An attack on France’s biggest military graveyard, the Notre Dame de Lorette cemetery, which lies near the town of Arras in France, is the third incident of Muslim tombstone desecration in two years. In April 2008, 148 Muslim graves were vandalised and a pig’s head was hung from a tombstone. That attack came almost exactly a year after a similar incident had occurred.
Inaugurated in 1925, the cemetery houses the remains of about 40,000 victims of a series of long and bloody battles for control of northern France at the start of World War I. The Muslim quarter includes 576 tombs grouped together and turned towards Mecca. The graves of French Muslim war veterans were affected by the graffiti in the form of Swastikas and hateful slogans against Islam on the eve of Islam’s Eid-al-Adha feast. Letters which were painted upon each gravestone linked together in order to spell out anti-Islamic insults.
President Nicolas Sarkozy denounced the latest outrage as “abject and revolting,” calling it “…the expression of a repugnant racism directed against the Muslim community of France”. Police have been scouring the area in the hope of finding the culprits. The attack came almost exactly a year after a similar incident in which neo-Nazi vandals scrawled swastikas on 52 of the cemetery’s Muslim graves.
If you go looking for a bell in the cemetery the easiest discovery will be a gravestone engraved with the surname Bell. However, if you are looking for the symbol of a bell unrelated to the surname it will be a long search. A bell is one of the rarest symbols found on headstones and quite simply represents mourning.
The Dead Bell in the Middle Ages was believed to frighten away evil spirits.
When someone died the bell ringer passed through the streets of villages, towns or cities ringing the bell slowly and repeatedly while announcing the name of the recently deceased person and details of the funeral. The solemn ringing of the bell led mourners from the home of the deceased to the church where the funeral was held.
In 16th century Britain land for burial was sparse. Coffins were dug up and bones taken to the bone-house so that the grave could be reused. Upon opening the coffins, it was noticed that several had scratch marks on the inside. The realization that people were being buried whilst still alive led to the practice of tying a string on the wrist of the corpse which was attached to a bell above ground while a sentry sat in the cemetery overnight.
A little grave humour: Harold, the Oakdale gravedigger, upon hearing a bell, went to go see if it was children pretending to be spirits. Sometimes it was also the wind. This time it wasn’t either. A voice from below begged, pleaded to be unburied. “You Sarah O’Bannon?” Yes! the voice assured. “You were born on September 17, 1827?” “Yes!” “The gravestone here says you died on February 19?” “No I’m alive, it was a mistake! Dig me up, set me free!” “Sorry about this, ma’am,” Harold said, stepping on the bell to silence it and plugging up the copper tube with dirt. “But this is August. Whatever you is down there, you ain’t alive no more, and you ain’t comin’ up.”
The Bell of Hope was a gift from London’s St. Mary-le-Bow, which is the sister church to St. Paul’s Chapel in Manhattan. Installed in the churchyard of St. Paul’s Chapel in September 2002, the Bell of Hope is rung at a ceremony every year on September 11th. It has also been rung after the bombings in Madrid, 2004; London, 2005; Mumbai, 2008; Moscow, 2010; and the Boston Marathon, 2013; and for the shootings at Virginia Tech, 2007 and in Norway, 2011.
The bell is inscribed: “To the Greater Glory of God And in Recognition of The Enduring Links Between The City of London And The City of New York” “Forged in adversity—11.September.2001”
The La Cambe German Cemetery in Normandy, France where there are 21,222 burials with 207 belonging to unknown soldiers. A peace garden with 1,200 maple-trees is adjacent to the cemetery.
Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering There is a crack in everything That’s how the light gets in
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.
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.
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.
The representation of Jesus, acknowledged by Christians as the Son of God, is commonly seen within cemeteries in the form of free standing statues or symbols on gravestones. The symbol of a crucified Jesus brings focus to our sins and his desire to save us; whereas the images of a resurrected Jesus with outstretched arms beckons and welcomes us to share in eternal life.
The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from sin.
Safe in the arms of Jesus.
An heir of God through Christ.
With Christ which is far better.
Christ our life.
Them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring him.
Sweet bitter sleep our Father takes Till in Christ Jesus he awakes Then will his happy soul rejoice To hear his blessed Saviour’s voice. 1882
Friends and physicians could not save My mortal body from the grave Nor can the grave retain it here When Christ my saviour shall appear.
Jesus the very thought of thee.
My hope is in Christ.
Asleep in Jesus, blessed sleep From which none ever wake to weep.
