• Skull boxes

    Author(s):
    Maura Coughlin (see profile)
    Date:
    2016
    Subject(s):
    19th century, Death, Material culture
    Item Type:
    Article
    Tag(s):
    Ossuary, exhumation, skull box, reliquary
    Permanent URL:
    http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/M69Z2B
    Abstract:
    Skull boxes that both memorialized a dead individual and displayed the deceased person’s skull were made in Brittany from the eighteenth century to about 1900. In Breton churchyards, prior to the First World War, the ossuary, or charnel house (located in the churchyard or attached to the church), was the receptacle of bones of the dead taken from graves in the crowded churchyard. Because of very limited consecrated ground, this might happen as soon as five years after the initial burial. After a grave was exhumed, the skull was separated from the other bones and put in a wooden box shaped like a peaked-roof house; this was painted (by travelling artisans or cemetery workers) with the name of the dead and dates of life and age at death. The contained skull remained partially visible through a heart-shaped opening. The box was then placed in the church or in an ossuary niche where it functioned as a miniature tomb that both memorialized the departed individual and displayed the material remains of the deceased...
    Metadata:
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    2 years ago
    License:
    All Rights Reserved
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