Church Monuments Society

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Medieval Child Memorials: Myths and Mistakes



Online event

About this event

An event forming part of the Church Monuments Society’s ‘The Stories Monuments Tell’ series of free Spring online lectures 2022. Everybody welcome!

Medieval child memorials: myths and mistakes: Dr Sophie Oosterwijk FSA

There is a tenacious belief that monuments to children did not exist in the medieval period because high child mortality rates left parents resigned or even indifferent to losing offspring. Such claims have been convincingly dismissed by scholars, however. For one thing, there is plenty of evidence that parents did mourn deceased children. And for another, there are numerous example of medieval children being commemorated and memorialised. Yet memorials are not necessarily proof of affection and some of these ‘child tombs’ are not what they are claimed to be, having become the focus of local legend and misinterpretation over time. This talk will look at some well-known and lesser-known monuments, from the presumed ‘Boy Bishop’ in Salisbury Cathedral and the dubious ‘Stanley Boy’ in Elford (Staffordshire) to examples on the Continent.

Dr Sophie Oosterwijk FSA was born in Gouda (Netherlands) and obtained an MA in English Literature at Leiden University and then an MA in Medieval Studies at York. Her PhD thesis in Art History at Leicester focused on the presentation of the infant in medieval culture, while the subject of her PhD at Leiden was the Dance of Death in text and image in late-medieval England. She has taught at the universities of St Andrews, Leicester and Manchester, and worked as a researcher at Utrecht University. She has published widely and is a free-lance researcher and lecturer for various organisations. Sophie has long been an active member of the Church Monuments Society, including many years as Editor of the journal Church Monuments.


Event Information

This online talk is FREE to all and will take place on Zoom. Places must be booked via Eventbrite – go to to register. This is one of a series of online talks delivered by the Church Monuments Society for Spring 2022. For details of the others, go to our Events pages at


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