Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index

Image of the Month

December 2022

  • Title: Tomb of Katherine Mortimer and Thomas de Beauchamp
  • Description:

    This image shows the tomb effigies of Katherine Mortimer, Countess of Warwick (1314-1369) and Thomas de Beauchamp, eleventh Earl of Warwick (1313/14-1369). In the sculpture, Katherine and Thomas are lying on their backs with heads on pillows that are supported by small figures. Katherine, to the viewer's left, is wearing a fashionable dress and elaborate fretwork veil befitting her status as an elite married woman. Thomas wears armor and is holding the hilt of a sword in his left hand. His right hand reaches out to hold Katherine's right hand, which is drawn across her body. Her left hand was originally resting near the center of her chest. Their feet rest upon animals, Thomas with a bear (unlike here in the Warwick family badge it wears a muzzle) and Katherine with a lamb. This may be an Agnus Dei in reference to her religious devotion to Christ as the lamb of God. The sides of the tomb depict male and female mourners in a variety of fashionable clothing. Windows nearby presented the couple's nine daughters and their five sons. The two windows were destroyed during the English Civil War, but Dugdale includes drawings of the daughters in his Antiquities of Warwickshire (1656)(page 320).

    The tomb is located before the high altar in the chancel of the Warwick Collegiate Church of St. Mary in Warwick, England. It dates to shortly after 1369 and was commissioned by Thomas de Beauchamp, the twelfth Earl of Warwick, eldest surviving son of Katherine and Thomas. The double tomb was sculpted from two pieces of alabaster, joined at Thomas's wrist. The choice of alabaster is typical of English nobility at the time. Popularized by the tomb of King Edward II, it held a special appeal for high status memorials. The unpainted stone was valued for its translucence and purity, which gave the faces of tomb effigies a spiritual luminosity. At the same time, clothing and decoration, often painted, were faithfully rendered in durable detail. These properties are shared by the marble used for effigy tombs in France but unlike marble, alabaster is a fairly common English stone.

    As is the case for most examples of double tombs, Katherine and Thomas were a married couple. In 1314, the infants were pledged for marriage by their fathers, Roger Mortimer V and Guy de Beauchamp. This agreement was in part motivated to end a dispute between the two families over the manor of Elvel in Wales. Katherine and Thomas's tomb is notable as the first known double tomb made for members of the high nobility in England. The effigies of Katherine and Thomas serve as their lasting representations on Earth, commemorating the most important aspects of their lives and personhood, such as success in military leadership represented by Thomas's sword and armor. With the double tomb, the marriage of Thomas and Katherine is memorialized, because it calls viewers to remember them together rather than separately. Tombs and memorials also helped garner prayers for the deceased, which was believed to help decrease the amount of time souls would spend in Purgatory before ascending to Heaven. By having a double tomb, prayers would likely be said both for Katherine and Thomas, linking the fates of their souls. In this sense, the memorial contradicts the idea that marriage vows only last "til death do us part."

    The importance and lasting nature of Katherine and Thomas' marriage is heightened further because they are holding hands. Hands being held, and more specifically clasped right hands, is a gesture which symbolizes marriage in medieval imagery. This is because holding right hands was an important part of the marriage ceremony, as it was a physical element in the exchange of vows. The presence of this imagery on a tomb is associated with a deeply felt marital bond and strengthens the emphasis on a couple's marriage more than a double tomb alone. Their tomb is the oldest known example of hand holding in a three-dimensional monument. A common feature of most hand-holding monuments is that the woman is to the man's right, as seen in Katherine and Thomas' tomb. This is a reversal of the standard pose, where the man is to the woman's right. However, this switch lets the husband easily hold his wife's right hand in his own. This makes the man the active figure of the memorial, albeit at the sacrifice of the more honorable position at the viewer's left. Another frequent feature of hand-holding monuments is that the woman brought property or wealth into the marriage. However, this is not the case in the marriage of Katherine and Thomas. She did not have any dowry for the marriage, but this is likely because her father held the right to Thomas's marriage through royal favor.

  • Source: Memorial tomb of Thomas Beauchamp cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Philip Halling -
    geograph.org.uk/photo/6066520 (Image #1)
    Wikimedia Commons (Image #2)
  • Rights: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (Image #1)
    Public domain (#2)
  • Subjects: Beauchamp, Thomas, Earl of Warwick ; Burials ; Death ; Marriage ; Mortimer, Katherine, Countess of Warwick ; Noble Men ; Noble Women ; Tomb Effigies ; Wives in Art
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 14
  • Date: 1369- 1380
  • Related Work:
    Side view of the tomb of Catherine Mortimer and Thomas de Beauchamp, including mourners. Photograph by Philip Halling.
    View of the tomb effigies and mourners, tomb of Catherine Mortimer and Thomas de Beauchamp.
    View of the tomb of Catherine Mortimer and Thomas de Beauchamp, including a church visitor for scale.
    Chancel of the Warwick Collegiate Church, with the tombs of Katherine and Thomas de Beauchamp.
    Tomb of Edward II, Gloucester Cathedral, 1330-1335.
    Tomb of Katherine Clifton and Ralph Green, 1419-20, Lowick, Church of St Peter. The effigies of the wife and husband are holding hands.
  • Current Location: Warwick, Collegiate Church of St. Mary, chancel
  • Original Location: Warwick, Collegiate Church of St. Mary, chancel
  • Artistic Type (Category): Digital images; Sculptures
  • Artistic Type (Material/Technique): Alabaster; Iron
  • Donor: Layman ; Thomas de Beauchamp, the twelfth Earl of Warwick, eldest surviving son of Katherine and Thomas
  • Related Resources: Barfield, Sebastian. "The Beauchamp Earls of Warwick, 1268-1369." PhD diss., University of Birmingham, 1997.
    Barker, Jessica. Stone Fidelity: Marriage and Emotion in Medieval Tomb Sculpture Boydell Press, 2020.
    Dressler, Rachel. " Identity, Status, and Material: Medieval Alabaster Effigies in England." Peregrinations: Journal of Medieval Art and Architecture 5, 2 (2015): 65-96. Available open access.
    Dugdale, William. The Antiquities of Warwickshire Illustrated from Records, Leiger-Books, Manuscripts, Charters, Evidences, Tombes, and Armes: Beautified with Maps, Prospects and Portraictures Printed by Thomas Warren, 1656.
    Gilchrist, Roberta. Medieval Life: Archaeology and the Life Course. Boydell & Brewer, 2012.
    Tuck, Anthony. "Beauchamp, Thomas, Eleventh Earl of Warwick (1313/14-1369), Soldier and Magnate." Oxford Dictionary of National Bibliography Oxford University Press, 2008.
    Woods, Kim W. Cut in Alabaster: A Material of Sculpture and Its European Traditions 1330-1530. Harvey Miller, 2018.

