Michael Rimmer (2019) Silver and Guilt: The Cadaver Tomb of John Baret of Bury St Edmunds, Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 172:1, 131-154, DOI: 10.1080/00681288.2019.1642013
John Baret of Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, died in 1467. A wealthy and well-connected merchant, he left what may well be the longest and most personally revealing will of 15th-century England. His cadaver tomb (erected by 1463) and chantry ceiling survive in his parish church of St Mary’s, Bury St Edmunds. The design of John Baret’s tomb is unusual. In most surviving English sculpted cadaver monuments, an image of the deceased in life tops the tomb, and a carving of them as a corpse is placed below, usually within some form of cage structure. John Baret’s memorial inverts this pattern. His sculpted, full-sized cadaver occupies the top of the tomb, while the image of Baret in life is much smaller, carved only in low relief and positioned low down. Similarly, the tomb inscriptions stress Baret’s sinfulness and invite prayer for his soul, but without highlighting his worldly achievements or status. Baret’s tomb thus emphasises death, unworthiness and his status as a sinner. This article considers how the wills of John Baret and his associates may provide an explanation for the unusual design of his cadaver tomb.
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