One of my favorite things about cemeteries is their amazing architectural elements. I especially love ornate, rusty metalwork. The photo to the left shows a detail from a fence in Huguenot Cemetery, a historic cemetery in St. Augustine, Florida. I found the combination of the circle above the diamond intriguing – kind of a gothic yin-yang. Hence the title, “Duality.”
This week’s last photo from Santa Fe’s Fairview Cemetery features a more ornate metal grave marker than the one I posted Tuesday. Look near the bottom of the wrought iron cross and you’ll see the name “Bob” attached to the front. Bob’s loved ones are taking good care of him, as evidenced by the bouquets and manger tableau at the marker’s base.
Following up from yesterday, here’s another photo from Fairview Cemetery in Santa Fe. Sometimes in cemeteries you’ll find a single letter set into the earth, as with this “H.” They seem to be plot markers using the first letter of the family’s surname, though I haven’t been able to confirm that. I’ve always found these letters intriguing – I like the simplicity and seeming randomness of them.
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of visiting a friend in Santa Fe. While I was there, I photographed Fairview Cemetery, a small cemetery downtown. The feel and the style was different from other cemeteries I’ve been to, with a definite Southwestern flair.
This was one of my favorite grave markers, a simple wire construction, probably handmade. I vacillated over whether the name is “Guy” or “Cuy,” as I had never heard the name Cuy before. But it does exist, so I think that’s what it is. I’d love to know the meaning and origins of this name because it’s so unusual, but information on it is scanty.
For a little change of pace, here’s an architectural detail of Gothic Revival-style spires atop the Austell Mausoleum in Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery. (Yep, this is another one from the series that I worked on recently.) It’s really a gorgeous building.
The mausoleum’s occupant, Gen. Alfred Austell, served as Brigadier-General of the Georgia State Militia during the Civil War. After the war, he founded the Atlanta National Bank, which became Wachovia Bank (now Wells Fargo, thanks to a corporate buy-out). Other business ventures included cotton dealing and railroad building. He died in 1881.
The New Georgia Encyclopedia has more information on Gen. Austell.
Here’s the second photo that I worked on recently from Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta. This statue appears to be the Greek god Hermes. Hermes is usually portrayed as a young man and sometimes has a pair of small wings, as this statue does.
He’s also known for wearing a cap called a petasos. Originally worn mainly by farmers and travelers, the petasos featured a wide, floppy brim. Over the centuries, however, the petasos evolved into a metal military helmet with a smaller brim. Depictions of Hermes show him wearing either one. If you look at the statue’s head carefully, he does appear to be wearing a flat cap with a small brim, likely the military petasos.
Aside from that, this Hermes is pretty pared-down. Unlike many depictions of Hermes, this one doesn’t wear winged sandals or wings on his cap. The next most popular accoutrement for Hermes is a caduceus. (A staff with two intertwined snakes and a pair of wings at the top. Used today as a medical symbol, the caduceus originally signified commerce.) Although this Hermes might be holding a caduceus in his left hand, it’s impossible to tell from this angle. It would also be an awkward way to hold one.
While Hermes is associated with many different things, including commerce, his role as messenger of the gods is particularly important. Because he easily moves between the mortal and divine worlds, one of his chief duties as messenger is guiding souls to the underworld, Hades. This makes him the perfect graveside companion.
Want to know more about Hermes? Check out this fun overview.
Recently, I was playing around with a few photos that I took in Oakland Cemetery, a historic cemetery in Atlanta.
I’ve always liked this statue of a weeping woman holding a laurel wreath. In cemetery symbolism, a laurel wreath may connote several different things. Often, it’s used to mark the grave of a person distinguished in the arts, the military, literature, or athletics. The circular shape of the wreath implies eternity, and thus, victory over death. Remembrance is another common meaning.
Anyway, I had already done the black and white version of this photo, and I like how it turned out. However, I also like the color of the flowers and leaves on the tree in the background, so I decided to amp up the color version. I cropped it a bit because a few things in the bottom left-hand corner were distracting. (They disappeared in the black and white version, since that corner went so dark.)
I can’t decide which one I like better. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Although I haven’t come across any leprechauns to photograph, spring is also time for the fae. I found this lovely flower fairy sitting in the grass at Isle of Rest Cemetery in Carrabelle, Florida. Rather than belonging to a particular grave, she sat in the midst of it all – a soothing, serene companion to all the departed.