The sleep of the just.
Death and sleep, sleep and death. Is one just a vast version of the other? Do just people sleep better? And do they have a more comfortable death as a result of being just in life?
The mystery of what happens when we leave this world rises up to haunt us when we are unable to avoid it. And the art of the dead decorates every church in the land. We think nothing of it; we do not give it a second thought. Nevertheless, churches remain great echoing necrostic galleries to this form of art, which endures as an expression of bafflement in the face of Eternity herself.
One such gallery towers over Salisbury and has done for more than 900 years. Salisbury Cathedral is a magnificent mausoleic creative space where man has daubed his speculations, his dreams and nightmares, about the form that most final sleep might take.
It has its usual ghastly mediaeval cadavers and stalwart alabaster knights; but like many other churches, it is the strange bas-reliefs of the 17th century which retain the most marked ability to unsettle us.
Let me show you what I mean.
There is not enough historical detail to tell her story, just dry dates and one unsettling phrase regarding her will. At 21 in 1577, she married a Buckinghamshire lad, John Davy, and after his death wed Jasper Moore who was knighted in 1603. When Moore died it was discovered he had made several alterations to her will in his favour, each more generous than the last.
But Katherine’s own will is shrouded in mystery. Calendar of State papers of the time contain a letter which reads: “Lady Mompesson is dead, and has left Edward Nicholas and his father trustees to her strange will, made much to the prejudice of her husband.”
Whatever the reason, she cannot sleep. Her magnificent pillared monument where she sleeps next to her husband has her staring, insomniac, at the ceiling. I have not seen staring sleepers like this, and with my 21st century brain draw the conclusion that the sleep of the just evaded her.
But maybe she and her husband are just very ready indeed for the second coming.