Graveyard

Graveyard
Cedar Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Urning Their Way Into Heaven

Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA

The urn is a vessel or vase that has ancient origins, as it was created by human beings to store things, especially liquid things.  But the Greeks elevated the urn, or amphora, to an art form, as they decorated them with floral embellishments and human figures that “told” stories.  The Greeks and later the Romans used their urns to store olive oil, to decorate their homes with art, and to hold the ashes of their dead.  Cremated remains placed in urns were buried in the earth, and this practice may have developed as burial grounds became crowded; ashes in an urn took up less space than a body did.   

A renewed interest in all things Greek began in the late 1700’s when it became fashionable for wealthy Europeans and American colonists to travel to Greece and view the ancient ruins of temples, public buildings and private homes.  By the early 1800’s, the Neoclassical Revival had taken hold in the new architecture of Europe and England, and then spread to the new nation called the United States.  This revival brought comfort to the fledgling nation.  The American Revolution had indeed given impetus to “the Great Experiment” of self-government.  But the decades immediately after the war were not as fresh and productive as we may have been led to believe.  

The colonists were resistant to a strong central government.  After all, hadn’t they just fought a despotic king who wanted to crush them under his foot?  So a loose confederation of states came to power, governing a loose body of people, with more immigrating there every day.  The severe and controlling Puritanical religious code lost its hold, and it has been estimated that barely one in ten people had any affiliation with a church.  Alcoholism was rampant; at no other time in the history of the United States (even today) were there more alcoholics per capita.  

Things began to change in the early 1800’s as Greek Revival architecture spread across the Atlantic.  New religions followed and the “Great Awakening” stirred up religious fervor in many new Americans.  As religious factions grew, they attacked alcoholism, and temperance gained a foothold.  Greek Revival architecture was readily accepted by the new country because it symbolized order and structure, comforting things that were desperately needed by the infant nation.

The urn is only one of the many Greeks symbols adopted by early 19th-century American society in their funeral art; the column, the temple, and the mourning figure clothed in toga-like drapery were others.  But the urn seemed to gain the greatest popularity, symbolizing the body as a container for the soul, helping it to pass on to immortality.  Many times the urn was shown draped with a mourning cloth, with the cloth acting as the division between heaven and earth.  Nineteenth-century society dealt with death often, and it seemed to need to romanticize it, to assure itself that there was a point to all the sorrow---that there was life after death.

The urn lost popularity as the Gothic Revival came into being in the mid-19th century.  The Gothic Revival returned to the architecture and symbols of the Middle Ages in Europe, when Christianity was in control.  The urn, along with other pagan symbols of the ancient Greeks, became distasteful to the religious Christians of the United States.  And yet, urns persevere today as containers for ashes of loved ones, since cremation has become a popular after-death method of disposing of the body.  Now, however, instead of being buried in the earth, urns with ashes typically sit on mantelpieces, decorated to be pleasing to look at, like art, and serving as memorials for loved ones.  

The following pictures show many different interpretations of urns, but they seem to fall into two main categories.  The earlier urns were two-dimensional, carved onto slate or sandstone slabs.  Then, as carving tools evolved, the urn became three-dimensional.  Marble was first used (and the effects of weather and pollution and hoodlums have taken their toll on many a marble urn, including breaking it from its pedestal).  Later, granite became very popular, as a two-toned effect could be achieved by polishing only parts of the urn to create patterns.  These decorated granite urns certainly echo the decorative urns of ancient Greece.

