Thursday, October 25, 2012

Question from Stacey - Separate heart burial practice

Why with some kings & queens are their hearts buried in a different spot than their bodies are?

[We've had some other threads on specific people having their heart buried separately, but I don't think the practice in general has been discussed much. - Lara]


Marilyn R said...

I suppose some sort of modern parallel can be loosely drawn with the remains exhumed earlier this year, possibly of Richard III. The BBC News has announced today that if they are found to be Richard’s bones they will be buried in Leicester, but there are other contenders for the honour, principally York Minster and Westminster Abbey - York through his association with the North of England, and Westminster because his wife rests there.

Part of the reason for a separate heart, and sometimes entrails, burial was that the organs were removed during embalming and, liable to decompose rapidly, were sometimes buried in a prominent place nearby. Eleanor of Castile, the wife of Edward I, is buried in Westminster Abbey, but we have a replica tomb in Lincoln Cathedral for her entrails, because she died not far away at Harby while travelling south to London. Although it was only her entrails, it would have been seen as an honour for the Cathedral. King Edward himself wanted his embalmed heart to be buried in the Holy Land and his bones cleaned of flesh and carried into battle against the Scots. It didn’t happen, and he was buried in Westminster Abbey.

I haven’t read this book/article – and there is something else on the same lines, but its details escape me:
Weiss-Krejci, Estella
2010‚ Heart burial in medieval and early post-medieval central Europe’. In Body Parts and Bodies Whole, pp. 119-134. Katharina Rebay-Salisbury, Marie Louise Stig Sorensen and Jessica Hughes (eds.). Studies in Funerary Archaeology 5.

shtove said...

Marilyn, that article is linked in PDF form in the article on Heart Burial at ... Wikipedia.

LOL! Amazing what a google "paste" search can find in seconds.

I haven't read it yet, but it looks informative.

I've come across heart burials of Tudor soldiers from the nobility who died abroad, but never really understood the practice.

My impression is that the heart was cut out and embalmed for transporation home, and then entombed - whether as a token of the body or a real item for Christian resurrection I have no idea.

Hopefully that article explains the practical and religious concerns.

Thanks for the reference.

Marilyn R said...

Shtove – thanks for locating the article, it's well worth the read.Good old Wikipedia! The one I was trying to remember is mentioned several times and was by Westerhof, D in 2008, ‘Death and the Noble Body in Medieval England’.

Stacey – hope this helps.