30 November 2007

Death Brings New Life

So as Andrea told you, a few weeks ago we went to St. Paul's Episcopal Church Cemetery. It's an extremely old city cemetery that has some amazing art and architecture. I've always been fascinated by the way different cultures revere their dead, and even moreso, how the art and architecture around said reverence changes over time. Since Andrea did such a good job covering all the bases on the different types of sculpture and headstones in the cemetery, I thought I would do something a little less morbid to end the month of the dead.
At the cemetery, there were lots and lots of mausoleums all over the grounds. There were some built into the earth, and many were just freestanding buildings. The majority of them had beautiful stained glass windows that captured the light just perfectly. I was pretty amazed that considering many of the graves went back to the early-mid 19th century, the windows were still in such great condition.

This one was a favorite of mine that day. I loved the way the sun hit the colors and really made them "pop." One thing I didn't notice about the shot until I uploaded my digitals was the cross shadow on the right side of the glass. Beautiful!

Finally, now that we're ending The Month of the Dead, I think that it's appropriate that I leave you with the next picture since we're heading into Advent. The next 25 days are days of hopeful waiting and watching. May this coming season be a time one of hope and joy as we, like the Three Wise Men keep watch for the coming of the Christ Child.

29 November 2007

Photo of the Day: Light and Shadow

There are only a couple of more days left in The Month of the Dead, so I wanted to post this picture while there was still time. I will likely try to round out the rest of the month tomorrow with the pictures that I also took at St. Paul's Episcopal Cemetery. In the meantime, the above is my contribution for today.

I took this last summer at the country's smallest battlefield cemetery-- Fort Stevens National Battlefield Cemetery. There are 40 Union graves there, and it is one of the few where they are all identified. This cemetery is actually around the corner (and a few blocks down the street) from our house, and so is what's left of the battlefield. The battlefield site is the only one where the Commander in Chief (re: President Abraham Lincoln) was present for the battle. Union forces were desperately trying to defend Washington, DC, and as was custom at the time, old Abe wanted to watch. From the letters that he wrote later, they say that supposedly he was almost killed, but mesmerized by the scene.

Sony CyberShot 7.2MP, Digital Format

27 November 2007

Saint Paul's Episcopol

To wind down our Month of the Dead theme, Lauren and I finally paid a visit to St. Paul's Episcopal cemetery. Located on North Cap and Hawaii we've been catching glimpses inside this cemetery for years and have been wanting to pay a visit...well a couple weekends ago we finally managed to do it.

St. Paul's is huge. Like hugely huge. And, despite it's Episcopalian nature, was very diverse in the types of monuments it contained-in particular the very Russian Orthodox crosses and mausoleums. I was especially inters ted in the various human and angel images.

I also spotted the following and I'm not really sure how to describe it...an Ankh with an angel face? And stones? I sure wish I could meet whomever had this erected and find out if the dead person was multi-cultural/multi-religious that so many icons got smooshed together:

And this one was just creepy-haunting

And my favorite which I decided looked best in black and white:

And, as expected in a cemetery as old as this one, there were small sections scattered here and there with old-fashioned tombstones, many of them worn away and smooth, broken, sunk into the earth, or even fallen over.

So, even though the Month of the Dead is ending, my cemetery posts more than likely will not. I got a lot of good shots that I want to share and I'm hoping to visit one of my favorite cemeteries when I go back to Michigan for Christmas.

19 November 2007

Belgrade Cemetery

So finishing up the large catch-all cemetery in Belgrade.

I thought one of the best things about the overtly Orthodox sections were the colorful tombs and gravemarkers. Not that we Catholics are terribly plain (although the more modern cemeteries generally are) but the use of color on some of these was really impressive.

I also enjoyed some of the more unusal markers. I would really like to know the story behind this one:

And the yet to be engraved markers were fascinating both because of how shiny and new the marble was but also because even though there may not be anyone buried there yet, the certainty that someone would be was somewhat overwhelming when viewing the rows upon rows of uncut markers.

