Monument Conundrum

THE LOCATION
The east wall, Greyfriars’ Churchyard, Edinburgh, Scotland. The name ‘Greyfriars’ comes from the color of the habit worn by the Franciscan monks who established the sacred ground in the 15th century.

THE LANDSCAPE
The churchyard consists of four courtyards: lower, upper, southern and western. The graveyard has a wide south slope and a narrow north slope. A significant change in the ground level (the largest slope ratio is up to 10%) required a retaining wall to be built to support the soil on the upper level of the graveyard.

THE MONUMENTS
This post makes reference to three neighbouring monuments on the east wall from north to south; Alexander Bethune, Sir Robert Dennestoun, and Alexander Miller.

edinboroughandbeyond

The dedication on the monument to Sir Robert Dennestoun translated from Latin reads; Behold, the world possesseth nothing permanent. Sir Robert Dennestoun lies under this tomb. He was formerly the King’s ambassador; and for thirty years, conservator of the Scottish privileges in Holland. He was also sent to, and behaved with glory, among English and Spaniards; true to his country; counsellor to his Prince; and, being full of days, having lived 78 years, he now liveth in the heavens.

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HISTORICAL PHOTOGRAPHS FROM THE 19TH CENTURY
The photographs circa 1848 are from the photography studio of Hill and Adamson. David Octavius Hill was a famous painter who partnered with Robert Adamson to create Scotland’s first photographic studio where they produced calotype negatives.

The Dennestoun monument consists of a stone inscription marker flanked by Corinthian columns surmounted by a tablet containing arms terminating with a horse’s head in a broken pediment.

nat gall2

1848 Greyfriars_kirkyard

nat gall

Note that a fence on the left side of the images is mounted atop a retaining wall.

CURRENT STATUS 
The fence and retaining wall no longer exist. An altar base has appeared on both the Dennestoun and Miller monuments.

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CONUNDRUM 

  • When the retaining wall was built were large amounts of soil dumped, raising the level and concealing the altar base of the monuments on the higher level?
  • When the fence and wall were removed was the soil excavated to reveal the altar bases?

That seems likely when comparing the images below; the current status shows the Dennestoun and Miller monuments (middle and right) are at the same relative level as they were in the 1840s.

However…

  • The Bethune monument is not sitting at the same height relative to the other monuments.
  • The retaining wall and fence as seen in the image below are on the left side of the Bethune monument, in contradiction to other historical images that show the wall and fence to the left of the Dennestoun monument.

…Within this famed, haunted graveyard perhaps everything is fluid…rising, sinking, changing position?

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