Corpse Medicine and Posthumous Indignities
with Richard Sugg and Robert Stephenson
Sunday 9th October from 3:30 pm

Robert Stephenson will expose the shameful tale of posthumous ignominy inflicted on some notable corpses over the last thousand years. It will cover the adventures of Oliver Cromwell’s embalmed head, how the tanned skins of executed criminals were used to bind books and how the body of Catherine of Valois that lay around in Westminster Abbey for over 400 years was kissed on the lips by Samuel Pepys. It will also include the story of Pope Formosus who was dug up by a later Pope and put on trial for having illegally acceded to the papacy.

Then Richard Sugg charts in vivid detail the largely forgotten history of European corpse medicine, when kings, ladies, gentlemen, priests and scientists prescribed, swallowed or wore human blood, flesh, bone, fat, brains and skin against epilepsy, bruising, wounds, sores, plague, cancer, gout and depression.

Medicinal cannibalism utilised the formidable weight of European science, publishing, trade networks and educated theory. For many, it was also an emphatically Christian phenomenon. And, whilst corpse medicine has sometimes been presented as a medieval therapy, it was at its height during the social and scientific revolutions of early-modern Britain. It survived well into the eighteenth century, and amongst the poor it lingered stubbornly on into the time of Queen Victoria. This innovative talk brings to life a little known and often disturbing part of human history.

Tickets £12 including a gin cocktail. Please click here to buy.

Richard Sugg is lecturer in Renaissance Literature at the University of Durham. He is the author of several books, including John Donne and The Smoke of the Soul. He is currently researching a new book on the poltergeist

Robert Stephenson is a qualified City of London Culture and Heritage guide and a trustee at Kensal Green and Brompton cemeteries. He teaches on London and death studies. Robert is also vice-chairman of the City of London Archaeological Society.



The Dissenters' Chapel, Kensal Green Cemetery, London. Ticket includes tour of the catacombs.