Christopher Herbert undertook a major programme of research for
his Ph.D at the University
of Leicester relating to Easter Sepulchres in English churches.
Easter Sepulchres were temporary structures of wood and cloth,
designed to receive the cross or a host on Good Friday. An enactment
of the resurrection scene from the Gospels then took place on Easter
Day. Liturgical instructions concerning Easter Sepulchres and the
associated Easter rite were issued as part of the Synod of Winchester
in circa 973 AD, but the liturgies developed in various ways subsequently.
It has been believed since the late 18th and early 19th centuries
that permanent Easter sepulchres were quite common in England. Christopher
Herbert's more recent and highly detailed research counters this
view. In the course of his research he developed a database of almost
900 structures in churches across England, including that at Hawton,
Notts, pictured right. He believes that many of the structures described
as permanent Easter Sepulchres have been incorrectly defined, and
that this has led to serious misunderstandings about religious life
in late mediaeval England. The story of how the concept of permanent
Easter Sepulchres entered the thinking of antiquarians and later
historians is a fascinating one.
Christopher Herbert continues his research into rites and practices
associated with Easter and with the Resurrection.
He would be delighted to hear from anyone concerning this area.