Cramped Quarters

There are many cemeteries in which limited space has been well appropriated.

In 19th century London an expansion of the railway system required the exhumation and removal of gravestones in St. Pancras Cemetery. Thomas Hardy was assigned the task of reburying them. Hundreds of gravestones were placed in a circular pattern around an ash tree now known as the Hardy Tree.

hardy tree st pancras london

For 300 years during the 15th and 18th centuries there was only one burial ground in Prague, the Czech Republic, in which the Jewish faithful were permitted to bury their dead. The cemetery was small and vacant plots soon disappeared.

As Jewish law prohibits the destruction of graves or the removal of gravestones, soil was layered over existing plots causing the cemetery to rise above street level.

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The original gravestone was erected beside the new headstone which explains how and why the gravestones are packed so closely together.

Approximately 12,000 headstones sit atop twelve layers of graves beneath.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

How terrible it is to love something that death can touch.

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Cairns

A cairn is a marker compiled of stacked rocks. Initially it was an ancient custom of burying the dead to protect the body from scavenging animals.

Cairns vary in size related to whether they are used as a marker for the dead, a memorial, or on trails as a guide.

Markers known as Inukshuk are used by the Inuit and other people of the Artic regions of North America for the purpose of navigation. The word ‘inuksuk’ means “something which acts for, or performs the function of a person’. The Inukshuk form has become a modern day custom of tourists to indicate ‘I was here.’

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Vancouver, Canada

Cairns also marked the places where coffin-bearers rested when the walk to the burial ground was a long one e.g. St Cyril’s Church (Cille Choirille), in Glen Spean, near Roy Bridge in Scotland. Gravediggers recited the Gaelic Prayer before filling the grave in this cemetery which has the most incredible view of any in the Highlands.

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Glen Spean

The area around Inverness in Scotland is rife with cairns. The Clava Cairn is a circular chamber tomb cairn, named after the group of three cairns at Balnuaran of Clava,

Balnuaran of Clava
Balnuaran of Clava

The memorial built at the site of the former Aignish Farm on the islands of Lewis and Harris is a a tribute to the people who took action to recover their homes and livelihoods in the land struggles between landlords and crofters in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The design of two stone structures reflects the idea of confrontation. The jagged stones reflect the aggression and tension of the event.

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This ‘new’ cairn, built by John MacKinnon of Arisaig, was erected on the shores of Loch nan Uamh by the Forty Five Association and unveiled on 4 October 1956. The plaque states: This cairn marks the traditional spot from which Prince Charles Edward Stuart embarked for France 20th September 1746. ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ who claimed to be the rightful heir to the thrones of England, Scotland, France and Ireland was supported by many Highland clans both Catholic and Protestant. Supporters known as Jacobites led risings to reinstate him to the throne.

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One of the most famous Scottish cairns commemorates the Battle of Culloden, the last Jacobite rising, fought on Drumossie Moor, to the north east of Inverness in Scotland. The cairn was erected by Duncan Forbes of Culloden in 1881, in memory of the fallen Jacobites. The inscription on the plaque of the 20 foot high cairn reads :
‘The Battle of Culloden was fought on this moor 16th April, 1746. The graves of the Gallant Highlanders who fought for Scotland and Prince Charlie are marked by the names of their clans’

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In ancient Scotland, cairns were rallying points before battles and fights. Each man placed a stone on the ground upon arrival and removed it after the battle. The number of stones left was an account of the number of Clan members lost in the battle.

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David Izatt Photography

Hourglass Symbolism

The hourglass is a classic symbol that measures time until the sand runs out. This is a perfect allegory for life and death.

The hourglass is often seen on gravestones in conjunction with a skull and crossed bones which is symbolic of crucifixion, death, and mortality.

Winged hourglasses signify the resurrection of the dead. It can also be indicative of ‘tempus fugit’ meaning time flies.

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A reclining hour glass does not allow the sand to pass indicating that time stopped prematurely. It is therefore symbolic of the death of a young person.

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The headstones below contain a winged hourglass, and the image of a snake eating its tail (called ouroboros) representing everlasting life.

In this last instance the hourglass symbol is an integral part of the membership badge of the American Institute of Industrial Engineers.

