In honor of Dia de los Muertos, let's talk Cemeteries

Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans.
Image courtesy of  joseph a

What do you think is a cemetery’s most important role?

  • A home for the bodies (and maybe spirits) of the dead
  • A place for the living to visit the memory of the departed
  • A green space (park)
  • A repository for history (a museum)

Montmartre Cemetery, Paris. Image courtesy of  Pagoo!
Where I grew up, in a small town Southwest of New Orleans (yes, you can go South from New Orleans), there were the most beautiful cemeteries.  The one at the church where I grew up was particularly lovely.  People were buried largely above ground, in mausoleums, crypts, or masonry graves, so that when the rain and the floods came, the bodies did not float away.  Or, at least, that's what we were taught.  

Okunoin Cemetery (奥の院), South of Ōsaka, Japan.
Image courtesy of  eien no dreamer
I loved the miniature necropolis feel of that cemetery.  For the most part, it was neither creepy nor decrepit.  It was peaceful, meditative, and rich with history.  
We had Easter egg hunts there, trying not to get our new white patent-leather shoes too wet in dewy St. Augustine grass.

Elsewhere, outside of Southern Louisiana

You don't see too many of these types of cemeteries in the rest of the U.S.; at least, I haven't.
Wainwright Tomb by Louis Sullivan, Bellefontaine.
Image courtesy of Viking55 via Wikimedia.
I was surprised & delighted by the similarities of the cemetery in Montmartre, and even some in Southern Japan, even though cremation is more typical.  The beloved's remains are still buried with a monument, they just take up less real estate. 

Most other cemeteries I've seen in America are decidedly less "urban," and much more like a park with monuments.

The Bellefontaine cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri, has a number of architecturally significant monuments and is quite beautiful.

It's a completely different feeling to the military cemeteries, with their fields of numbered, equivalent headstones.

Bellefontaine Cemetery.  Image courtesy of  ChrisYunker

Designing for the Dead

Did you know that the rules of Feng Shui are turned on their heads for cemetery design?  White is black and up is down.

Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia.
Image courtesy of  Sebastian Fuss.
I love that the cemetery path might represent the journey of life.  There should be surprises and open vistas and terminating vistas.  Choices and contrasts. Straight and narrow options as well as winding and lingering ones.

How do we want to be remembered?  Do we even expect to be remembered or do we imagine that our loved ones will merely move on.  Are we even worth remembering?


Henry Family Plot, at Manassas/Bull Run, Virginia.
Image courtesy of  Mr. T in DC

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