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Drapery in Cemeteries

Drapery in cemeteries and old churchyards is commonplace. You can see it draping headstones and urns, and it symbolises death, and mourning.

In the Victorian era, the urn became a popular symbol of death. It symbolises the return of the physical body to dust, while the soul is everlasting.

The urn’s history started in Pagan religions that carried out cremation. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that attitudes changed due to increasing populations and unhygienic burial conditions.

The ashes of the deceased where commonly collected and buried in an old, or roughly made cooking pot. As these civilizations grew the containers became more elaborate.

The Victorians love of ancient Greek and Roman style decoration is on show in many of their cemeteries and churchyards.

An urn with drapery found in the wonderful churchyard of St Cuthbert's
An urn with drapery found in the wonderful churchyard of St Cuthbert’s

Drapery

Below are some other points to consider in regards to deciphering the meaning of drapery in churchyards.

  • It can represent separation as the Temple in Jerusalem had a curtain separating the sacred area
  • Drapery seen on headstones usually depicts the veil between life and death. It can also represent the crossing of that plane and to others, it symbolises God’s protection until Resurrection
  • During the deceased’s journey from their home to their burial ground, a black cloth draped their coffin. This was the pall and is prior to the creation of hearses.

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Amanda Norman Photography
To view more of Amanda’s graveyard photography, please visit her AmandaNorman.com