Thursday, 25 March 2010

A triumph of Death

I've seen some gruesome gothic monuments in my time but this is easily the most spectacularly grim. It's the Memorial to Lady Elizabeth Nightingale to be found in one of the side chapels of Westminster Abbey. The Abbey was definitely one of the highlights of my trip to London - although the £15 entrance fee was something of a shock (what was that about 'not turning my Father's house into a marketplace'?). And this grotesque monument was one of the highlights of the Abbey.

What you see is a life-size representation of Lord Nightingale trying to ward off an equally er... death-size... Death as his wife dies in his arms. All in marble, of course, and superbly executed. I forgot to take a note of the date, but 18th century. The postcard - you're not allowed to take your own photos in the Abbey despite the entrance fee - doesn't quite do justice to the drama of the piece. Lord Nightingale's horror and despair are palpable and so is the loathsome eagerness of Death - all rotting rags and yellowing bones - as he leaps out and aims his spear at the dying woman. It's just extraordinary.

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