Creepy old graves & body snatching in Greyfriars’ graveyard

The last blog was about wee Bobby the dog and his loyalty to his master.  This was the lighter side to Edinburgh’s Grey friars’ graveyard. Now we move from a Disney movie to the Body Snatchers movies.  Grey friars cemetery started out life as a Franciscan herb garden for the infirmary that the monks ran from the middle ages.  The monastery was dissolved in 1559 and the garden was turned into a graveyard in 1561.  The oldest graves have a distinctly decrepit look. greyfriars skull 5x5 bw They seemed to like all kinds of variations on skulls and cross bones, possibly to make sure they remembered that death from disease, famine, or religious disagreement was always imminent.  Greyfriers grave 1 small This particular medieval monument would keep me on the straight and narrow .  greyfriars dark angel 5x7.jpgAnd even an angel keeps a skull on her knee in case you thought about sinning.  But the decorations are just the beginning.

There are some really creepy grave monuments like these; Greyfriars bw grave 5x7 small Here is a husband and wife united in death ; holding hands under that famous skull.greyfriars 17th cent grave small

Edinburgh had a progressive and excellent medical college.  The doctors and their students from the 18th century wanted to be able to dissect real bodies in order to learn anatomy.  The problem was that the surgeons were only allowed about 4 criminal bodies a year to dissect. The body demand created a new industry:  ‘Resurrection Men’  who sold the newly dead bodies and could get high prices for one. The rich started using mausoleums, vaults and table tombstones to deter these crafty tradesmen from lifting their beloved dead for an anatomy lesson.  Here is a table tombstone from the Greyfriars’s graveyard. Edinburgh greyfriars grave small Ironically, I believe this was the grave of a surgeon.  He knew how to keep those pesky body snatchers away.

In the 1820s in Edinburgh there were two men (Burke and Hare) who decided to cut out the undertakers and started to murder people by smothering them while compressing the victim’s chest.  In one year they sold 20 bodies to Edinburgh’s doctors before they were caught. But all good things eventually comes to an end.  The government in the United Kingdom passed the Anatomy Act of 1832.  Now bodies of unclaimed paupers were  confiscated by the government and disbursed to licensed  doctors only. The grave robbing trade was dead.

I liked this gravestone; short and to the point; Edinburgh greyfriars grave stone small I think this would be the perfect place for a Halloween party or a seance .

Now we see both sides of this historic graveyard; the sweetness of loyal Bobby the dog and the sadness of death and grave robbers.

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