Years ago, visiting this cathedral, we were pleasantly surprised to discover, in the South arm of the “transept”, a magnificent “cenotaph” commemorating the heroic death in that famous battle against the French, fought from January 16 to 18, of Lieutenant General Sir John Moore who, seriously wounded on the afternoon of the 16th, died at the end of that day when his men were withdrawing to return, by ships, to England. His officers ordered, fulfilling the wish expressed by the General himself to “receive a burial right where he fell”, to bury him in an area of the fortifications of the city of A Coruña. The tomb is currently conserved in the so-called “Jardín de San Carlos”.
The English are famous for honoring those who die giving their lives for the country, which certify numerous “tombs”, or “cenotaphs” or “memorials” that can be seen everywhere being, the most important of which are in the cathedral St. Paul’s or nearby Westminster Abbey in London. They did not waste time with Moore, as evidenced by the fact that only 15 days after his death, on March 13, 1809, a motion was presented in the “Parliament” asking that a monument be “raised in St. Paul’s Cathedral. to his memory ”. Six years later, in 1815, this sought-after work, grandiose for its expressiveness and beauty, could already be seen in a privileged place, the “south arm of the transept” of St. Paul, which is the Anglican cathedral in London.
STYLE AND AUTHOR
Unequivocally “modernist” and made by one of the best sculptors of his time John Bacon “junior”, son of the prestigious John Bacon “senior” great figure of English neoclassicism, much favored by King George III. The aforementioned “junior” lived between 1779 and 1859, was an outstanding student of the “Royal Academy”, began his artistic life very young and became famous for his sculptural interpretations of “allegories”, as is the case of the monument that concerns us in whose front, lower left, shows his name and date of what was done: J. Bacon. Junior. Sculptor. 1815.
ICONOGRAPHIC STUDY OF THE MONUMENT
Made of white marble, it is large and is made up of a prismatic-quadrangular plinth, from bottom to top, which raises it 53 cm. ground; the 3.75 m. sarcophagus, whose smooth lid is open and applied to the wall, ready to accommodate Moore’s funerary sculpture, which is carefully supported and inserted by an allegorical sculpture of the “Victory”, which is held by the thorax and another from a gravedigger by the legs, kneeling on the edge of the sarcophagus. The first wears a transparent tunic, with a girdle that leaves the left breast and legs visible, in addition to wearing a hairstyle with a Greco-Latin taste and displaying the identifying elements that are its own: a laurel wreath and wings.
The “burly gravedigger” is totally naked and barely covers his genital area with the folds of the flag carried by a plump child, also naked and also covered by the flag, who watches the scene attentively from the upper-left part of the set. . The “Victoria” and the “gravedigger” hold and slowly lower the body of Moore by means of a laurel string and a cloth band, respectively, that they pass through the armpits and popliteal hollows of the deceased.
Moore, wears the dress uniform of Lieutenant General, in whose upper-left part of the warrior you can see the plaque of the “Order of the Bath”, a precious English decoration in the shape of an eight-pointed star, with three royal crowns in the center. surrounded by an inscription, the motto of the Order, which reads “Tria juncta in una”, alluding to the three kingdoms that made up the “United Kingdom of Great Britain”.
The child we describe is located to the left of the “gravedigger” and holds with his hands, a flag whose mast ends in a spearhead which, up to its vertex and from the floor of the cathedral, is the maximum height of the monument that it is plus / minus 4 m. With his legs, the child holds, upright, an oval-shaped shield of Spain in which the “barracks” of Castilla y León are recognized, as well as, in a central position, the shield of the “Bourbon Dynasty”, three flowers of lis, started in 1700 by King Philip V.
The perfection and beauty of the four human sculptures leave us in awe and in them we can appreciate the good knowledge of the surface anatomy by the artist who made them: hairstyles; beard and mustache with respective sideburns, in adult males; bone reliefs; muscles and tendons; intermuscular grooves; transparency of the superficial veins; as well as corpulence and morphology different from the sexes, etc. To highlight the feminine beauty of the “Victoria”, the musculature of the gravedigger, the relative obesity of the child and the placidity of the deceased …
In the center of the front face of the sarcophagus, an inscription in 9 lines, with letters engraved and painted in black, gives an account, in English text, what the monument means. Translated into Spanish it says:
“Consecrated to the memory of Lieutenant General Sir John Moore, of the Order of the Bath (KB), who was born in Glasgow in 1761, he fought for his country in America, Corsica, the West Indies, in Holland, Egypt and Spain, and on January 16, 1809 he died from a cannon projectile in Coruña ”.
We clarify that the reference to the West Indies refers to a group of islands that were the possession of Great Britain and that is in the Gulf of Mexico, including the Bahamas and the Greater and Lesser Antilles.