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Son of a …

You would think that having lived 89 years you would have learned the value of what really matters in life. Apparently not the case for Bernard P. Hopkins whose grave is accompanied by a  marker inscribed; Legacy Of BPH: Liar . Thief . Cheat . Selfish . Unsharing . Unloving . Unkind . Disloyal . Dishonorable . Unfaithful

Not surprisingly, there are no flowers at this grave located in Morton Cemetery, Richmond, Texas.

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Martyr

Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Baudin was a French medical doctor, a politician and a member of the National Assembly from 1849. While opposing the coup of Louis Bonaparte in Paris, Baudin attempted to motivate the workers to join the barricade by climbing atop it and was shot and killed in 1851. He was hailed as a martyr to the Republican cause.

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Source: http://www.pariscemeteries.com/news-1/2016/8/8/then-and-now-alphonse-baudin-division-27-montmartre

Montmartre cemetery in Paris was the original burial site; his remains were later transferred to the Pantheon of Paris on 4 August 1889. The sculpture created by Aimé Millet in 1872 shows the bullet wound above his right eye.

An olive branch symbolizing peace rests between the tomb and a tablet on which his hand rests. The tablet is marked La Loi translated as The Law. A headstone attached to the tomb is inscribed; In memory of Alphonse Baudin representative of the people who died defending the law on December 3, 1851. Erected by his fellow citizens 1872.

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Source: http://cemeteries-forgotten-beauty.blogspot.ca/

At the head of the tomb is a Masonic hexagram supporting a wreath.

The sculptured figure is so realistic that I find something newly interesting in each of these images. Light leaving the body and death taking over are suggested by shadows in the image below. It also speaks volumes through body language with head drooped to the side, feet apart, fingers resting on the ideals he fought for.

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Source: https://www.diomedia.com/stock-photo-france-paris-montmartre-cemetery-alphonse-baudin-grave-image6010863.html

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Farewell Kiss

The last kiss memorialized in statuary.

 A mother kisses her child for the last time as an angel looking toward heaven grasps the child’s feet.

Cimitero Monumentale di Milano, Milan Italy
Cimitero Monumentale di Milano, Milan Italy

A child, raising a blanket to cover his mother, leans toward her with a parting kiss. The monument celebrates Francesca Warzee, wife of a Belgian entrepreneur.

Cimitero di Bonaria, Cagliari, Italy
Cimitero di Bonaria, Cagliari, Italy

A young boy with hat in hand kisses the image of his sister.

La Certosa cemetery Bologna
La Certosa cemetery Bologna

A young woman lovingly kisses her sister.

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Kisses between lovers always seemed to be entitled The Last Goodbye or the Eternal Kiss.

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Friedhof Ohlsdorf, Hamburg, Germany

Cold in the earth—and the deep snow piled above thee,
Far, far removed, cold in the dreary grave!
Have I forgot, my only Love, to love thee,
Severed at last by Time’s all-severing wave?”
…The first verse of a poem by Emily Bronte, “Remembrance”

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These human remains were unearthed in 1972 at the Teppe Hasanlu archaeological site, located in the Solduz Valley in the West Azerbaijan Province of Iran. The site was burned after a military attack. People from both fighting sides were killed in the fire, which apparently spread quite unexpectedly and quickly through the town. The skeletons were found in a plaster grain bin, probably hiding from soldiers, and they almost certainly asphyxiated quickly. The “head wound” is actually from modern-day excavators.

The 6000 year old kiss found in Hasanlu, Iran

Shells

Actual shell fragments left on gravestones in pioneer cemeteries represent the journey through death and rebirth. Shells that are not part of the gravestone were left there to signify that the deceased had not been forgotten.

In localities near the sea, entire graves were covered with shells because this product was cheap and readily available.

Although not a common symbol the shell most often used is a scallop shell which represents the baptism of Christ. Many baptismal fonts are often built in the form of a scallop shell.

It is also a traditional symbol of the Crusades.

This large scallop shell was designed by the deceased, Ransom Cook, some years before his death.

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The art form of a child cradled in a scallop shell was popular in North America during the 19th century. Sears, Roebuck and Company had a contract with a Vermont marble producer to sell the shell headstone by mail order.

The conch shell was revered by many cultures as a symbol of reincarnation and wisdom. In Buddhism, the shell’s call can awaken one from ignorance, in Chinese Buddhism it signifies a prosperous journey; and in Islam the shell represents hearing the divine word. People in the Bakongo area of Africa believe that the shell encloses the soul (Pagans also held this same belief regarding the shell as a source of life.)

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Mors Ianua Vitae: Death is the gate of life