Be ye also ready for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh. 1888
Following the two World Wars, discussion and agreement by Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom (member countries of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission) on the burial of the dead created a standardized format encompassing burial sites, layout and size of the gravestones, and the legend on headstones.
Commonwealth countries built burial sites close to combat zones to preserve the link with the battlefield, whereas the United States and France created huge regional cemeteries intended to make a significant impression on people’s minds.
The graves were arranged in straight rows and designed to be perpetual and permanent. The material used in the headstones varied due to the requirement of a weather resistant substance or occurrence of earthquakes.
The standard used ensured that every grave was marked with a headstone, originally 76 centimetres (30”) tall, 38 cm (15”) wide, and 7.6cm (3.0”) thick, with upper case lettering designed by MacDonald Gill.
Each stone contained the national emblem or regimental badge, rank, name, unit, date of death and age of each casualty. In the case of burials of Victoria Cross or George Cross recipients, the regimental badge was supplemented by the Victoria Cross or George Cross emblem.
An appropriate religious symbol was included; most often a cross denoting Christianity, and sometimes a personal dedication chosen by relatives.
Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind. J. F. Kennedy
Far away in a distant land, Suddenly struck by death’s strong hand A loving son, strong and brave, Lies buried in a soldier’s grave.
No one knows the silent heartache, Only those can tell Who have lost their loved ones Without saying one farewell. We pictured him safely returning, We longed to clasp his hand, But God has postponed the meeting, Till we meet in a better land.
No one knows the silent heartache,
only those that have lost can tell
Of the grief that’s borne in silence
For the one we loved so well.
And when he gets to Heaven, To Saint Peter he will tell: ‘Just another soldier reporting, Sir. I’ve served my time in Hell.’ Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland
Do not ask us if we miss him, There is such a vacant place; Can we e’er forget that footstep, And that dear familiar face.
No loved one stood beside him to bid a last farewell, No word of comfort could he leave to those he loved so well. We little thought his time so short in this world to remain, Nor that from when his home he went he would never return again.
He marched away so bravely, His young head proudly held; His footsteps never faltered, His courage never failed, There on the field of battle, He calmly took his place, He fought for King and Country, And the honour of his race.
…And decades later, the men and women who served are still remembered and accorded the same burial.
Vaults were created to prevent grave robbers from gaining access to freshly buried bodies, and were originally made of wood. Coffins, the universal symbol of death and mortality, are most often placed underground with a gravestone as a marker. Nowadays, the vault is manufactured in metal and is inserted into the ground to prevent the earth and coffin from collapsing. Collapse of the coffin causes the ground to sink and makes maintenance of the cemetery grounds difficult.
Man that is born of a woman is of few days
A sarcophagus is an elaborate coffin which can be created in any medium; wood, stone or metal. It is often only large enough to house one body, often someone of importance, and contains no window or door. It can also be considered a monument as it has a carving or inscription.
Ye mourning friends as you pass by
This monument survey
Learn ‘ere your solemn hour draws nigh
To choose that better way. 1813
A crypt is an underground stone chamber beneath a church, or in the wall of a religious building. Following entombment, the crypt is sealed, and a granite or marble front is attached.
Bath Abbey, England
Bath Abbey, England
In the silent tomb we leave them Till the resurrection morn When our Saviour will receive them And restore their lovely form
A tomb is very similar to a sepulcher in that it is typically underground. It can vary greatly in size and often holds the containers of multiple bodies. A sepulcher is a small room or monument, cut in rock or built of stone, in which a dead person is laid or buried. This term is also used to describe a structure with recesses in the wall to receive ashes of the dead.
Greyfriar’s Cemetery, Edinburgh, Scotland
Lasswade Cemetery, Lasswade, Scotland
Here in the silent tomb beneath this miry sod
Lies one who bore the Cross and trusted in his God;
Farewell, dear wife and friends, and my dear little son,
My work is finished and the prize is won. 1827
An above ground, large, free-standing structure is known as a mausoleum. It may be the resting place of an individual or a family group. It is often ornate with a small stained glass or open metalwork window. It stands as a monument and the more elaborate structures may have an interior chapel.
Faith Mortal! Seize the transient hour Improve each moment as it flies Life’s a short summer, Man a flower Dies Alas! How soon he dies. – 1831
A cairn or tumulus is a mound of earth and stones raised over a grave.
The busy world is hushed The fever of life over and our work done.
An ossuary is a container or room into which the bones of multiple dead people are placed. The catacombs are a renowned example.
Thy peaceful days shall keep my bones Till that sweet day I walk from my long sleep and leave My bed of clay. Sweet truth to me I shall rise and with these eyes My Saviour see.