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Gothic royal tombs of Northern Europe

Continuity of power

Royal burial, like coronation and other highly structured medieval rituals, was indispensable for maintaining the social and political order - it expressed and ensured the transference and continuity of power. The most significant ceremonies in the life of a monarch - the beginning and the end of his rule - coronation and funeral - were inseparably linked, and this link was manifested via royal tombs where the sovereigns were often represented in their coronation vestments with full regalia.

Dressed up in ceremonial apparel the kings and queens repose in a state of constant vigilance - best prepared to meet the Lord in his glory at the end of time. Also the canopy enshrouding the effigy, the token of the Heavenly Jerusalem, alludes to the promise of perpetual bliss. Arched and gabled canopies, richly adorned with pinnacles, phials and floral carving, shared the decorative virtues of architectural decoration with church portals. The appropriation of a canopy for a royal tomb emphasised its liminal nature as a symbolic celestial gate, the threshold marking out the boundary between the earthly and heavenly realm.

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