What is a transi?
A transi is a recumbant (gisant or lying down) sculpture of a corpse such as that above. They are characteristic of late medieval northern Europe and were typically carved in stone, although wooden ones were not unknown. There are 38 of these transis in England and 3 in Wales, some are single transi such as the one above which can be found in St. Andrew's Church, Feniton, Devon, whilst a few are tiered (there is an example of this style lower down the page which can be found at the Fitzalan Chapel in Arundel Castle). Carved cadavers were a specific form of after-life memorial for members of the wealthy land owning classes and were related to Roman Catholic belief in purgatory; many senior clerics (bishops and archbisops) also chose to be memorialised in this way.
Carved cadaver memorials are totally amazing. They are largely anatomically correct, which given the time period in which they were carved, is astonishing. They were typically painted to look almost life-like with flesh coloured skin, and some even had red and blue veins. Modern day sculptors who have seen these
carvings say that the sculptors would have needed to look closely at a physical body for them to be so life-like. Art Historians however, think they were carved from pictures in pattern books, but our one will be carved from observations.
The photograph here shows how fantastically detailed some of these transis are. This is the hand of the carved cadaver to John Fitzalan who died in 1435; his hand is so detailed you can make out carved bonesand veins.
There is some research on these carvings, but on the whole they are a hidden part of the English and Welsh heritage. This project hopes to start putting these fabulous late-medieval sculptures back on the map, and you can help us!
How much is the project looking to raise?
The project is looking to raise at least £2,000
Where will be money go?
The £2,000 will pay for the purchase and transporation of a large piece of seasoned wood that sculptor Eleanor Crook will carve in the style of a late-medieval cadaver memorial; Eleanor is not charging for her time. The piece of wood will be over 6' in length and hence bulky and heavy so will need a van to get it to Eleanor's workshop.
The piece of wood will cost around £1700, and the transport to Eleanor's studio, around £300
Who is working with Eleanor on the project?
Dr Christina Welch has been researching carved cadaver memorials in England and has presented at several national and international conferences on the topic, written several articles on them, and set up a website dedicted to them. Christina will be publishing a book on them too in due course, with a chapter from Eleanor on carving this transi.publishing a book on them too in due course, with a chapter from Eleanor on carving this transi.
What will happen to the transi after it is carved?
Christina and Eleanor are in talks about a touring exhibition on carved cadaver memorials, with this transi (nicknamed Guy the gaunt) as a centrepiece, so any money raised over the £2000 will go towards the cost of transporting him to various locations, and to the production of exhibtion boards.Guy will be owned by Christina and Eleanor who will ensure he is appropriately exhibited, with all contributors to the project properly thanked.
Who did the promotional film?
The cameraman was Anthony James Welch, and he did all the shooting and editing for free. He will be helping with the final DVD, and shot footage at Winchester Cathedral, St Vigor Church in Fulbourn, the Church of St. Mary the Virgin at Ewelme, and the Church of St. John the Baptist at Keyston (below). For more information on Anthony see https://www.youtube.com/user/AntandREC
Where can I get more information?
For more information on the Carved Cadaver memorials please visit http://carvedcadavers.wix.com/eccm
For more information on Eleanor Crook please visit http://www.eleanorcrook.com/
To contact Dr Christina Welch please e-mail [email protected]