brasses, monumental, or sepulchral brasses, memorials to the dead, in use in churches on the Continent and in England in the 13th cent. and for several centuries following. They are usually set in the pavement but occasionally are placed upright against a wall or stand free upon a plinth. Some, called palimpsests, are incised on brasses that have been used before on the opposite face. The engraving usually presents a figure of the deceased. Historical interest centers around the contemporary costumes, armor, heraldic designs, genealogy, and paleography revealed. Such brasses still exist in Belgium, especially in Bruges; in the Netherlands; and in Germany, where there are some exceptional 13th-century examples. In England the churches of Ipswich, Norwich, London, Bristol, and elsewhere disclose more than 7,000 examples covering the different periods of their use. Tens of thousands of brasses were destroyed during the Tudor dissolution of the monasteries. The majority of those that remain are of native design and craftsmanship and of the inset type; incised examples usually indicate Flemish origin. A few brasses are in Glasgow and Edinburgh churches. The image of the brass can be transferred to paper by rubbing with a black gum called cobbler's heel-ball or with crayon. Rubbing brasses has been a popular activity in England for many decades.
See J. Mann's Monumental Brasses (1957); A. C. Bouquet, European Brasses (1968); H. W. Macklin, Monumental Brasses, ed. J. P. Phillips (repr. 1969).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.