Guy the Transi

Sculptor Eleanor Crook and Guy the Gaunt will be in residence throughout Death & the Maiden.

Guy is being carved by hand in a single piece of wood; he is probably the first transi to be carved in almost 500 years!

Eleanor working on Guy at the Death, Art & Anatomy Conference last year

A transi is a recumbant (gisant or lying down) sculpture of a corpse. They are characteristic of late medieval northern Europe and were typically carved in stone, although wooden ones were not unknown. There are 38 in England and 3 in Wales. We actually have 2 here at Winchester Cathedral; Bishop Richard Fox (d.1528) and Bishop Stephen Gardiner (d.1555), who will be visited as part of our Saturday tour (see activities page).

Carved cadavers were a specific form of after-life memorial for members of the wealthy land owning classes and were related to Roman Catholic belief in purgatory; many senior clerics (bishops and archbishops) also chose to be memorialised in this way.

Bishop Fox via Pinterest

Carved cadaver memorials are totally amazing. They are largely anatomically correct, which given the time period in which they were carved, is astonishing. They were typically painted to look almost life-like with flesh coloured skin, and some even had red and blue veins. Modern day sculptors who have seen these carvings say that the sculptors would have needed to look closely at a physical body for them to be so life-like. Art Historians however, think they were carved from pictures in pattern books, but Guy has been carved from observations.

Dr Christina Welch has been researching carved cadaver memorials in England and has presented at national and international conferences on the topic, written several articles on them, and set up a website dedicated to them.

Information via

Dr Wendy Birch is a forensic anatomist and forensic anthropologist. Her work on the project has focused on analysing the late-medieval sculptures in terms of their anatomical accuracy. With her scientific background, she has been able to critically contrast and compare the carved cadavers against her in-depth knowledge of real cadavers.

Eleanor Crook trained in sculpture at Central St Martins and the Royal Academy and makes figures and effigies in wax, carved wood and lifelike media. She has also made a special study of anatomy and has sculpted anatomical and pathological waxworks for the Gordon Museum of Pathology at Guy’s Hospital, London’s Science Museum, and the Royal College of Surgeons of England. She exhibits internationally in both fine art and science museum contexts.

Explore Eleanor’s work here:

Copyright Eleanor Crook