As we move into the next phase of Coronavirus restrictions, we are making plans for the gradual reopening of the buildings. Following the guidance of the government and the Church of England, this will not be earlier than July, and may be later. In the meantime we are putting everything in place to ensure that when we do open, our staff, volunteers and visitors will be as safe as possible.
We are still supporting local initiatives to help those in need and you can find the links on our website. You will also find a weekly reflection and prayers to say at home. Please visit www.discoverdecrypt.org.uk
As we work through these difficult times, we want to say a heartfelt thank you to those who are supporting us, in particular our volunteers, who remain positive and enthused, our funders and especially the National Lottery Heritage Fund, whose encouragement during this time has been invaluable. We are confident that we will be ready to support the local community as people start to come together again and we will be well set to contribute to Gloucester’s economic recovery as visitors return and business resumes.
Tudor Muck-minders and Quirky Toilet Roll Sculpture...more fun with Creative Crafty Club Activities
Do you know what the Tudors used a muck-minder for or when the first cauliflower was grown in England?
You can find out in our free Family Activities sheets - interactive heritage and art fun to do at home. Go to www.discoverdecrypt.org.uk where you can download this week’s pack. In the next few weeks we have more fun things to do with all those toilet roll tubes, and the chance to have a go at Tudor calligraphy, test your knowledge of Tudor home life and find out about the many crafts and skills that went into building a church. Don’t forget to send us pictures of your creations!
Credit for both photos above: Eloise of Elluminations.
The Art of Ellumination
This month we were due to host the launch of 'The God who gave you Birth’, Eloise Cook's beautiful book exploring a different image of God. Although the launch has been postponed until we are able to gather in person to do it justice, here is a taste of what to expect. Eloise writes a little about herself and how the book came about:
"As an artist I make use of mixed media techniques to explore memory, faith and female energy, with a particular interest in the concept of 'the Long Now'. I use strong lines alongside the suggested and unseen, making use of shadow and silhouette. I am fascinated by the concept of really ‘seeing’ something. It’s a privilege that few of us allow ourselves. I am drawn to art that shows beauty (in the ordinary and mundane), and that which tells stories.
"The seed of this book has been with me for a long time. It’s the book I wish I’d read as a child. Growing up I learnt about ‘God the Father’ but not ‘God the Mother’. And yet, throughout the bible and church history, there are beautiful and powerful examples of female imagery used to describe God."
We will be hosting an exhibition of the art work from the book and running a series of Bible studies exploring the ideas and thoughts raised. New dates will be posted on the website. In the meantime you can see more of Eloise's work here https://elluminations.wixsite.com/elluminations
The Snell Monument
The life of Dorothy Snell is commemorated by a monument which now occupies the north-east corner of the Raikes Chapel, having been moved from the chancel in the 1840s. The monument is one of the important features of St Mary de Crypt, and its fame is partly due to the renown of its sculptor, Peter Scheemakers. It is of national importance and is the most famous in the city outside of the cathedral.
Peter Scheemakers (1691-1781) was Flemish, born to a sculptor of Antwerp. He worked with his father in the Baroque style, trained as a journeyman in Copenhagen, and studied in Italy where he became familiar with Roman classical themes. He spent most of his working life in London, however, where he shot to fame in 1740 with his striking monument to Shakespeare in Westminster Abbey. Although his popularity waned in the following decades, his studio continued to produce a vast quantity of work and several of the leading sculptors of the next generation were among his pupils.
The design of the Snell monument is typical of the eighteenth century, an era when Roman classical features were the height of fashion. First, the pyramidal background – the pyramid was an ancient Egyptian symbol of the sun god Ra, symbolising immortality or eternity (hence the shape of the pyramids). It was usually of black marble or slate, though when coloured marbles were available they were used too. The import of such marbles depended on the state of war between Italy (the source of both white and coloured marbles) and other countries of Europe.
Heraldry was usually shown on monuments to people who were ‘armigerous’ – entitled to bear a coat of arms. Dorothy’s husband was part of the Snell/Powell/Huntingdon extended family, and her own family, the Yates, were connected to the Berkeleys. The motto, no longer legible, was ‘In cruce victoria’. (Victory in the Cross?)
A word about family connections – The same names pop up again and again in local histories. The educated gentry made sure their sons had the right social connections, married well, and took posts of authority.
