A worn monument

At the back of the ambulatory in Lausanne Cathedral, in Switzerland, set into the floor, is this very old un-named memorial to someone who appears to have been a senior cleric, judging by his mitre hat and his staff.

It didn’t look to me as if it had always been inset into this particular bit of floor, and it seemed like a strange place to put it, anyway, all alone and jutting out into the circular walkway behind the altar.  But the most puzzling thing about it is the fact that it is so worn down that the facial features are completely smooth and well… featureless.

Lausanne slab

How could this have happened?  The feet of countless pilgrims over the centuries, you might say?  But why would they step on it, and not walk around it?  It’s someone’s grave, or at least their memorial, surely they deserved more respect than that, whoever they were.  And if that is indeed how it became worn it means that thousands of people must have trampled all over it when it was new and freshly carved and not yet worn down.  That would have been a lot harder to do when it wasn’t nearly as flattened as it is now, and considerably more disrespectful.  Even if it was set into a busy path, so you had to step over it and you couldn’t walk round it, you wouldn’t carelessly scuffle across the poor dead man’s face, would you?

If anyone has any other ideas about how this funeral sculpture might have become so worn down, and worn down so smoothly, I’d love to hear them.

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2 Comments

  1. Peter, I don’t know about this one in particular, but so often the memorials are touched for luck or a blessing. The shoe of the bronze statue of Saint Peter at the Cathédrale Saint Pierre in Poitiers is a bright gold because of this treatment. It could be that something like this has happened over the years.

    Reply
    • I thought about that, Dennis, but it’s usually a hand or a foot (or in one statue I saw, the genitals) that are rubbed for good luck. This monument is not just polished and a bit worn in a particular spot, it’s so worn down all over that that a fingertip explanation hardly seems plausible. It would be hard work rubbing off that amount of stone with a belt sander.

      Reply

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