As a recurring theme in the civilizations we have studied this semester, the afterlife and burial customs of a people lead us to a great deal of knowledge of more ancient times and people. The sarcophagi that have been discovered in the town of Saint-Denis with inscriptions that we can now decipher and determine who people were despite their decomposition throughout the years is a testament to how ancient societies sought to leave a mark for future generation recognition. It is interesting to note that inscriptions on a sarcophagus would be symbolic of an upper class individual’s death and burial while in past civilizations such as with the Morbihan people (though we know less about their burial customs than Middle Age Christian ones) most likely did not discriminate when burying the dead based on social class or hierarchy. Therefore, can it be argued that Christianity is perhaps the beginning of an acceptance of this patriarchal and wealth-influenced system that exists in society today? I also wonder why if the sarcophagi were not expected to be desecrated by being opened up again did the engravers bother writing information about the deceased on the inside of the sarcophagi as pictured on the website. This information would only be beneficial if they expected for these sarcophagi to be rediscovered at a later date to remember the deceased such as with the case of Hunus the monk who we now know about thanks to such inscriptions and a bit of resourcefulness in matching up information about him.
To my understanding Christian’s typical view of the afterlife, lent for “us” Christians to look at certain civilizations like the Egyptians with puzzling eyes as they felt they needed to be buried with their most cherished belongings in such giant displays, chambers, and pyramids, that to us seem unnecessary when all that is really taken to heaven is the soul. Not only does veneration for material possessions in the afterlife contradict the Christian doctrine of simplicity and humility but also it seems almost boastful to bring your “earned” possessions from this life into the next when you shouldn’t be needing any of it in a perfect world where you are called to rest. Therefore, I wonder why people were often buried with badges that confirmed their partaking in religious pilgrimages when God had to have known according to them that they merited his grace having traveled so far in the name of Christianity without the need for a physical proof. As we mentioned in a previous class discussion, people in prehistoric and proto-historic times saw the afterlife with unknowing eyes as they often buried their deceased with the necessary tools to fight come what may in the afterlife. Yet, now that we are dealing with Christianity and its more “certain” idea of what the afterlife holds for those that deserve entrance into heaven, why are people still then being buried with physical objects that will not need to be employed in a harmonious heavenly setting? Perhaps I should take this time to explain the title of my blog by saying that it is to my understanding that heaven for Christians will come to signify a place where one finds oneself only after having been “judged” worthy. Yet with the amount of “evidence” laid next to the deceased in their tombs of their life accomplishments, it is almost as if they are bringing exhibits A, B, and C to place before God in hopes of getting credit for their acts on earth. Furthermore, why does Christianity become such as religion based on symbols such as badges, indulgences, relics, etc, that are testaments to ones benevolent deeds and then feel the need to carry these items with them to their graves despite an “all-knowing God” being conscious already of what they have accomplished in this life to determine their fate upon death?