I like old cemeteries and graveyards.
And it’s not ONLY because I am a gloom and doom person.
I love graveyards, really I do. To some, it might sound morbid, but to me, there’s nothing dark about the natural cycles of life. Somehow, death reminds me how alive I am.
Not to mention that from an Urbexing artistic point of view, what could be more abandoned and decrepit then say, death ?
I also appreciate burial areas for their tranquility and beauty. Amongst other places, landscaped cemeteries impose respect and give me feeling of being on exceptional sites. The oldest of them, such as the Pere Lachaise in Paris, are real places of history, bringing together many key figures into a single point in time and space. It’s almost a “who’s who” of French past. Other places that come to mind include the Prague Jewish Cemetery, Arlington in the US, and massive war cemeteries all over Europe.
Tombs -and cemeteries- often provide glimpses into the past, and the lives that were once lived. They are also reminders of humankind’s mortality, as an expression of cultural values and roles. Sometimes they will also be seen as propitiating the spirits of the dead, maintaining their benevolence and preventing their unwelcome intrusion into the lives of the living.
On with my pedantic bit then.
The word tomb comes from the ancient Greek tymbos (τύμβος) which designates the “mound” or the “mound of earth” which is the visual result of a funeral act, namely the digging of a burial pit.
Tombs, burial and sepultures (from the Latin sepulcrum, sepulcher, sepelio, which all mean “to bury”) are synonymous; but while “burial” designates the funeral ritual accompanying the burial, it also means, metaphorically, the place of burial itself (grave, burial grave, mausoleum).
In their most primitive form, burial sites have existed for thousands of years.
Some archaeological sites show that Neanderthal men were buried in deep pits within the caves, where our ancestors lived.
In those days, tombstones were primarily used to protect the deceased’s body from wild animals. Moreover, the most superstitious amongst our ancestors also believed that by doing so, they prevented the dead from coming back to life. This practice lasted over centuries and placing stones over the grave has become a kind of tradition still in vogue. In the modern era, tombstones were also a form of post death vanity, stating the social status of the deceased.
As to their location… well the world is a vast burial ground. It is fairly common to unearth corpses during routine excavations. If you’re living in an urban area, chances are, your house is most probably sitting 15 feet atop a bunch of corpses….
Way back when, graves were located near family homes. In those days, the materials used were mostly rough stones or wood markers. Not necessarily easy to spot nowadays.
Originally, the steles and tombstones only mentioned the names of the people, the age and the year of their death, that is… When mentioning anything at all, as a matter of fact.
Later, when churches recognized burials, it was inscribed in the funeral rite. By the way, a graveyard is a burial ground associated with a church. A cemetery is not– it is often publicly owned. If the question ever comes up on Trivial Pursuit, now you know…
And before you imagine I am some kind of death obsessed sociopath, know that it is not just me. Cemeteries are popular destinations. They are numerous web pages about them. Even a Facebook page with over 300 members.
Weird you say ? Well, so is fuckin’ trainspotting !!