Graveyard

Graveyard
Cedar Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Carve My Soul in Effigy

Moravian Cemetery, Staten Island, NY

Old Brick Reformed Church Cemetery, Freehold, NJ

Tennent Presbyterian Cemetery, Tennent, NJ

As the 18th century wound to a close and both sides of the Atlantic experienced revolution, graveyard symbols too experienced a revolution.  The cold hard stone that once sported a grinning skull stayed cold and hard, but the images carved on it softened.  They represented something between a skull and a living head...they represent the soul as it leaves its earthly grave and rises upward on wings.  This is not yet  the age of angels and a happy afterlife ever after, but these soul effigies are the bridge, the turning point between graveyards and cemeteries, between burial markers and memorial monuments, between the stark carved facts of birth and death, and the artful calligraphy of a mournful epitaph. 

Soul effigies can be primitive, or they can be the product of a skillful carver, one who can make pouty mouths set in chubby cheeks, backed by feathery wings.  Some of the ones in New Jersey are pear-shaped, and scholars have identified the carvers of these images based on their style trademarks.  (Yes, there are actually gravestone scholars who use these markers to identify bodies of work by certain carvers.  No, theses scholars do not need to get a life, as it is quite fascinating to find and identify carving styles, since during this time, few carvers signed their work.  It's a challenge to learn to recognize their hidden "signatures.")

I love the epitaphs, too, that begin to show up in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  They provide a glimpse of the human side of the deceased, or of their loved ones left behind.  And they lead into the over-the-top, hand-to-the-back-of-the-forehead, make-you-cry epitaphs of the High Victorian age in the second half of the 19th century.  So bless my soul, enjoy some effigies.

St. Peter's Episcopal Cemetery, Perth Amboy, NJ
 
Christ Church Cemetery, Shrewsbury, NJ

Christ Church Cemetery, Shrewsbury, NJ

Fairview Cemetery, Middletown, NJ

 Moravian Cemetery, Staten Island, NY

Moravian Cemetery, Staten Island, NY

Moravian Cemetery, Staten Island, NY   "The wife most kind, a parent dear, a Christian's friend lies buried here."

Moravian Cemetery, Staten Island, NY  "Sleep lovely babe and take your rest, you're called, God thought it best..."

Moravian Cemetery, Staten Island, NY  "Like as a shadow or the morning dew, my days are past which was but few, grieve not for me, dear husband, 'tis in vain, your loss, I hope, is my eternal gain."

Moravian Cemetery, Staten Island, NY

Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Newark, NJ

Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Newark, NJ

New Hanover Lutheran Cemetery, Gilbertsville, PA

New Hanover Lutheran Cemetery, Gilbertsville, PA

Old Brick Reformed Church Cemetery, Freehold, NJ

Old Brick Reformed Church Cemetery, Freehold, NJ

Old Brick Reformed Church Cemetery, Freehold, NJ

Old Falkner Swamp UCC Cemetery, Gilbertsville, PA

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

St. Peter's Episcopal Cemetery, Perth Amboy, NJ   A Revolutionary War soldier, look at swords on sides

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

Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA  When I first saw these years ago, I thought they were Indians or something, even though the deceased was of German descent.  But this is a soul effigy, albeit more primitive than its New Jersey counterparts.  This is folk art.

Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA

Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA

Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA

Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA  "No poor mortal can withstand when death he's command."

Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA     Not sure of this translation:  "The grave the portion of all booth grale and finally."  What?

Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA

Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA

Plainfield Cemetery, Plainfield Twp., PA

Plainfield Cemetery, Plainfield Twp., PA

Plainfield Cemetery, Plainfield Twp., PA

Plainfield Cemetery, Plainfield Twp., PA

Scotch Irish Presbyterian Burial Ground, Martin's Creek, PA

Scotch Irish Presbyterian Burial Ground, Martin's Creek, PA

Scotch Irish Presbyterian Burial Ground, Martin's Creek, PA                A little creepy, eh??


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