Easter Sepulchre

Easter Sepulchre, 16th century, Holcombe Burnell Church, north wall of chancel. Monument to an unidentifiable member of the Denys family, lords of the manor. The main panel shows Christ rising from the tomb, with slumbering guards. Transitional in style, Renaissance classical elements are shown such as a classical pediment and Italianate putti, but the whole is contained within a late Gothic arch

An Easter Sepulchre is a feature of British church architecture (interior design).


A simple unadorned example from St Marys Church, Grendon, Northants

The Easter Sepulchre is an arched recess generally in the north wall of the chancel, in which from Good Friday to Easter day were deposited the crucifix and sacred elements in commemoration of Christ's entombment and resurrection. It was generally only a wooden structure, which was placed in a recess or on a tomb.[1]


The Easter Sepulchre is only found in England and Wales, the practice having been peculiar to the Sarum Rite. However, there is a ruin presumed to be an Easter sepulchre at Kildrummy in north-east Scotland.


Easter Sepulchre, Holcombe Burnell Church, Devon. Detail of central sculpted relief showing Christ stepping out of the tomb with sleeping guards

The Easter Sepulchre contained the Blessed Sacrament of the altar, the Host. Following the doctrine of the Real Presence, i.e. that Jesus is physically present within in the Host, on Good Friday the Host was taken from the tabernacle where it had been placed following the Maundy Thursday celebration of the Last Supper and, wrapped in linen cloths, 'buried' in the Easter sepulchre which was found on the north wall of the sanctuary. Cut into the wall, it was sometimes ornately carved but within it was a wooden frame on which was hung a cloth pall often embroidered with scenes from the Passion. Candles were lit around the sepulchre, burial clothes adorned it, and parishioners stood guard until early Easter morning at the first Mass. The Host was brought out, in imitation of Jesus having arisen out of the tomb, and was placed again in the tabernacle in the centre of the Church.[2] Like Roods and their lofts, Easter Sepulchres were the object of iconoclastic fury by the Reformers and few are left.

Surviving examples[edit]

There are throughout Great Britain many fine examples in stone, some of which are Decorated Gothic, such as:












Withybrook, Coventry

West Sussex[edit]

East Riding of Yorkshire[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Chisholm 1911, p. 655.
  2. ^ Duffy, Eamon (February 2015). The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400–1580. New Haven & London: Yale University Press. p. 29. ISBN 0-300-06076-9.