Graveyard

Graveyard
Cedar Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Les Fleurs Pour La Fin

Indian Creek Christ Reformed Cemetery, Indian Valley, PA


The title above says "The flowers for the end."  Flowers became a part of 19th-century funerals to lift the spirits of the mourners and to also mask the smell of the decaying deceased.  The tradition of funeral flowers continues today, although it's now more for the former instead of the latter.  (One hopes, anyway!)

I've written about 19th-century society and its love affair with floriography, the language of flowers.  This Wikipedia link is one example of the meanings the Victorians assigned to blossoms of all types:  Floriography  Every flower has a particular meaning, but even the manner of displaying the flower signified different meanings as well.  One of my other blogs discusses the meaning of a bud or bloom broken off:  Fragile Buds and Spent BloomsThis blog will look at three additional ways that flowers can adorn a gravestone:  the bouquet, the garland and the vase.

Flowers don't last forever, but cutting them from their roots will end their life much, much sooner than if you leave them connected to their support system.  A bouquet of flowers to the Victorians symbolized the mortality of life---a life cut short, without roots.  I find it interesting that the majority of the bouquets on these tombstones are mixed flower types.  The most popular flowers represented are roses (love), lilies (purity or innocence), forget-me-nots, and lily of the valley (innocence or resurrection).

Garlands of flowers seem to date back to the ancient Greeks who used them with wreaths to drape or crown victorious athletes or military or civic leaders.  Christians adopted the symbols as a sign of Christ's victory over death.  Carved garlands of flowers serve to decorate the gravestone of the deceased and proclaim the hope of those left behind that the deceased has risen into the afterlife of Heaven.

The vase of flowers, I believe, is reminiscent of an urn, an earthly vessel, the human body.  The cut flowers symbolize the soul, resting now loosely in the body, but soon to be released into the afterlife.  That's a personal guess.

I have taken hundreds of photographs of tombstones with flowers carved on them, but so many of those were carved in marble, marble that has deteriorated over time because of acid rain and bird waste.  Sometimes all that remains are blobs of marble that probably were a beautiful bloom, once, and you can imagine it, if you squint at it a little.  And yet some have endured almost perfectly, with just enough weathering to define the details of the fine carvings.  This is art, folks, art.  There were not many art museums in the young United States in the 19th century.  And yet, there were thousands of outdoor sculpture gardens...called cemeteries, for anyone to enjoy. 

Boehm's UCC Cemetery, Blue Bell, PA

Boehm's UCC Cemetery, Blue Bell, PA

Durham Cemetery, Durham, PA

Durham Cemetery, Durham, PA

Durham Cemetery, Durham, PA

Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA

Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Lynn Cemetery, Springville, PA

Mountainview Cemetery, Upper Exeter, PA

Neshaminy Presbyterian Cemetery, Warrington, PA

Stark Cemetery, Starkville, PA

Susquehanna Depot Cemetery, Susquehanna Depot, PA

West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA

Chase Cemetery, Fleetville, PA

Easton Cemetery, Easton, PA

Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA

Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA

Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA

Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA

Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA

Glen Dyberry Cemetery, Honesdale, PA

Glen Dyberry Cemetery, Honesdale, PA

Glen Dyberry Cemetery, Honesdale, PA

Indian Creek Christ Reformed Cemetery, Indian Valley, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Milford Cemetery, Milford, PA

Montrose Cemetery, Montrose, PA

Neshaminy Presbyterian Cemetery, Warrington, PA

New Jerusalem Evan.Lutheran Cemetery, Sellersville, PA

Richlandtown Cemetery, Richlandtown, PA

South Montrose Cemetery, S. Montrose, PA

St. John's Lutheran Cemetery, Honesdale, PA

St. Patrick's Cemetery, Cumberland, MD

Towamencin Mennonite Cemetery, Harleysville, PA

Trumbauersville Cemetery, Trumbauersville, PA

Durham Cemetery, Durham, PA

East Swamp Mennonite Cemetery, Quakertown, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA

Okay, this isn't about bouquets or vases.  This used to be roses, but weathering has made it into a funny face.  Just some levity for you.  :)

Abington Presbyterian Cemetery, Abington, PA

Abington Presbyterian Cemetery, Abington, PA

Carversville Cemetery, Carversville, PA
 
Glen Dyberry Cemetery, Honesdale, PA

Glen Dyberry Cemetery, Honesdale, PA

Haupt Cemetery, Ambler, PA

Laurel Grove Cemetery, Port Jervis, NY

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Mt. Zion Cemetery, Snydersville, PA

Mt. Zion Cemetery, Snydersville, PA

Neshaminy Presbyterian Cemetery, Warrington, PA

St. Mary's Cemetery, Doylestown, PA

St. Paul's Lutheran Blue Church Cemetery, Coopersburg, PA

Northwood Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Only one I've ever seen like this.  It's in German calligraphy. Richlandtown Cemetery, Richlandtown,

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