they made for their commemoration and the prayers to be offered for their salvation. It considers the chaplainries that might be associated with the tombs, the relationship between tombs and any associated altars, and the range of ways in which burial places were accommodated within the church. The paper also touches upon the charitable functions that could be associated with chaplainries and collegiate foundations.

The Fear of Damnation and the Hope of Salvation

For the medieval Christian the fear of eternal damnation was very real, and much effort was devoted to mitigating the risk.1 To do so, in the first place it was essential that the individual should endeavour to live in charity with his or her fellow believers, and that the precepts set out in the Ten ← 79 | 80 → Commandments and the Beatitudes should be followed. It was, nevertheless, accepted that only those who might be regarded as saints would be able to do enough during their lifetime to avert completely the risk of damnation and to pass directly into the...

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