Within the churchyard of St John the Baptist church in Keele, you will find a wonderful headstone from the 18th century that features Memento Mori in writing and verse.
It was common in the 14th to 18th centuries to feature symbols and or writings of Memento Mori upon ones final rest place. Back then, it was a lot easier to be fatally struck down with a disease or ill health and therefore, Memento Mori served as a reminder to all that death could arrive within the hour, so make the most of it. Couple this with religion, people would do everything in their power to ensure they would reach Heaven and that also meant placing final reminders upon their headstone as a reminder to all who would see.
Memento Mori Symbolism
I absolutely adore the art of ‘Memento Mori‘ and I do honestly think that this is an art form that is lost to us today. I remember being informed by someone older when I first started exploring graveyards that a skull and crossbones either represented a pirate if near to the coast or someone who had died of the plague. I believed this for years, but it’s not true. A skull and crossbones is a reminder of what we will become, so live life for today. To view other posts regarding the symbolism of ‘Memento Mori’, please see below.
Graveyard Mortality Symbols – A lot of images from Edinburgh’s St Cuthbert’s graveyard. Simply the best place to visit to see Memento Mori headstones.
Irish Cadaver Stones – The wealthy reminders of Memento Mori
The Dead do Speak – Want to know more about Memento Mori and how the dead speak to us from beyond the grave?
Memento Mori in Verse
As you can see from the headstone below, all of the deceased lived very short lives, so the Memento Mori verse is very appropriate.
Keep Death and Judgement always in your Eye;
None are fit to live, who are not fit do die;
Make use of present time, because you must
Take up your Lodging shortly in the Dust.
Tis dreadful to behold the setting Sun,
And Night approaching ere your Work be done.
Verses on Headstones
There are some other interesting headstones that can’t be ignored from the churchyard in Keele. The first features a verse for Jane who died in the year 1789 from child birth at the age of 39 years old. This is one headstone that makes you reflect with emotion how hard it was centuries ago. In regards to the figure blowing a trumpet, I have provided my friend The Mystic Masque’s thoughts, who originally posted a photograph of this headstone and I just had to take a look myself.
This grave also features a Wildman of the Woods aka John the Baptist caricature, or that what it seems to be, on the head of the grave, the church is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist
The Pains of Child bed over powered me
I did submit to Death my life you see
As my Greater through his heavenly Love
Took me to rest with blessed Saints Above
Finally, this headstone has a beautiful verse, which is sadly for a child.
Sweet innocency’s form lies here,
Lamented by its Parents dear;
Who hope at last in endless Joy,
To Meet again their lovely Boy.