Churches and convents attracted large numbers of clergy, noblemen, lawyers, merchants and artisans who wanted to be buried close to holy relics.
Very often, donations to these establishments, capable of helping to save one's soul, took the form of works of art (mural paintings, altarpieces, goldsmithery...), given as proof of one's piety. The aim was to be assured that one wouldn't be forgotten on earth, but more importantly, to be assured of eternal life in Heaven. On Judgement Day, souls but also bodies would be resuscitated and the damned would suffer for all eternity in their sinners' bodies.
Sarcophagi, recumbent effigies, gravestones (the incised slab tombstone of the noble Marquesia de Linars), crosses (the cross with the canting arms of GuillemetteAzémar)or simple epitaphs, all of these works tell us much about the society of this time and its beliefs. The actual ‘macabre' aspect of death doesn't appear until quite late, at the very end of the Middle Ages.
One sarcophagus from the church of the Priory of Saint John of Jerusalem, said to be that of a grand prior of the order, presents a very common14th century decor showing the soul of the deceased in the form of a naked child carried to Heaven by angels. Several works in the sacristy explore the same theme.
Bas-relief funéraire et épitaphe de Maître Aymeric,
Fragment de dalle de chancel,
Inv. Ra 435
The museum has a very large collection of epigraphy, exhibited in its own reserved room. The works are spread over the Carolingian period and up to the end of the Renaissance. These epitaphs give the identity of the deceased, the date of their death and often their social status. Thus these works tell us about their patrons: clergy, lawyers, merchants, artisans, men or women, their professions as well as their hopes and beliefs...The texts are usually written in latin, the language of the Church and of the literate, but Occitan is also used, in competition with French at the end of the period.
The themes covered in this room include the attitudes of people to death, the medieval concept of time, as well as the various ways of giving a date at this time.