In a digital, mobile and secular society there are so many ways open to us to remember our loved ones or to commemorate someone valued by a community. We may have photographs, we may have movies in one format or another, and we may even have a voice recorded.
A dedicated member of a congregation may be remembered in glass or in a churchyard or park bench that invites passers-by to pause and reflect. What this book does is invite the reader to reflect on the function of personal memorials in churches in the 21st century.
The authors are right to raise the questions. Should every church have its own miniature ‘Poets’ Corner’? The authors think so and lament the red tape that they feel drives people away from remembering lives in this particular way: italic or humanist script carved in stone. A cautious approach to the potential proliferation of memorials in the aftermath of global conflicts is blamed for the low demand for wall tablets and ledger stones. Tastes change – computers blunt awareness of the beauty of calligraphy.
A mobile population has a different relationship with the communities it passes through more transiently than life itself. So what or who is to be remembered and why? The book is copiously illustrated with historic examples, many of the remembered lives being powerful or influential people or the ‘celebrities’ of an earlier age. There are also many fine examples from the Cardozo Kindersley Workshop.
In addition to the comprehensive listing of the offices of the Diocesan Advisory Committees in England, the authors should mention Memorials by Artists, The Lettering and Commemorative Arts Trust or the Calligraphy & Lettering Arts Society as sources of inspiration. The arguments are stronger if memorials are perceived as an artistic enhancement of a church building that could be commissioned in a positive way.
The Church Buildings Council’ guidance for parishes on commissioning new art is indeed a call for greater beauty in our churches – and tablets such as those illustrated will qualify alongside stained glass, etched glass, textiles and examples of other arts.
Remembered Lives- Personal Memorials in Churches is published by Cambridge University Press, price £12
Available to order directly from the Cardozo Kindersley Workshop - www.kindersleyworkshop.com