Maybe even though no one's in there yet people have bought the plots. It's pretty amazing really the forethought that has to go into funerals. I guess a lot of people think some things are a given...if you belong to a church that has its own cemetery that's where you're buried. Not necessarily so I have learned. You do have to buy your plot. My parents already have plots at the family church cemetery in C'ville. They bought them (I love this) on sale. Yep...on sale. I believe this was when St. Mike's first opened their cemetery and were trying to sell plots? In any case, my parents are set for plots but then there's everything else to be considered. I took a Death and Dying course at university and we all had to plan the funeral of a loved one. I killed off my mom for the project and it actually ended up being, not only an interestnig and emotional exercise, but a useful one. I'm pretty sure I've got that saved somewhere as we planned the readings, the music, the stipulation that, should (great) Aunt Tobe still be alive (which by now she's not) she was not to be allowed to sing but that a week after the funeral we are to throw a party and Uncle Tone's band Replay is to play. We've also been instructed to under no circumstances take my mom's body to Throop's Funeral Home in C'ville. And my mom understands if none of the three of us want to speak at the funeral/give a eulogy but she would like it if we did.

13 November 2007

That Brave and Fallen Few

(Ghosts of War, Manassas Battlefield Park)

I believe that there is no coincidence that the day that the whole world remembers their fallen occurs during the Month of the Dead.

At the eleventh hour, on the eleventh day, of the eleventh month of the year 1918, an armistice was forged between the Allies and Germany during The Great War (WWI). The war wouldn't be formally ended until June 28, 1919. November 11 became known as Armistice Day, and today we know it as Veteran's Day. It's a day that the entire world has set aside to honor those who have fallen fighting under their country's colors, for their cause of what they've belived to be the greater good. Because Veterans Day didn't come along until WWI, there were no 'days of rememberance' for soldiers that fell in battle in the 18th and 19th centuries.

It is interesting to me that prior to The Great War, there were no real monuments to wars fought in the US. Perhaps when the wars were still fresh in people's minds, they still managed to remember their fathers and sons that were lost fighting in the Revolutionary War, French and Indian War, Civil War, or others. Only the battlefield cemeteries themselves stand as reminders of those who fell during those tumultuous times. What I find interesting is that while our National Battlefield Cemeteries memorialize soldiers from the very different battles that were fought on or near those grounds there, they all have many similar characteristics.

On every battleground, there are placards inscribed with portions of a poem written for Kentucky troops fallen in the 1847 Mexican war by Captain Theodore O'Hara. I have many pictures from various battlefields that display portions of the poem. Just like many of our national parks are falling into disrepair, so are our battlefield parks and their ornaments. Of those that I've seen, I've put them in order below, but since it's quite a lengthy poem, I have not included it in its entirety.
(reinactors, Manassas Battlefield Park)

Where those placards are difficult to read because of age and wear, I have added the words:
On fame's eternal camping ground
Their silent tents to spread,
And glory guards, with solemn round
The bivouac of the dead

Sons of the Dark and Bloody Ground
Ye must not slumber there,
Where stranger steps and tongues resound
Along the heedless air.


Rest on embalmed and sainted dead!

Dear as the blood ye gave;

No impious footstep here shall tread

The herbage of your grave;

Nor shall your glory be forgot

While Fame her record keeps,

For honor points the hallowed spot

Where valor proudly sleeps.


Yon marble minstrel's voiceless stone
In deathless song shall tell,
When many a vanquished ago has flown,
The story how ye fell;
Nor wreck, nor change, nor winter's blight,
Nor time's remorseless doom,
Can dim one ray of glory's light
That gilds your deathless tomb.