The Feminae database presents images of medieval art with descriptions, data, and subject indexing. Each thumbnail picture has a link to a higher quality image often with a zoom view and added content from a museum. Images included represent women and gender 450 to 1500 C.E. in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. Beginning in June 2012 we have highlighted each month a newly added image that is rich in documentary evidence or iconographic significance.

As images build up in the database, users can browse for aggregated evidence. The Donor field groups people together in the categories layman/men, laywoman/women, female religious and male religious. The Current Location field allows users to see artwork that is all housed in the same museum. Image records are integrated with all the other Feminae content, so that a search on Mary Magdalen will include results for essays, journal articles, translations, book reviews, and images (which come at the end of the list which is sorted by date). Feminae Research Assistants

Feminae Research Assistants:

Collin Kawan-Hemler worked on Feminae during the summer of 2021. He is majoring in History at Haverford College with a minor in Health Studies.

Caroline Ford was the Feminae intern during the 2020-21 academic year. She majored in English at Haverford College with a minor in psychology.

Joe Ding worked on Feminae during the summer of 2020. She is majoring in Mathematics and Philosophy at Haverford College.

Rebecca Chen was the Feminae intern during the summer of 2020. She is an English major at Haverford College with interests in pursuing medicine.

Jonathan Sudo worked on Feminae in summer 2019. He majored in History and East Asian Studies at Haverford College.

Drew Forte worked on images from Spring 2018 through Spring 2020 . He had a particular interest in the occult and magic as represented in medieval art.

Jessica Urban researched and wrote about images from fall 2016 through fall 2017. She concentrated on archaeology and material culture. She majored in Archaeology at Bryn Mawr College.

Bill Ristow worked on manuscript images during the 2015-16 academic year. He majored in history and wrote his senior thesis on medieval kingship with reference to Wace's Roman de Rou and Henry II.

Rachel Davies worked on the brass rubbings during the 2013 summer session for the exhibit Lasting Impressions. During 2015-16 she researched and wrote entries concerning Spanish art.

Leigh Peterson worked on images during the Fall 2012 through Spring 2015 academic years. She was an undergraduate student who majored in art history at Bryn Mawr College. She was an intern at the Cloisters Museum during summer 2013.

Shannon Steiner added images during the summer and fall of 2013. Shannon was a doctoral student in History of Art at Bryn Mawr College. She holds a B.A. from Temple University (2009) and M.A.s from The University of Texas at Austin (2011) and
Bryn Mawr College (2013). Her research focused on the visual culture of saints' cults and the role of art in forming community and gender identities in Byzantium.

Sarah Celentano worked on the initial 300 image records. She was a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research focused on the visual culture of female monastic communities with a specialization in twelfth-century German-speaking areas. Her dissertation, "Embodied Reading as Political Action in the Hortus deliciarum," explored the textual and visual responses in the twelfth-century Hortus deliciarum to papal schism and imperial challenges to Church authority. Additional areas of examination were the use of medieval mnemonic techniques, and conduits of artistic exchange between northern and southern Europe.

Independent College Programs 142 Women and Gender in the Middle Ages: Representations in Art Margaret Schaus Haverford College, Spring 2021
Students in the class researched and wrote about medieval art in groups and as individual projects. They contributed their work to Feminae as image records.

Elinor Berger is a Literatures in English and Medieval Studies double major at Bryn Mawr College.

Jia Jing Ding is a History of Art and Economics double major at Bryn Mawr College.

Helena Frisbie-Firsching is a Physics major and Health Studies minor at Haverford College.

Bella Gerstmann is a prospective Linguistics or Anthropology major at Bryn Mawr College.

Leela Krishnan is a Math major and a Chemistry minor at Haverford College.

Faith Meacham is a Computer Science major and Math and Visual Studies minor at Bryn Mawr College.

Lipi Paladugu is a Computer Science major with minors in Visual Studies and Math at Bryn Mawr College.

Sadie Pileggi-Proud is a Political Science major with a concentration in Peace, Justice, and Human Rights at Haverford College.

Caroline Quillen is an English major at Haverford College.

Esmé Read is a History of Art major, with a prospective minor in French and Francophone studies at Bryn Mawr College.

Annabelle Renshaw is a History of Art major and a Classical and Near-Eastern Archaeology minor at Bryn Mawr College.

Aviva Soll is a prospective Biology or Chemistry major and Environmental Studies minor with a Biochemistry concentration at Haverford College.

Lauryn White is at Haverford College, and their major is Religion.