Graveyard

Graveyard
Cedar Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Stately Column…Broken By Death


Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA



“Each of us is … erecting a column … in the construction of something much bigger than ourselves.”  --Adrienne Clarkson, Hong Kong refugee who became a Canadian journalist and stateswoman


The word “column” could mean many things:  a column of type in a newspaper, a column of marching military personnel, a column of vertebrae in your spine.  In cemeteries, columns are more architectural in nature, and usually mimic a style of one of principal classical orders of ancient Greek architecture.  When they are complete and erect, they represent the accomplishments of a life, something built by the person who is now gone.  When they are broken, they are almost always purposely broken, to symbolize a life cut short, in its prime.

A brief history on Greek classical columns:  There are three classical orders of columns that originated in ancient Greece.  The “order” of a classical building is similar to the key of a musical composition---the order dictates the proportions used in design and construction.  The order also dictates the building profile and details, especially the columns used.

The simplest order is the Doric order, from western Greece, with squattest columns and the plainest capitals (the top of the column).  The column is usually fluted (carved with vertical concave channels) but it can be smooth and plain.  
Hickory Cemetery, Waverly, PA

The second order is the Ionic order, from eastern Greece, with slender fluted columns and distinctive opposing volutes, or scrolls for the capital at the top.

Westminster Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA

The third order (and my favorite) is the Corinthian order, credited by the Roman writer Vitruvius to have been created by a Greek sculptor named Callimachus.  The slender fluted column has an elegant, ornate capital of scrolls and acanthus leaves.   Acanthus leaves symbolized immortality to the ancient Greeks, and can be seen in 19th century cemetery carvings as well.

Montgomery Cemetery, Norristown, PA





Montgomery Cemetery, Norristown, PA (close-up)


A lot of columns in cemeteries do not strictly follow the orders.  Many sculptors exercised great creative license in producing memorial columns.   But that, to me, is part of the beauty of this:  the variety of art produced by many different artist-sculptors, with more regard to craft than rigid rules.

As I mentioned, broken columns stand for the loss of a life of someone in their prime.  They may be just plain columns, or they may be draped with a mourning cloth.  The mourning cloth (or more properly, the “mortcloth”) is the funeral pall—the cloth that covers the coffin or casket at the funeral.  The cloth on the column shows the grief of the loved ones left behind.  The column may also be adorned with a wreath of flowers (symbolizing the victory of the soul over death) or ivy, which may represent steadfastness or loyalty.

Columns are also associated with Freemasonry (the Masons originated, after all, as a fraternal trade union of stone masons).  Three broken columns together represent the three Masonic virtues of Wisdom (Doric), Strength (Ionic) and Beauty (Corinthian).  A break in these columns symbolizes a Mason who is no longer alive, following the path to perfecting these virtues.  I found such a monument in Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.  Enjoy.

St. Andrew's UCC Cemetery, Perkasie, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

South Gibson Cemetery, South Gibson, PA

Durham Cemetery, Durham, PA

Easton Cemetery, Easton, PA

Easton Cemetery, Easton, PA

Hickory Grove Cemetery, Waverly, 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

Mount Sharon Cemetery, Springfield,  PA

Riverview Cemetery, Portland, PA

Springtown Cemetery, Springtown, PA

Stark Cemetery, Starkville, PA

Stockport Cemetery, Stockport, PA

Stroudsburg Cemetery, Stroudsburg, PA (real bird)

Indian Creek Christ Reformed Cemetery, Indian Valley, PA

Milwaukee Cemetery, Milwaukee, PA

Neshaminy Presbyterian Cemetery, Warrington, PA

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

West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA  (Masonic)

Glen Dyberry Cemetery, Honesdale, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA (column should be upright, urn too)

St. John's Lutheran Cemetery, Honesdale, PA

West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA

Bethel Methodist Cemetery, Bedford Valley, PA

Easton Cemetery, Easton, PA

Evergreen Cemetery, Gettsyburg, PA

Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA

Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg, pA

Hickory Grove Cemetery, Waverly, PA

Mt. Sharon Cemetery, Springfield, PA

Lakeville Methodist Cemetery, Lakeville, 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

Morrisville Cemetery, Morrisville, PA

Newtown Cemetery, Newtown, PA

Old Brooklyn Cemetery, Brooklyn, PA

Richlandtown Cemetery, Richlandtown, PA

St. Patrick Cemetery, Cumberland, MD

St. Peter's Tohickon UCC Cemetery, Keelersville, PA
West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA

Equinunk Cemetery, Equinunk, PA


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