Medieval Tomb and Stephanus de Velde’s Grave Slab

Burial in churches and churchyards, in consecrated ground, was very important for people in medieval Europe. The glass in the floor here covers a tomb discovered in 2013 and placed above it you can see a limestone grave slab. The latter was found in 2008 in the northern nave of the church where it marked the graved of the learned cleric Stephanus de Velde.

The style of the slab indicates that it was made in the 14th century and it is one of the few grave slabs found in Tartu with the well-preserved inscription. The quite intact medieval tomb is also a rare find. It was built from bricks of different quality and then plastered on the inside. Considering the location of the tomb, in front of the sanctuary, the person buried here must have been a respectable citizen, probably a distinguished cleric or a nobleman.

The deceased, a man aged about 40-45, was interred in a wooden coffin facing east as was the custom in the Middle Ages. Nonetheless the grave is not situated precisely lengthwise in relation to the church design. Personal belongings were not put with the deceased in those days but the scientists have been able to approximately date the grave based on two coins from the 1530s that were found not far above the coffin. Under the bottom of the grave another skeleton was found, clearly from an earlier burial. As church premises were of limited size, after a while people would often be buried on top of older graves.

The skeleton you see in this tomb is a replica.