Friday, December 28, 2007


Not too far down the road from the Church of Saint Clare there is a grand old cemetery named Lakeview. It is truly a stunning place and well known for the amount of artwork there. Occasionally when someone comes to visit I’ll take them for a walk through it (after a visit to Little Italy). At first hesitant they almost always look for a chance to do it again someday.

Around these parts, modern cemeteries have taken to having gravestones flush with the ground. This makes it ever so much easier for these gigantic parks for the dead to be maintained. I understand. But the artist in me wishes it didn’t have to be so (though many are starting to allow them again in certain sections.)

There is an incredible amount of symbolism in cemeteries. Some of it is quite obvious, especially for a Catholic cemetery as we see rosaries and crucifixes engraved into headstones. But much of the symbolic language, very prevalent in the Victorian age, has been lost to moderns. Over the next few weeks we take a look at some of the symbols.

Here are just a couple to whet your taste buds. If a cemetery pays attention to such things, the trees planted are there because they have meaning. Where my Mom’s parents are buried the drive is lined with cypress trees. This tree is found on many Christian tombs. According to George Ferguson’s book, “Signs and Symbols in Christian Art,” this is due to it’s dark foliage and to the fact that once cut down, it never springs up again from it’s roots and thus is a sign of death.

Many older graves will have ivy planted over it. It is a sign of death and immortality because it’s leaves stay for evergreen. It is a sign of “attachment and undying affection.” Fir trees, once again because they stay green even in the winter, symbolize those experiencing eternal life in heaven.


Adoro said...

Wow. I never knew all of that. Thanks!

Although I always thought the big upright trees pictured were poplars or some other tree.

I don't know if you've ever seen the movie,"Under the Tuscan Sun", they have a lot of these trees on the land, and one of the characters calls them "Creepy Italian Trees."

Anyway...I digress..

More coffee!

Adrienne said...

Adoro -
Silly character -- Creepy and Italian are two things that just don't go together!!

Adrienne said...

Unless you're my cousin Vinnie. He's kinda creepy:)