Cranmer’s prayer book of 1549 calls for the priest to turn to the corpse at the moment of its committal to the ground and address it directly: ‘I commend thy soule to God the father almighty and thy body to the ground, earth to earth, asshes to asshes, dust to dust’ (Duffy 1992). The dead and the living were understood to interact with each other through action — works of charity and the performance of deathbed commissions — and through speech in prayer. This process was evisaged in a world in which it was impossible to escape the physicality of death: heads rotted on city gates, criminals dangled from gibbets till they fell apart, and even the tombs of the godly might show their imagined fate with a sculpture of their own decomposition carved on a shelf beneath the more serene effigy above.
KeywordsDead Body Dark Place Protestant Work Ethic Sexual Revolution Funeral Rite
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