John Snell (1682-1726) is commemorated by a monument in the north (St Catherine’s) chapel of the church. It, too, was apparently once in the chancel, taking up a huge amount of space. He was Dorothy’s father-in-law. John Snell was a lawyer and politician. In 1713 he married Anna Maria Huntingdon, daughter and heiress of Robert Huntingdon, briefly Bishop of Raphoe. She was also the niece and heiress of Sir John Powell of Gloucester (the lawyer and politician commemorated in the Lady Chapel of the cathedral – he who presided at the witch trial of Jane Wenham).
Two months later John and Anna Maria inherited the estates of Sir John Powell, and also bought the manor of Lower Guiting. John Snell was elected Tory MP for Gloucester at the 1713 general election, and re-elected 1715 and 1722. He died in 1726 and was buried in St Mary de Crypt Church. His estates (now greatly enlarged) passed to his eldest son, Powell, who was only a young lad at the time. Powell Snell married Dorothy in 1737. He is described on her monument as ‘Esq of Lower Guiting’, but may have had a home in Gloucester.
Monuments are composed of various symbolic elements: There were a host of allegorical female figures called ‘Virtues’, adapted from pagan antiquity and given a Christian meaning. Religion, exemplified here by the flames issuing from her head, is just one amongst: Piety, Faith, Hope, Charity, Justice, Innocence, Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, and so on. They were dressed in flowing gowns reminiscent of classical dress, and carried an ‘attribute’, which help to distinguish one from another. The presence of a flame at the top of Religion’s head indicates immortality. The presence of a book could represent piety or knowledge.
The Genius, or putto (boy in Latin) is crying, a symbol of grief, and the downturned torch is being extinguished, meaning the end of earthly life. Sometimes the putto has wings and is considered a cherub. Holding a crown or wreath depicts immortality or everlasting life.
The cornucopia means abundance – although short, Dorothy’s life was rich and fruitful. The medallion with a relief portrait in profile is meant to convey immorality or eternity, deriving from the long-lasting nature of metal coins.
Dorothy is shown in the fullness of life (she was only 36 when she died). It may be a true likeness. Families of this quality would have portraits painted to hang in their halls, or have miniatures, which could be used as models for the sculptor.
The inscription panel below is written in the flowery language of the times. (Think of Jane Austin books.) The words praise the qualities of the dead person and often use words supplied by the family, of how they would wish their loved one to be remembered.
Also note the date of her birth, 1709/10. During the period 1582-1752, England used both the old Julian and the newer Gregorian calendars for legal documentation and the recording of birth and death dates during the first three months of the year. Dates were often written with O.S. for Old Style, or N.S. for New Style, so people could understand whether they were looking at a Julian date or a Gregorian date.
The inscription is as follows (including contemporary spelling) :
To the Memory of
Daughter of Charles and Elizabeth Yate Of Coulthrope in the County of Gloucester Born the 20th : Day of February 1709/10 Married May ye : 21st : 1737
To Powell Snell Esq of Lower Guiting
She exchanged this Life for a Better
On the 30th : Day of March 1746
Survived by Two Sons and One Daughter.
In her Conduct,
To her Parents, Husband, & Children Obedient, Faithfull, Affectionate.
To her Friends, Neighbours, & all Mankind, Sincere, Benevolent, Charitable.
An engaging Affability and Innocent Chearfullness Render’d her the Delight of all who knew her ;
She sustained a Tedious & Painfull Distemper And felt the Approaches of Death
With a Resingnation & Fortitude
Which Christian Piety could alone inspire.
In Gratitude to so Valuable a Wife
Hath caused to be erected.
Dorothy’s monument is not just a fine example of its type, carved by an illustrious sculptor of the day, it is an illustration of how rich people were commemorated in upper class society of the 18th century. The same words could be used of many a woman, dying far too young of birth trauma or untreatable disease.
BJT 2020. Photo by RT.
An Invitation to Socially-distanced Gardening
Nature has not been on hold during the past weeks and weeds are flourishing in the churchyard. We hope to restart our monthly gardening sessions in July. We invite anybody interested to come along for some weeding and tidying - but please remember to keep a safe distance from each other and bring your own tools. We will be posting dates on the website soon.
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