FR VICTOR DARLINGTON was co-celebrant at the funeral and burial of an unknown young girl who may have been decapitated over 700 years ago at the Anglican parish church of Hoo St Werburgh, near Rochester, Kent, on Saturday March 14, writes Dario Modena.
The medieval remains of a teenage girl who may have been suspected of witchcraft have been given a Christian burial and funeral, complete with horse-drawn glass carriage and wicker coffin.
The skeleton was discovered some years ago by an archaeological dig at a site adjacent to the parish church of Hoo St Werburgh, near Rochester, Kent, and is thought to date back to the 14th or 15th century.
The remains were found in unconsecrated ground under a holly tree, and the girl was affectionately given the name of Holly.
The girl’s skull had been removed from the body and placed carefully beside it, meaning she may have either committed suicide or was suspected of being a witch or a criminal.
From other skeletons found in a similar fashion of a similar time, the theory is that heads were removed to stop the body from being resurrected with the Second Coming of Christ, an attempt to stop them from having the possibility of eternal life.
The service was concelebrated by the vicar of Hoo, the Rev Andy Harding, and Fr Victor Darlington, a Nigerian Catholic priest from the parish of English Martyrs Catholic church, Strood.
Over 200 people attended the service, which was a mixture of old and new, Catholic and Anglican, and contained medieval prayers, with the committal read in Latin, which was the language Holly would have heard at Mass in her time. Fr Darlington said: “Christianity is a religion of love and forgiveness. Thank God for what we have witnessed today, a Christian funeral granted to a young girl who was denied Christian burial 700 years ago, perhaps even backed up with a religious belief that this young girl may not come back to life again or rise up at the last resurrection.
“This belief sounds funny today, but it shows that our understanding of Christian religion has changed for the better and thank God for this. I am delighted and privileged to have been part of this historic ecumenical event.”