(the pictures used in this post were taken in 2005, 2006, and 2007 at Manassas, Gettysburg, and Fort Stevens National Battlefield Parks. All are Civil War-era Battlefields)

07 November 2007

Catch-all Cemetery in Belgrade-black and white

Interestingly enough, directly across the street from the Jewish cemetery in Belgrade is what I’m going to call the catch-all cemetery. When first entering it we thought it was strictly Serbian Orthodox, but the map (the place is extensive and in need of a map) indicated that this cemetery too has a Jewish section and there was a special section for all the French people. That last one left me with a raised eyebrow.

Most of these pictures I actually took in color but later changed them to black and white. I'll do another post in a few days with the color pictures as many of the monuments are painted or mosiaced in such a way as to necessitate color photographs.

I loved this-it's like someone's private version of the Pieta.

I also learned that during a (Serbian) Orthodox funeral, grievers carry wooden crosses to the cemetery to put up at the grave until a proper headstone can be afforded. However, it seems that many leave up the crosses even after the monument is put into place.

A former coworker of ours is buried in this cemetery. We tried but sadly could not locate his grave in the vastness.

02 November 2007

Jewish Cemetary in Belgrade

First of all, I know what you're thinking, a Jewish cemetery in Belgrade? Surprisingly yes. While the Jewish population in Serbia is not exactly booming (there is one temple in Belgrade and the rabbi services all of Serbia and Macedonia), the community is fairly left alone.

I am lucky enough to have several Jewish friends, one of whom I visited when I was in Serbia. With her I attended a few services as well as the holiday Purim, and she took me to the Jewish cemetery. Up until then I had neither been to a Jewish service or cemetery and was thrilled at the opportunity.

I love cemeteries but would like to pre-defend myself by saying I am not morbid or ghoulish. Cemeteries say a lot about a country's culture and its people. And, since November is the month of the dead, I'm taking the opportunity to explore that love and share some of my pictures.

One of my favorite things about cemeteries is how peaceful they are, however trite that may sound. I get nervous when there's no noise, not necessarily noise as in voices or music, but normal noises, wind, breezes, birds, etc. Cemeteries seem to somehow be exempt from this and I can wander around quietly and contemplate deep thoughts (ok maybe I don't really contemplate deep thoughts so much as daydream but whatever...)

01 November 2007


Yesterday was Halloween-- All Hallow's Eve. It may seem strange that I'm posting a photo of mosaic skeletons, but to me, the timing of this post is perfect. Today is the Feast of All Saints, or Hallowmas ("hallows" meaning "saints" and "mas" meaning "Mass"). In some parts of the world, they call it The Day of the Dead (Hungary, Italy, France) or el Dia de los Muertos (Mexico) where people visit cemeteries and celebrate death as the next journey by decorating tombstones, and eating special foods (like Bread of the Dead (pan de muerto). As far as I have ever known, in America, there isn't much celebration involved with this holy day (holiday) outside of immigrant communities. However, today is the day that we attend Mass to remember all of the faithful saints and martyrs, known or unknown. Tomorrow, is the commemoration of all those who have died, but have not yet reached heaven -- All Souls Day. The picture above was taken at the Franciscan Monastery Commisserat of the Holy Land in America, in Washington, DC. It is a beautiful monastery, and while this single mosaic from the wall of the Purgatory chapel is morbid, do not let it color your interpretation of the entire place.

The Monastery is incredibly beautiful, with collonades, a walking rosary (both shown above), and replicas of various holy sites including Lourdes (shown at the bottom with a statue of St. Bernadette), Bethlehem, and the early Christian catacombs. There are also several grottoes on site; this one is to commemorate death and resurrection. There is also a mosaic of the raising of Lazarus on the opposite wall.

I highly recommend a visit to this place, if ever you need a beautiful place of peace and serenity amid the hustle and bustle of DC, or to see the replicas of sites from the Holy Land. Be sure to stop by and visit gift shop, even if it is a little kitschy. The do have a wide selection of excellent books, and some interesting small gifts.

My pictures of this site aren't that great right now. I am due for another visit back so I can take some better, sharper pictures. I believe that Andrea probably has some good shots (with much better narrative)that she is likely to share here very soon.

Olympus 35mm, 200spd film