Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Mortsafe

Mortsafes are a uniquely Scottish invention. They were invented to deter the rampant bodysnatching and grave-robbing that was going on in the early 18th and 19th centuries. Bodysnatching began as a way to procure cadavers for medical schools and anatomy classes. The mortsafe was invented in about 181, They were made of iron or iron-and-stone devices of great weight. Of various design, they were complex contraptions of rods and plates, often padlocked together - examples have been found close to all Scottish medical schools, often accompanied by a watchman. Watch towers were erected and manned by members of the church, keeping watch at night for anything suspicious near freshly interred corpses. Existing mortsafes are mainly lying in churchyards and burial grounds; some are very broken and rusting away. Unfortunately during World War I many of these Mortsafes were destroyed by town members salvaging any scrap metal they could to assist in the war efforts. 

It seems the mortsafe was created to protect corpses from bodysnatchers, though varying opinions explain them as another opulent way to mark a grave, the Victorians morbid fear of rising from the dead, and preventing animal foraging,

Perthshire, Scotland - LINK

By VonMurr on Flickr

Northeast, Pennsylvania, USA - LINK

Laurel Grove Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia - LINK

Church Stretton churchyard, Shropshire, England. By The Rev.Kev on Flickr

The grave of Sarah Wrench who died on 6 May 1848 in the churchyard of St. Edmund King and Martyr, East Mersea. Photo by Ken Warpole - LINK



Auld Kirk Alloway, Scotland. - LINK

Cluny Kirkyard, Aberdeenshire, England. - LINK

Old Kinnernie, Aberdeenshire, United Kingdom - LINK

Logierait, Scotland. By Martyn and Margaret on Flickr

St. Ninian's Church graveyard, Scotland. By the Poss on Flickr

Inverurie graveyard, Aberdeenshire, UK. - LINK

Outside the War remnants museum in Saigon, Vietnam - LINK





Phillack cemetery and church, England. - LINK

Info from here and here

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