Monday, 8 August 2011


For the second time in my life, I was bimbling through the Blackdown Hills in a Moggy.

We were coming home from Devon, and the traffic on the M5 was heavy. And it was a good day for bimbling. So we headed eastward through Culmstock and Hemyock, along narrow lanes with high hedges that sometimes brushed the passenger window and set the aerial wobbling dangerously.

Beyond Churchinford, I saw a church tower among the trees, near a hilltop. It looked vaguely and unexpectedly Italianate, and very inviting. We pulled over. "I'm just going to detour up there," I told Katie, who had been doing a pretty good job at navigating by our tatty road atlas, for someone who loathes the job; "For who knows if we shall ever come this way again."

It was the church of St Mary's, at Buckland St Mary, and it was built in the 19th century. And I was glad we'd turned aside.

Most unexpected, and indeed startling, was this memorial to Madalena Louise Lance and her infant son, who both died shortly after his birth in 1839. The superscription reads In memory of one much beloved who departed this life clinging entirely to her Saviour as her only hope. And below her run the words I believe in the resurrection of the dead.

...I recall a former missionary telling us at school that Africans use wooden crosses on their graves to facilitate their picking them up and carrying them on Judgement Day. This very literal sense of a corporeal resurrection came to mind when I saw this monument; it reminded me of a time when my own faith was unshakeable and unquestioning...

Phil Draper (ChurchCrawler) adds: "The new 'Somerset North and Bristol' Pevsner is due out next month, and the South Somerset volume is also under revison for a new edition
The new information added... says this monument is unique in England, and is based on a similar theme at a church in Switzerland. Interestingly though there are two other memorials in Somerset where a man is shown climbing out of his coffin (Brent Knoll - in a panel below the main monument), and most famously at Rodney Stoke where the shrouded deceased is the main figure sitting up in his sarcophagus."


  1. The wooden crosses sound like a good idea to me. I had someone explain to me why cremations were so rare in France; you need your body to get resurrected. Not that everyone practises, but it's best to be on the safe side when the day of judgement comes.

    What an incredible find. She's got her baby with her. I wonder if they died in childbirth?

  2. Oooops! when I saw this photograph a few days ago I thought what a wonderful pile of bit, wonder who did that!

    My brain was too busy wondering how much longer your navigator would continue to bimble along with you on these trips. I head off at right angles at the first sign of traffic build up even without a map.

  3. I don't know whether I am deeply disturbed or moved by that image. (*Very* lovely photo, too - the light!)
    And the baby! The baby!
    On reflection I am both disturbed and moved which, I suppose, indicates how deliciously succesful the image is.
    That kind of art rather spooks me however. I'm sure I would have jumped.

    Speaking of spooky: Richard Beard has recently written a novel touching on resurrection, and it will soon be very widely available both from online booksellers and shops.

  4. I'd no idea anything so literal was to be found in stone. Unearthly.

    If you're turning to a lazarene mood, this might be a good time to catch up on Dennis Potter's 'Cold Lazarus'

  5. I was thinking something similar the other day, Anji; the difference between animal, vegetable and mineral is not much more (if anything more)than a rearrangement of similar molecules. Like in the Rubaiyat...

    For I remember stopping by the way
    To watch a Potter thumping his wet Clay:
    And with its all-obliterated Tongue
    It murmur'd—“Gently, Brother, gently, pray!”

    I added a bit more info; they both died shortly after the birth, apparently.

    When I first got a vehicle, I avoided motorways and even A roads as much as possible, Caroline. It meant it took for ever to get anywhere, of course, but it was still quicker than the bicycle I'd been used to up till then...

    I had similar responses, Federay; a powerful recollection of my own feelings about God and death, both generally and as it had affected me, at one time. The landscape here was also similar to the place we lived at that time...

    Yes, Richard has, hasn't he? I understand that it will soon be available in all good bookshops, too! 'Lazarus Is Dead', you say?

    Thanks, Suzzy. I'll give that a looking-at.