The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0172 Tuesday, 14 March 2006
From: Peter Bridgman <
Date: Tuesday, 14 Mar 2006 00:35:54 -0000
Subject: 17.0159 Julius Caesar and Religious Art
Comment: Re: SHK 17.0159 Julius Caesar and Religious Art
William Sutton asks ...
>I admire Peter Bridgman's confident assertions but exactly where
>does this specific knowledge of execution behaviour come from?
See Peter Ackroyd's 'London, the Biography' for a colourful account of
relic hunters (Ackroyd devotes a grisly chapter to public executions).
It seems some poor Londoners actually earned a living selling body parts
and blood-stained relics. They sold these to the rich, the "great men"
who "press for tinctures, stains, relics".
If anyone wants to see some of the Tyburn relics up close, I recommend a
visit to the Tyburn Convent in Bayswater Road, a few yards from the
execution site. A very sweet old nun took me on a tour of the basement
chapel and showed me blood-stained clothes and a saint's little finger.
I must say I felt slightly queasy. She told me an American woman had
>How does he know that all the religious paintings in England and
>Wales were actually destroyed and not hidden from view? Art lovers
>cross the religious divide.
See Eamon Duffy: 'The Stripping of the Altars' (Yale, 1992). In Feb
1548 Thomas Cranmer ordered the "total removal of images" in churches
(Duffy, p.458). Paintings, statues and altar-pieces were burnt; wall
frescos were whitewashed over and replaced with scriptural verses
condemning idolatry; stained-glass windows were to be removed and
replaced with plain glass (Cranmer later reversed this order as there
was not enough replacement glass in the country). Because they
contained scripture, illuminated books (psalters etc) were not
destroyed. Although Mary's reign refilled the churches with (new)
images, these were again removed by Elizabeth's Injunctions of 1559,
which outlawed "all religious images, including those in window and
wall" (Duffy, p.568). Again, the Privy Council backtracked on windows -
they were to be broken only if the window was to be reglazed.
As a result, the only religious images in English churches for the next
300 years were stained glass. Religious images only reappeared with the
Oxford Movement of the 1840s.
>Surely he would have known of crucifixion paintings as well as hangings
>at Tyburn etc. so couldn't this be and/and rather than no way?
WS might well have seen such paintings, but precious few. The images in
Holy Trinity church, Stratford, were removed some years before his
birth. In 1563, a few months before the birth, the frescos were
whitewashed over in the town's Guild Chapel. As far as we know, WS did
not leave England. Therefore, the only place he might've seen an illegal
image of the crucifixion would be in the home of a (rich) recusant
Catholic. And again, only if WS were a very trusted visitor.
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