The Romance of Tomb Effigies

I’ve just realised something – I’m an effigy junkie. I’ve been visiting churches for as long as I can remember, fascinated by the architecture and the history, but it only dawned on me at the weekend, how much I’m drawn to the effigies.

It was really brought home to me, when I visited Paulerspury (Northamptonshire, just off the A5) church on Saturday. There, in the church dedicated to St James the Great, tucked in to one side of the altar, is a rare wooden tomb effigy of a knight and his wife, dating to around 1329. The description said that it is Laurence de Paveley and his wife.

Try as I might, I couldn’t get a photo of the whole effigy – I’d have needed a step-ladder – but never mind – it was the lady’s face that had me entranced.

Just look at that expression. She’s quite a beauty, don’t you think? And her eyes are open aren’t they?

What do you think she’s supposed to be looking at?

And would you say that her husband’s eyes are open or closed? I’m not sure.

I’m guessing that these were originally painted, although there’s nothing left of that to see now.

If you’re at all interested in the history of costume (as I am), then this is the sort of reference that I’d imagine is invaluable. You can make out quite clearly what they’re wearing.

Well, I’m just fascinated by these people. It makes my mind go off in all directions, thinking about what they were like in life. How did the carpenter decide what to carve. How well did he know them in life – if at all? Were they meant to be life-like?

So many questions, and no answers other than what your mind can invent.

The biggest question I have about this particular tomb is, why does the lady have such an incredibly long neck?

Can’t really have been that long do you think?


So, there they are – lying side by side for nearly seven hundred years, through plague, civil wars, industrialisation, immense social change – unchanged.

I hope they were happy together in life. And I really wish I could decide what she’s thinking about.

For me, there’s something enormously romantic about these images. I think I might go on an effigy quest at some stage and see how many others I can find to feed my imagination.



Author: Anny

English countryside, old places, making art.

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