Graveyard

Graveyard
Cedar Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Broken on Purpose



Hand reaching down to grasp broken chain link, Forty Fort Cemetery, Forty Fort, PA


Broken columns linked forever with a rose garland, a symbol of love and victory over death, Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Newark, NJ

Having visited more than 300 cemeteries in the past few years, I have seen far too many tombstones ruined by vandalism, the elements of nature, or just plain gravity.  It makes me sad, because these monuments were erected as a memorial to someone's loved one, and now they are broken.  I can't tolerate the senseless vandalism of cemeteries (too much ethanol and ennui, methinks), but I can appreciate the sheer power of gravity and weather.  Just last fall, Hurricane Sandy split a simple upright tombstone in the Doylestown Cemetery.  It happened to be one that I highlight on the tour I lead on 19th century symbols, so fortunately, the cemetery staff repaired it (thanks, Jim!).  But broken tombstones always give me pause, as I think about the anguish those who erected it would feel, if they could see it now.

However, there are certain types of monuments and symbols that appear in 19th and early 20th century cemeteries that are supposed to be broken.  Broken links of chain and broken columns both represent mortality and the feelings of loss that belong to those left behind.  A broken link in a chain demonstrates the loss of a family member, and when the tombstone image includes a hand reaching down to grasp the broken link, this represents the hand of God descending to take the deceased (the broken link) to Heaven.  A broken column symbolizes a life cut short by death, before the deceased had a chance to realize his potential (a fully formed column).  This symbol became very popular in the middle of the 19th century because of its visual impact, according to Douglas Keister's Stories in Stone

Both symbols are powerful, because they are incomplete, and that disturbs our minds when we view them.  They clearly convey the sense of loss caused by death, and I can't help but think of the loved ones who erected these monuments, missing someone vital from their family.  And on that happy note, enjoy these photographs!  Contact me at tschane2@verizon.net.

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Broken chain link here represents William James Mullen's work with prison reform in Philadelphia.  For more information about this incredible memorial, see my blog entry:  Monumental Monuments.  Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Montgomery Cemetery, Norristown, PA


St. Peter's Union Cemetery, Hilltown, PA

Thompson Cemetery, Thompson, PA

A broken chain rendered in zinc, Lamb Cemetery, Jackson, PA


A very modern tombstone with a touching reference to the broken family chain, Sunnyside Cemetery, Tunkhannock, PA


Edgewood Cemetery, Pottstown, PA


Glen Dyberry Cemetery, Honesdale, PA

Northwood Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA


At the top of this broken column, a sapling is growing---hope is not lost!  Oak Hill Cemetery, Washington, D.C.


South Canaan Cemetery, South Canaan, PA

Laurel Cemetery, White Haven, PA

Independent Order of Odd Fellow Cemetery, Tamaqua, PA


Independent Order of Odd Fellow Cemetery, Tamaqua, PA

Clifford Cemetery, Clifford, PA


Forty Fort Cemetery, Forty Fort, PA

Wilkes Barre City Cemetery, Wilkes Barre, PA

Elmwood Cemetery, Shepherdstown, WV



Forty Fort Cemetery, Forty Fort, PA

Forty Fort Cemetery, Forty Fort, PA


Elmwood Cemetery, Shepherdstown, WV

Glenwood Cemetery, West Long Branch, NJ

Glenwood Cemetery, West Long Branch, NJ


Greenwood Cemetery, Howertown, PA


Hollenback Cemetery, Wilkes Barre, PA


This mourning figure leaning on a broken column used to be on top of this monument.  Hollenback Cemetery, Wilkes Barre, PA

Look at the rendering of the rope "tying" this cross to the broken column.  Hollenback Cemetery, Wilkes Barre, PA

Independent Order of Odd Fellow Cemetery, Tamaqua, PA


Laurel Grove Cemetery, Port Jervis, NY


Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA


Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA


B.H.Hodgson, killed with Custer at Little Big Horn, Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA


Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Maple Grove Cemetery, Pleasant Mount, PA


Moravian Cemetery, Staten Island, NY
Mount Moriah Cemetery, Kimble, PA



Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Newark, NJ


Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Newark, NJ


New Goshenhoppen Union Cemetery, East Greenville, PA


Rosedale Cemetery, Montclair, NJ

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

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

Woodlands Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Woodlands Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

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

Wyoming Cemetery, Wyoming, PA


Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Flourtown, PA


Oak Hill Cemetery, Washington, D.C.






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