Showing posts with label mourners. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mourners. Show all posts

Friday, January 31, 2014

Cemetery Statues of Grief

According to the dictionary, grief is “a deep sadness, sharp sorrow, keen distress, or mental anguish, caused especially by someone’s death.”

Grieving Woman
Put another way, grief is a natural response to the emotional suffering when you experience the loss someone you love - The more meaningful the loss, the more deep the sorrow. It’s no wonder we find so many symbols of grief personified in the cemetery.

There are several famous statues depicting grief.

The Angel of Grief
William Wetmore Story
William Wetmore Story originally sculpted this statue, known asThe Angel of Grief”, for his and his wife’s graves in Italy. It has been re-carved countless times and appears on graves around the world.

Another well-known grieving statue is The Adams Memorial located in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, D.C. The statue was caved for the grave of Henry Adams wife. Augustus Saint-Gaudens was the sculptor and he called the bronze figure, “The Mystery of the Hereafter and The Peace of God that Passeth Understanding.” The public called it “Grief.”

Franklin Simmons
Peace Monument
The Peace Monument also known as the Naval Monument or the Civil War Sailors Monument in Washington, D.C. is often shown to depict grief and sorrow. Sculpted by Franklin Simmons, the two female statues represent Grief, who is weeping against the shoulder of History.

Here are a few more which symbolize the loss and mourning of those left behind.

Angels are often shown in poses of grief and sorrow. They are God’s messengers and intercede on behalf of humans. Angels can be found weeping, mourning, or scattering the petals of life.

Weeping Angels:

Mourning Angels:

Scattering Life's Petals:

Another portent of sorrow are cherubs. Victorian and modern Cherubs have been humanized and blurred with Putto so they are now shown as pudgy babies, or toddlers with wings. They are usually placed at a child’s grave.

The death of a child has always been heartbreaking. In the cemetery, children’s graves may be marked with lambs, dead doves, cherubs, or in some cases, the children themselves are shown mourning their loss of life.

Women in Mourning
Women are the mourners of the human race: the ones who are expected, and allowed, to express emotions. It is their presence in the cemetery that connotes sorrow and grief at the loss of a loved one.

Sitting Women Mourners:


Kneeling Women Mourners:

 Women Mourners Standing:

Draped Columns
Used mainly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a column symbolizes a nobly life. Draped material over the column represents the fabric draped over the coffin and signifies grief and mourning.

Grief in Bellefontaine Cemetery
But for all of the statues in mourning that can be found in a cemetery, there are also statues of that indicate confidence and courage. Next week, we will examine those Statues of Hope.

And, a special THANK YOU to all of you:
Tomorrow will mark the 3rd Anniversary of A Grave Interest. If you enjoy what you find here, please “Follow” on Blogger and Twitter, “Like” on Facebook, Share on Google+, and share with your friends.  Thanks for reading, and expect more cemetery marvels to come!


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Women as Mourners

(Apologies for the delay in this post, I was in Lexington, but my blog copy was not : )

Women have always been the expressers of emotions.  We are the ones who oversee the major passages that occur in life – the births, the marriages, the sicknesses, the deaths, each with its own rituals that women have performed for eons.  Death, in every culture, has always had many special rites and women have had the distinct responsibility of attending to that province.

In ancient Greece, women mourners performed the funeral dirge at a person’s death.

In ancient Rome, female mourners would be hired to keep long vigils while the body lay in state and then accompany it to its final resting place.

In ancient Egypt, women hired as mourners followed the funeral procession, wailing loudly. They were also depicted on the tomb walls.

In ancient Israel, women were the ones who prepared the body for burial, as we have though the ages, in all cultures.

In Ireland, women mourners would keen over the body.  This keening was more of a poetic nature set to a vocal wail while the women would rock or clap.

In China, women mourners are still hired today to show respect for the deceased and to help guide the grieving emotions of those attending.

Known as professional mourners, wailers, criers, weepers, keeners and carpideiras, these women were hired to lament the deceased with loud weeping, wailing, hair-pulling, clothes-tearing, even tambourine and chest beating, depending on the dead’s status and the amount of money invested in the mourning. This was done to encourage others to join in with organized, rhythmic expressions of grief.  In some countries, a hired mourner expressed all of the grief that the family could not bring themselves to do in public.

Demonstrative mourners were hired to attend the funeral services, to weep and chant.   The funeral procession not only bore the deceased to their final resting place, it also was a public display of their status in life. Hired mourners would take part in the procession, wailing and grieving, in an organized manner, as benefited the standing of the deceased.

Hired female mourners are depicted throughout literature.  From the Iliad to the Bible to Shakespeare, women have held the role of lamenter and griever.  Even in the cemetery, it is the women who stand over the graves, heads bowed, faces bearing sorrow and anguish, silently lamenting someone’s passing.

Professional mourners were used in Europe until the early nineteenth century, when they were replaced by the funeral mute.  The funeral mute was someone with a sad, melancholy face, dressed all in black, who would stand near the door of the home or church during the funeral to express grief.  They would walk behind the horse-drawn hearse, with a grieving, albeit, silent face.

The professional mourner and the public display of such emotions fell out of favor with the Catholic church and they began to suppress them.  Female mourners were replaced by religious figures such as priests intoning similar elegies and dirges, leading chants and funeral hymns, and heading up the religious procession to the burial grounds. In today’s contemporary world, funeral directors and undertakers have taken on the role as professional mourners, organizing the grieving process for families and leading the way to the cemetery. The only thing missing from our modern funeral mourners are the appearances of grief, and the tears.

Today in China, Taiwan, Brazil and Africa, female mourners are still hired to wail and grieve for the deceased.  But, during the past century, the world has changed its views regarding the vocal lamenting of grief and death.  We have become a quiet, stoic society. The tradition of the professional mourner has almost died out.  But the statue of the female mourner, I suspect, will always be there watching over us with saddened and sorrowful eyes.