Church Monuments Society

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All Hallows Lecture 2023: Late Medieval Charnel and Monuments



Online lecture

Bone and Stone for the Many and Few: Charnel and Associated Individual Monuments in Late Medieval England 

In late medieval England, historic human remains were often disturbed during ongoing burial in crowded churchyards. While it was initially pragmatic to rebury these remains ad hoc, 1274AD’s papal endorsement of purgatory imbued charnel with new theological symbolism. This led to the ‘charnel chapel’ developing as a specific form of communal chantry chapel, which was both pragmatic and theologically significant. By housing disarticulated lay remains in dedicated crypts with associated altars, charnel chapels curated both bodily and spiritual remains – aiding the souls of the dead through purgatory, while safeguarding their bones ahead of the resurrection. Not all those destined for the charnel house were disarticulated and anonymous, however. Several such chapels also contained the charnel-associated burials and monuments of named high status individuals. This talk will begin by providing an introduction to charnelling in late medieval England, exploring how and why the dead were stored and curated in this way. Following this, attention will turn to why some high status individuals sought specific association with charnel in death, and what more this might tell us about the significance of charnel and charnelling in late medieval England.

Note: Please be advised that this presentation will include images of historic human skeletal remains.

Thomas J. Farrow is studying for a PhD at the University of Liverpool that is attached to the UKRI ‘The Human Remains’ project. His doctoral research deals with charnelling in postmedieval England, while his previous and forthcoming publications concern charnelling and adjacent practices in late medieval and early modern England, and postmedieval Europe.


This lecture is part of our All Hallows 2023 autumn series of lectures. For details of the rest of the series, and our other events, go to .

Event Information

This online talk is FREE to all and will take place on Zoom. Places must be booked via Eventbrite at This is one of a series of online talks delivered by the Church Monuments Society for Autumn 2023.

JOINING INSTRUCTIONS: You should receive a link from Eventbrite two days before the event, two hours before the event, and just as the event begins. If you have not received the link, contact us via Eventbrite so we can try to resolve this.


Guidelines and handy Zoom hints

Before the event:

• Please ensure you have already downloaded and installed Zoom to the device you wish to use. Read their guide if you are unsure about how to do this ( )

• Make sure you have registered via Eventbrite using your correct email address (or you will not receive the joining instructions).

• We will email the access link to you via Eventbrite shortly before the event begins.

• Please ensure that Eventbrite is on your safe-senders list and check your Spam/Junk inbox for our communications if you cannot see them.


During the webinar:

• Please remain muted throughout.

• The talk will last approximately 45 minutes and will be followed by questions.

• You are welcome to use the Chat box to contact panellists.

• Send formal questions for the speaker using the Q&A function so that they are easily identifiable. These can then be put to the speaker by one of our event coordinators.

• The session may be recorded by the Church Monuments Society. Screenshots and/or recording by participants is not permitted for copyright reasons.

• The host can remove attendees from the webinar.

• If you experience technical difficulties, contact panellists using the chat function. We will do our best to help.

• Enjoy the talk!

Image: Charnel in the crypt of Holy Trinity Church, Rothwell, Northamptonshire. Photographed by S. Randall, Desborough, c.1900-1910 – speaker’s collection.