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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: March ::
Julius Caesar and Religious Art
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0172  Tuesday, 14 March 2006

From: 		Peter Bridgman <
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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 
recently fainted.

 >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.

Peter Bridgman

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