Whilst researching the coffin grave of George and Kitty Smith, which is a marvelous example of Memento Mori from St Aidan’s Church in Billinge, I came across a wonderful legend that has to be repeated here. Of course if you’re a regular reader, you will know that this beautiful winged skull with a snake eating its own tail, has a different meaning, but let’s get lost in a romantic tale of love and death. I will also reveal George and Kitty Smith’s message from beyond the grave to YOU.
Billinge Legend of George and Kitty Smith
One day in 1720, Kitty Smith was bitten by a snake upon Billinge Hill and lost her life. George Smith succumbed to grief over losing his Kitty and he took his own life following her to the grave with a broken heart. Over the centuries, the legend has been altered and sometimes you will hear that it was George Smith who was bitten by a snake and died, whilst taking a break from his work in the quarry. Kitty Smith subsequently lost her life and the grave of George Smith was re-opened for them to be re-united in death.
Isn’t this such a lovely example of eternal love that has lasted centuries? It’s a wonderful legend that has the making of an excellent tale of Gothic horror.
Coffin Tomb at St Aidan’s Church in Billinge
This coffin shaped tomb has the date of 1720 and a lot of the writing is illegible apart from the words ‘George & Kitty Smith‘. It’s beautiful how a legend has developed and I’m not surprised, because this particular coffin tomb is striking. There are no other examples of memento mori in the graveyard of St Aidan’s Church in Billinge, so it’s no wonder the tomb of George and Kitty Smith has attracted so much attention.
Memento Mori in Billinge
Memento Mori in Latin means Remember that YOU will die and I’m guessing that considering this is the only example of memento mori in the graveyard, George and Kitty Smith must have been wealthy to afford an ever lasting reminder. Their message to the living is…
No matter what our status is in life, we all receive DEATH and our souls will be resurrected in the afterlife.
Broken down, each individual symbol is listed below together with its meaning.
Winged Skull Meaning
- The skull represents death that comes to us all and the wings represent the ascent to Heaven or the afterlife.
Ouroborus (Snake eating tail)
- A snake eating its own tail is called an ouroboros and is an ancient symbol for eternity and the cycle of life and death
Drapery or Curtain on Headstone
Above the winged skull motif you can see a curtain or drapery. Drapery seen on headstones usually depicts the veil between life and death and the crossing of that plane and to others it can symbolise God’s protection until Resurrection. Drapery remained a favourite symbol of the Victorians and is often seen covering urns.
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