Many of the few details we know about William Shakespeare’s birth, life, and death have been culled from the records of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon, which the lovely Robin and I visited in 1995,with our children, Aubrey and Aaron (then middle-schoolers), and our close friend, Nigel Horridge.
Historically speaking, a church on the banks of the Avon in Stratford was first mentioned in the charter of 845, signed by Beorhtwulf (Bertulf), King of Mercia. That would have been a wooden construction. The Normans probably replaced this with a stone building, but no trace of either remains. The limestone building we visited was begun in 1210 and was built in the shape of a cross, like any self-respecting church.
In addition to being a strikingly beautiful church outside and in, The Collegiate Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, Stratford-upon-Avon (its full name) is also possibly the most visited parish church in England, because it is the church where William Shakespeare was baptized and buried.
The inscription on the burial slab, possibly written by Shakespeare himself, is reproduced on a marker (because the original is badly eroded). It reads:
GOOD FRIEND FOR JESUS SAKE FOREBEAR,
TO DIGG THE DVST ENCLOSED HERE.
BLESTE BE YE MAN YT SPARES THESE STONES,
AND CURSED BE HE YT MOVES MY BONES.
Next to the Bard’s slab is the grave of his wife, Anne Hathaway. The inscription reads: “Here lyeth the body of Anne wife of William Shakespeare who departed this life the 6th day of August 1623 being of the age of 67 years.”
The church also holds Shakespeare’s funerary monument, which–because it was made in 1621 while Anne lived–is considered a reliable likeness. Both his burial inside the church and the monument, erected five years after he died, attest to both the wealth and acclaim Shakespeare achieved within his and his wife’s lifetimes.