Friday, 24 October 2014

The Black Death

Today we're back at St Ed's in Acle to take a look at another
of it's treasures - the Graffito!
Mind the steps as you enter.
The old Saxon round tower with Norman additions.
 With the ebola virus rampaging throughout parts of Africa
and beyond it doesn't somehow take too much
imagination to picture how it must have been
in mediaeval Europe during the time of the plague.
Suspicion of strangers, panic in the hearts of the
people and fear on the faces of all lest it should
come calling and step over the threshold into their homes.
Not much to look at but a powerful message nonetheless.
 Acle was one such place touched by the pestilence
in the year 1349 because a message was recently discovered
written on the north wall which had been hidden for
centuries by plaster.  It read as follows:
Oh lamentable death, how many dost thou cast into the pit!
Anon the infants fade away, and of the aged death makes an end.
Now these, now those, thou ravagest, O death on every side;
Those that wear horns or veils, fate spareth not.
Therefore, while in the world the brute beast plague rages hour by hour,
With prayer and with remembrance deplore death's deadliness.

 No one knows who wrote the Latin inscription.
It may have been the Parish Priest holed up in the church
saying masses for the dead while all around the plague rampaged
sparing no one, high or low.

I bet my bum looks big in this.
 The use of the words "horns and veils" in the inscription
is thought to refer not to sinners and the righteous
but to lay and religious women as horned headdresses
were very popular in the middle years of the 14th century.
And on that cheerful note I shall leave you.
I must go and look for my paint spray can - you
never know when you might want to leave the odd
few words on the north wall!
Although I think in similar circumstances I'd
keep it short - "Damn and blast".

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