The Cadaver Monument of John Golafre at Fyfield
21 September 2023 (Updated 26 September 2023)
St. Nicholas's church in Fyfield is home to one of Oxfordshire's more grizzly monuments. The tomb of John Golafre, who died in 1442, is in the style known as momento mori, or cadaver tomb.
Similarly to the tomb of Alice Chaucer at Ewelme, the tomb is a two-level affair, with a sculpture depicting Golafre lying in gentle repose on the top, and a gruesome sculpture of his gaunt, hollow-eyed corpse below!
The purpose of tombs like this was to remind church-goers of the 'transience and vanity of mortal life, and the eternity and desirability of the Christian after-life' (Wikipedia).
Who was John Golafre?
During his lifetime, John Golafre was one of the most influential individuals in the county. Coming from a lofty aristocratic family (his cousin was a close friend of Richard II), John inherited extensive estates from his uncle in 1386 but his ambitions stretched beyond staying at home and playing the wealthy squire.
He rose through a number of important positions within the royal court before being Sheriff of Oxfordshire and Berkshire in 1397. He went on to be MP for Berkshire in 1401, and in 1406 gained possession of Fyfield manor, where he had a chantry build in his name at the local St. Nicholas's church, which later held his remarkable tomb.
He later accompanied Henry V's army on their successful campaign to France in 1417, and was given the position of Receiver-General of the Duchy of Normandy and all occupied France the following year.