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Why I Love Graveyards

IMG-20130602-01055I would call myself a fairly normal person (although that’s debatable): I don’t walk around graveyards in the middle of the night, believe in vampires or werewolves, or dance on the graves. I don’t go to graveyards because I am morbidly fascinated by death. However, I do like going to graveyards, and there is one reason that you probably can guess… because they are historical!

What I love doing when I go to a graveyard is trying to find the oldest gravestone. So far the oldest I’ve ever seen is from the year 1600. I don’t like finding the newest gravestone because if it is REALLY new, from the past couple of years, I feel really bad intruding on the grave and walking over it. You never know, a family member could walk up to it with some flowers, see me staring at the inscription and slap me across the face for being irreverent. I only really like the older gravestones, until probably the 1950’s (at the latest). The reason is that, although of course the older gravestones still mark an actual person that’s died, it’s less likely that there will be people still mourning them and going to the gravestone to pay their respects.

IMG-20130602-01070From going to quite a few graveyards, I am getting better at identifying the time the gravestone is from without reading it at all. For example, gravestones from the 1920’s/30’s/40’s are written with lead (I assume) and in a sans serif font, a font that just seems wartime and has the general look of the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, if you get what I mean. Also, I found something pretty cool: in one graveyard around Oxford (I don’t know exactly where it was) I saw an odd-looking crest on the gravestone, which at first glance looked like a symbol for a basketball team or something you’d see on a baseball cap. Then in a different graveyard, very far away, I saw the crest again, but this time a little different!

IMG-20130602-01063I wondered what an earth it could mean. When I saw the first one I thought it was the crest/symbol of a family that lived around there, but it couldn’t have been because the second one was so far away, but almost exactly the same. Then I had a look at the date on the second gravestone– it was one of the 20’s/30’s/40’s ones I just mentioned. So after deducing stuff, I thought that it was some sort of military symbol, as the date on the gravestone was very close (maybe even during, I can’t remember) to one of the world wars. Then I found two other crest-looking things:

IMG-20130602-01067IMG-20130602-01069and I thought that maybe the one I’d seen on those two gravestones so far away from each other was an army one. But now, I’m not so sure. Does anyone know what that symbol/crest thing is? I did have a thought that it could be the same family, but the crests were ever-so-slightly different. The one in the picture has a sword or cross-looking thing behind the S, and the other one had a weird-looking Y (I think) instead.

What I also love about graveyards is the fact that they are usually on the site of a church (actually, I can’t think of a graveyard that isn’t) and that church is usually very old, so another historical thing to look at! I don’t have any photos of such a church, since the graveyard these pictures are from is very new, but I have been to a little church belonging to a stately home thing that had the oldest grave-like thing I’ve seen. Actually, it was better than a grave, it was a sarcophagus! It was actually made a few (hundred?) years after the person’s death, but it was referring to a death in, I believe, 1572! I thought that was pretty cool.

Also, inside old churches, you can see all sorts of interesting stuff like plaques and stained glass. I went into this church that dated from 1233 and while my dad and I were exploring (in the dark, since it was empty) the owners walked in and found us snooping around. Thankfully they welcomed visitors and we only came in because we were thinking of the thing that a church is always open. That church was really interesting, and I saw this bit of paper from 1575 which documented the discovery of Romanesque windows while the church was being restored. It was fascinating!

IMG-20130602-01062Another deduction I have not yet made is about the Celtic cross graves. I have seen them everywhere, but I don’t know the real meaning of them. Are they only used for people that have Celtic roots, or is it just a decision based on how pretty the gravestone looks? Is it only superficial? Looking at the graves, I can’t really tell where the people with the Celtic crosses have come from, so I’m a bit stuck. Does anyone know the answer?

At graveyards you can see all sorts of cool things, like people’s names (I like to take note of the best ones, for possible character names in future writing), different shapes and sizes of gravestones, and I’ve even seen a gravestone with the maker’s name on it! Military gravestones are also interesting, and I saw one that was more like a tomb/sarcophagus thing which had quite a few names on it, some of the (at least) six sons of one man. The sons had obviously gone to war and were killed, and the inscriptions said where their actual bodies were buried, for example in France or Belgium. That was a very interesting grave, and it said the parts of the army the sons were in, which was cool.

IMG-20130602-01059

So overall, I love graveyards because they can tell you not just about who died, but they can give you a little picture into the time that they died, by the font they used on the grave, the shape, material and size of the gravestone and by other little decorations on it. The oldest actual gravestone I’ve seen is from 1600, so I want to know if anyone has seen any that are older! Please leave a comment!

Your NOT morbid blogger, Jaz

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4 comments on “Why I Love Graveyards

  1. […] you remember in my post, Why I Love Graveyards, I mentioned a weird symbol that I saw on more than one grave (a picture is below)? Well, I now […]

  2. […] Why I Love Graveyards (jazsays.wordpress.com) […]

  3. I find graveyards fascinating too. My favourite is the West Cemetery at Highgate. It is absolutely beautiful. You can only visit it by guided tour so you can’t just turn up and wander about at your own pace which is a bit of a shame. Having said that the guide that showed us around was so knowledgeable and pointed out so many interesting details we would never have spotted or understood ourselves it made up for not having the freedom to look about on our own.

    http://highgatecemetery.org/visit/cemetery/west

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