Church Monuments Society


‘Reading’ Damage and Design in British and Irish Cadaver Sculptures



Online event

Part of the April-May 2021 mini-series of free lectures providing an introduction to the Church Monuments Society: a talk discussing the history of these unusual Church monuments, by Dr Christina Welch, University of Winchester.

This talk will explore two specific aspects of late medieval and early modern British and Irish cadaver sculptures, namely damage and design. Although the design elements of carved cadavers, such as anatomy, and presence or absence of creepy-crawlies, are clearly deliberate, so too was some of the damage evident today. However, much of the damage to these unusual items post-dates their manufacture; given that they have survived the iconoclasms of the Reformation and Civil War, as well as in some cases around half a century of general wear and tear, perhaps this is unsurprising. Yet the post-manufacture damage can, in many cases, tell us a good deal about the long history of these sculptures. Commissioned to show the social elite (wealthy land-owners, prosperous merchants, and high ranking clerics) in a humbled state as naked, emaciated and dead or dying, the sculptures perhaps raise as many questions as any scholarly exploration of them can seek to answer.

The talk will include references to the cadaver sculptures located in England (at Canterbury, Dursley, Ely, Exeter, Flamborough, Keyston, North Curry, Paignton, Tewkesbury, Winchester, Wollaton), Wales (at Llandaff & Tenby), Scotland (at Ardchatten), and Ireland (at Beaulieu, Drogheda, Stamullen & Waterford).

Dr Christina Welch is a Reader in Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Winchester, where as well as teaching religion at undergraduate level, she leads a Masters degree by distance learning, on Death, Religion and Culture. Her interest in death as a subject area extends to exploring Victorian graveyards in the UK, and Jewish and colonial and post-colonial-era memorials in the Anglo-Caribbean. As an interdisciplinary scholar she enjoys working collaboratively but only with those who can cope with her various neurodiversities.

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