Neshaminy Presbyterian Cemetery, Warrington, PA

West Swamp Mennonite Cemetery, Quakertown, PA

West Swamp Mennonite Cemetery, Quakertown, PA

Darling Cemetery, Cherry Ridge, PA

Doylestown Cemetery, Doylestown, PA

Dunmore Cemetery, Dunmore, PA

Hickory Grove Cemetery, Waverly, PA

Maplewood Cemetery, Carbondale, PA

Marcy Pioneer Cemetery, Tunkhannock, PA

Montgomery Baptist Cemetery, Montgomeryville, PA

Montgomery Cemetery, Norristown, PA

Montgomery Cemetery, Norristown, PA

Montrose Cemetery, Montrose, PA

Montrose Cemetery, Montrose, PA

Prompton Cemetery, Prompton, PA

South Montrose Cemetery, South Montrose, PA

St. Peter's Lutheran Cemetery, North Wales, PA

St. Peter's Tohickon UCC Cemetery, Keelersville, PA

Trumbauersville UCC, Trumbauersville, PA

Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA

Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA


Pleasant Hill Cemetery, Pleasant Valley, PA

St. Andrew's UCC Cemetery, Perkasie, PA

Doylestown Cemetery, Doylestown, PA

Doylestown Cemetery, Doylestown, PA

Dalton Shoemaker Cemetery, Dalton, PA

Darling Cemetery, Honesdale, PA

Durham Cemetery, Durham, PA

Durham Cemetery, Durham, PA

Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA

Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA

Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA

Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA

Hays Cemetery, Easton, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Montgomery Cemetery, Norristown, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Montgomery Cemetery, Norristown, PA

Montgomery Cemetery, Norristown, PA

Neshaminy Presbyterian Cemetery, Warrington, PA

Neshaminy Presbyterian Cemetery, Warrington, PA

Pittston Avenue Cemetery, Scranton, PA

Pleasant Hill Cemetery, Pleasant Valley, PA

Pleasant Hill Cemetery, Pleasant Valley, PA

Prevost Cemetery, Vosburg, PA

Richlandtown Cemetery, Richlandtown, PA

Riverside Cemetery, Norristown, PA

Zion Hill Cemetery, Springfield Twp., Bucks Co., PA

Dunmore Cemetery, Dunmore, PA

Dunmore Cemetery, Dunmore, PA

Dunmore Cemetery, Dunmore, PA

East Bangor Cemetery, East Bangor, PA

East Canaan Cemetery, South Canaan, PA

Easton Cemetery, Easton, PA

Easton Cemetery, Easton, PA

Easton Cemetery, Easton, PA

Easton Cemetery, Easton, PA

Easton Cemetery, Easton, PA

Easton Cemetery, Easton, PA

Easton Cemetery, Easton, PA

Easton Cemetery, Easton, PA

Easton Cemetery, Easton, PA

Easton Cemetery, Easton, PA

Easton Cemetery, Easton, PA

Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA

Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA

Haupt Cemetery, Ambler, PA

Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA

Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA

Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA

Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA

Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA

Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA

Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA

Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA

Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Tunkhannock Cemetery, Tunkhannock, PA

Glen Dyberry Cemetery, Honesdale, PA

Glen Dyberry Cemetery, Honesdale, PA

Glen Dyberry Cemetery, Honesdale, PA

Salem Cemetery, Hamlin, PA

Hellertown Union Cemetery, Hellertown, PA

Hellertown Union Cemetery, Hellertown, PA

Hellertown Union Cemetery, Hellertown, PA

Hill Cemetery, Brooklyn, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Maplewood Cemetery, Carbondale, PA

Maplewood Cemetery, Carbondale, PA

Montgomery Baptist Cemetery, Montgomeryville, PA

Montgomery Cemetery, Norristown, PA

Montgomery Cemetery, Norristown, PA

Montgomery Cemetery, Norristown, PA

Montgomery Cemetery, Norristown, PA

Mount Bethel Presbyterian Cemetery, Mount Bethel, PA

Mountainhome Methodist Cemetery, Mountainhome, PA

Mount Zion Cemetery, Snydersville, PA

New Britain Baptist Cemetery, New Britain, PA

Old Brooklyn Cemetery, Brooklyn, PA

Pittston Avenue Cemetery, Scranton, PA

Richboro Union Cemetery, Richboro, PA

Riverside Cemetery, Norristown, PA

Riverside Cemetery, Norristown, PA

Riverview Cemetery, Portland, PA

St. Luke's Evan. Lutheran Cemetery, Ferndale, PA

St. Luke's Evan. Lutheran Cemetery, Ferndale, PA

St. Michael's Evan. Lutheran Cemetery, Sellersville, PA

St. Peter's Union Cemetery, Hilltown, PA

St. Peter's Union Cemetery, Hilltown, PA

St. Paul's Cemetery, Applebachville, PA

St. Peter's Tohickon UCC Cemetery, Keelersville, PA

St. Peter's Tohickon UCC Cemetery, Keelersville, PA

Sunnyside Cemetery, Tunkhannock, PA

Durham Cemetery, Durham, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Easton Cemetery, Easton, PA

Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

The Plethora of symbols here astounds me...Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

A Respected Man who was Murdered  by his Servant....Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

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