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Death was at the centre of life in the Middle Ages in a way that might seem shocking to us today. With high rates of infant mortality, disease, famine, the constant presence of war, and unsophisticated medical techniques, death was a brutal part of most people's everyday experience. As a result, attitudes towards life were very much shaped by beliefs about death: according to Christian tradition, the very purpose of life was to prepare for the afterlife by avoiding sin, performing good works, and adhering to the Church's teachings.
This image from a scroll shows the death and funeral of Lucy de Vere, the head of a nunnery in Essex. When she died, around 1225, the nuns sent the roll - over 19 feet long - to other religious houses, asking them to pray for her soul. As it passed around East Anglia and back and forth across southern England, each of them added an inscription asking for prayers.
Shelfmark: Egerton MS 2849, Part I