St David’s: speaking stones and the limits of medicine

Off to St David’s to look at the cathedral and its collection of old tombs (and 3 concerts … and choral evensong …)

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This one has to be my favourite. It’s the tomb of a local doctor, Silvester. The inscription reads

SILVESTER MEDICUS IACET HIC EIUS RUINA MONSTRAT QUOD MORTI NON OBSISTIT MEDICINA

(Silvester the doctor lies here. His ruin shows that medicine cannot prevent death.)

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What local drama lies behind the word ‘ruin’ to describe his death, we can only speculate. The tomb is probably early to mid fourteenth century – could he have been a victim of the Black Death?

I like this one as well. It’s a bishop called Anselm, from the Pitt College medieval art and architecture site at http://www.medart.pitt.edu/image/England/St-Davids/Cathedral/Furnishings/StDv-cath-tomb-PG579-s.jpg (pity about ‘England’ in the URL but there you go … can’t fight all of the battles, all of the time ….)

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The inscription reads

PETRA PRECOR DIC SIC ANSELMUS EPISCOPUS EST HIC

(Stone, please say this: Anselm the bishop lies here)

The stone is expected to speak, and it has an identity: you speak directly to it and say ‘please’.

I was there on the only wet day of the week and the cathedral was full of people, most of whom had clearly come in out of the rain and were a bit bewildered by the building and its contents. How to explain the heritage of religion and belief in a post-religious age? Perhaps we worry too much about this, and place too high a value on ‘understanding’. If you visit south India, you will be welcomed into hundreds of little temples and shrines, and you will have no idea about the ‘meaning’ of worship there. It’s enough to be there, and to be welcomed.

 

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