Graveyard

Graveyard
Cedar Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Grin of Death


Tennent Presbyterian Cemetery, Tennent, NJ

This blog will deviate a little and go back to the 18th century, when societal views on death were harsher than those that succeeded them into the 19th century.  Instead of a focus on the sweet heavenly awards awaiting the deceased in the afterlife, those living in the 1700's viewed death as a time of fiery judgement which may or may not lead up to heaven.  The soft supple cheeks of angels so prevalent in the 19th century are nowhere to be found in the graveyards of the 18th century.  The predecessors of those angels were "death heads," or grinning skulls starkly proclaiming the inevitable:  death comes to us all.  Even some of the epitaphs carved on gravestones of this time bluntly state the same:  as am I, so you will be.  

The gravestones below are mostly from New Jersey, taken in June during the Association for Gravestone Studies that I attended.  I have found some skulls and/or crossbones on markers in Pennsylvania, but most of the burial grounds in Northeastern PA were established after the death head had passed out of style.  New Jersey was settled much earlier, and therefore is full of old graveyards with a multitude of red sandstone markers with grinning skulls.  There were probably many of the death-head gravestones in colonial Philadelphia's church yards, but those remain to be investigated by me, some day.  (If they still exist and the city, in its need for real estate, didn't move them, or worse.)

Some of the carvings below are crossed bones.  Next to a skull, this was (and still is) a symbol of death, but strangely enough, they're not nearly as unnerving as the skulls with all those teeth.  The carvings on these death head stones are fascinating, especially some of the words in their spellings.  Most of the skulls have wings, and some of them also include a crown, representing the crown of Christ.  Next week, I will highlight the symbol that is the bridge between the grinning skull and the mournful angel.  So enjoy these death heads and prepare for the soul effigies. 

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

West Long Branch United Methodist Cemetery, West Long Branch, NJ

New Goshenhoppen Union Cemetery, East Greenville, PA

Christ Church Cemetery, Shrewsbury, NJ

Christ Church Cemetery, Shrewsbury, NJ

Christ Church Cemetery, Shrewsbury, NJ

Christ Church Cemetery, Shrewsbury, NJ

Christ Church Cemetery, Shrewsbury, NJ

Christ Church Cemetery, Shrewsbury, NJ

Fairview Cemetery, Middletown, NJ

Fairview Cemetery, Middletown, NJ

Old Brick Reformed Church Cemetery, Freehold, NJ

Old Brick Reformed Church Cemetery, Freehold, NJ

Old Brick Reformed Church Cemetery, Freehold, NJ

Old Brick Reformed Church Cemetery, Freehold, NJ

Old Brick Reformed Church Cemetery, Freehold, NJ

Old Brick Reformed Church Cemetery, Freehold, NJ

St. Peter's Episcopal Cemetery, Perth Amboy, NJ

St. Peter's Episcopal Cemetery, Perth Amboy, NJ

St. Peter's Episcopal Cemetery, Perth Amboy, NJ

Tennent Presbyterian Cemetery, Tennent, NJ

Tennent Presbyterian Cemetery, Tennent, NJ

Tennent Presbyterian Cemetery, Tennent, NJ

Tennent Presbyterian Cemetery, Tennent, NJ

Tennent Presbyterian Cemetery, Tennent, NJ

Tennent Presbyterian Cemetery, Tennent, NJ
Tennent Presbyterian Cemetery, Tennent, NJ

Tennent Presbyterian Cemetery, Tennent, NJ
Look at these teeth!! 
Tennent Presbyterian Cemetery, Tennent, NJ

Tennent Presbyterian Cemetery, Tennent, NJ

Tennent Presbyterian Cemetery, Tennent, NJ

Tennent Presbyterian Cemetery, Tennent, NJ

Tennent Presbyterian Cemetery, Tennent, NJ

Tennent Presbyterian Cemetery, Tennent, NJ

Christ Church Cemetery, Shrewsbury, NJ

Tennent Presbyterian Cemetery, Tennent, NJ

One of the interesting things about this stone is that it was hit with a bullet during the Revolutionary War.  St. Peter's Episcopal Cemetery, Perth Amboy, NJ

St. Peter's Episcopal Cemetery, Perth Amboy, NJ

Montgomery Baptist Cemetery, Montgomeryville, PA


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