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What Is The History Behind Tombstones?

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Death has always been a mystery. For this reason, religion plays a role in helping you to deal with and understand death. If you ever had to bury a loved one, then you had the option to purchase a tombstone (gravestone). Tombstones have always been used as a way to memorialize a deceased loved one. Have you ever wondered why people use gravestones as part of a burial? Read on to find out the history behind gravestones.

Churchyard Burials

Before cemeteries, churchyards were used as a place for working-class Europeans to bury their loved ones. The rich were buried inside of the church. The graves were marked with wood, rocks or rough stones. These objects were placed on the graves to keep the dead from rising.  The grave markers also included the age, year of death and name of the deceased. This information was written on a makeshift gravestone made of rock.

Garden Cemetery

According to New World Encyclopedia, the seventeenth century was when Europeans started burying their dead in cemetery structures with a monument over the graves. French authority was not happy with this method of burial. They wanted the dead buried in a hygienic and respectful manner. 

At this time, the dead was buried in a hasty manner. The burial ground was not a pretty sight. Most bodies were buried in mass graves. This area was like a dumping area for the bodies to decompose. After decomposition, the bodies were exhumed. The bodies was than stored inside of cemetary structures or the walls of the church.

In 1804, French architect Alexandre Brogniart designed the first modern cemetery. It was referred to as a garden cemetery.  It was also at this time that more importance was given to gravestones. Gravestones were used as a way to memorialize the dead.

Engraving Headstones

During the 19th century, gravestones included a few words about the deceased. The inscription was written by a loved one or the deceased himself. It also included the basic details like date of birth and date of death. This inscription gave insight to a visitor about the deceased person's background, and he could use the information to trace the person's family history.

The Victorian Era

The Victorian Era was when gravestones became more elaborate. Cemeteries had so many lavishly, decorated gravestones that they looked like parks. The gravestones also included symbols, artwork and sculptured designs. Examples of these symbols are flowers, angels of death, Star of David, horseshoes and weeping Willow trees. These symbols represented the deceased's religious beliefs, social class and occupation.

Gravestones have always been a reflection of the times. According to Shiva, marking a grave with a tombstone came about as a Jewish custom. Visitors would place stones at the head of a grave as a way to honor the deceased. Basically, the tradition of using tombstones became popular.


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