Framing the Family: Narrative and Representation in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods

By Rosalynn Voaden; Diane Wolfthal | Go to book overview

CONSTRUCTING FAMILY MEMORY:
THREE ENGLISH FUNERAL MONUMENTS AND
PATRIARCHY IN THE EARLY MODERN PERIOD

M. BRYAN CURD

In the East Anglian port town of King's Lynn, three seventeenth-century stone funeral monuments hang in the chancel of St. Nicholas' Chapel-of-Ease. These post-Reformation monuments commemorate family through sculpted images, heraldic signs, and textual inscriptions that are set within an architectural framework. Their elaborate and colorful polychromy form a striking contrast to the plain surroundings imposed by mid-sixteenth-century Protestant reformers who stripped churches of representations of Roman Catholic saints, substituted clear glass windows for stained glass, and whitewashed decorated walls.1

Each of the three monuments was designed to proclaim the importance of a parish family and offer a model of a dutiful father, exemplary civil servant, and pious Christian. This emphasis on the virtuous family and the patriarchal line, which were important to church and state as well as to the individual family, helped assure the safety of the two earlier monuments (Figs. 1–2). The Clarck and Snelling monuments (c. 1605, 1623) survived both the continuing heated debate in the seventeenth century among Catholics, Anglicans, and Puritans about the appropriateness of figurai representations in churches and periods of

I would like to thank Corine Schleif for her comments on an earlier draft of this paper. I am particularly grateful to Diane Wolfthal for suggesting bibliography, commenting on several drafts, and encouraging this project

1 Elizabeth James and Michael Begley, St. Nicholas' Chapel: King's Lynn, Norfolk (London: The Churches Conservation Trust, 2000), 8. St. Nicholas' Chapel was restored in 1904 to an approximation of its appearance in 1550, just after the Reformation converted the country's religion from Roman Catholic to Church of England; see also Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion In England 1400–1580 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992) for a discussion of sixteenth-century iconoclasm.

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