Monday, January 23, 2012

Cross Bones Graveyard..

One really cold bright winter morning we were driving around London. It was freezing. Borough market was alive, people spilling out into the pavements waiting their turn into the best places.
We were standing there having arrived early when we decided to explore a narrow lane running off the market.  Juts off the road, on Redcross way we stumbled upon something. Another one of London's treasures stashed away in plain sight.

From a distance all we could see was brightly coloured ribbons, flowers, beads and feathers hanging from the iron fence. It was a pretty sight. Clearly this area had been marked as something special.
But by who and for whom we did not know until we got a little closer.

We were at the Cross Bones graveyard dating back to the medieval ages. Originally a graveyard for prostitutes, the epitaph reads 'The Outcast Dead' rest in peace.
The story goes back to the 12th century and at the center of the plot is the Bishop of Winchester who at that time had under his jurisdiction the 'Liberty of Clink' (The area around Southwark and situated on the South bank of the river Thames). They say absolute power corrupts absolutely and across cultures , everywhere in this aching broken world  nobody bears the brunt of this corruption which comes from power more than its women!
This piece of history from the medieval England is no exception. Exploitation is always cloaked in euphemisms - Comfort women, women of easy virtue, lady of the night;  Here they were simply called Single women,  and since it was under the righteous rule of the Bishop of Winchester , the prostitutes buried in this piece of land, denied of a christian burial were called 'Winchester Geese'.  Slowly it became a pauper's burial place, for anyone on the fringes of society, for people who could not afford a christian burial.  Bursting at its seams it was finally closed down in 1853

What struck me the most is how ,the victims of exploitation automatically inherit the shame.
Its the same everywhere. From where I come, exploitation comes packaged with the words - 'Culture' or 'Respect' or 'Values'.  Even though our visit there was brief, I thought about it long and hard after we left. What they were denied in life they probably attained many years after their death. Ostracized they may be , but  the graveyard of crossbones is in the heart of the city, marked by colour and life!
It is a beautiful place!

"The most notable fact that culture imprints on women is the sense of our limits. The most important thing one woman can do for another is to illuminate and expand her sense of actual possibilities.     ----------Adrienne Rich-----


  1. Replies
    1. Isnt it?.. I couldn't believe my eyes

    2. We too stumbled upon this last week. It will be gone in 12 months the bones removed to goodness knows where. The local residents lost their fight with the underground. The people buried here are now being cast out again.

  2. And thanks for sharing this.



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