As winter, we hope, is wrapping up and March approaches, I thought I’d post a couple of last minute winter visits to some of the local cemeteries to show you some of their lovely funerary work. Last December, when we were first treated to snow-and when snow still seemed like a treat-, I took some neat shots in St. John’s Catholic Cemetery in Worcester. I was particularly struck by not only the statuary but some reliefs and some Celtic crosses.
First, check out some of the neat reliefs. This one is graced with a stone head of Christ looking lovingly down at a stone chalice of His blood. The Celtic cross also has the austere yet graceful petals of flowers carved upon it. The vivid French blue of the winter sky bespeaks the crispness of the day.
There are many styles of Celtic Crosses rising out of the snow and winter-browned grass of this cemetery. Many also are adorned with striking, symbolic carvings. Others may hold statuary. This Celtic cross particularly caught my eyes, with it’s intricate interlocking designs along its body and its distinctive symbolic figures at the top. The snow beautifully reflects the cool purity of the sky’s winter blue.
A closer study of the figures in the upper central section of the cross reveals the creatures symbolizing the four gospel writers on each branch of the cross, with the knot of eternity and the Infinite in the center and praying angels at the very top, From the top and moving clockwise, you have the winged ox/calf (Luke), the man (Matthew), the griffin/lion (Mark), and the eagle (John)- their wings and halos signifying their divine nature.
You can additionally see Celtic crosses and other monuments honoring priests in the cemetery.
The statuary is also quite striking in the winter light. Here, a woman clings to a cross for salvation or for comfort at her losses. The stone is weathered smooth, the statue almost featureless. Perhaps a comment on the transitoriness of life.
A time-smoothed lamb, couched within the limited protection of this monument further testifies to the relentless passage of time over even the young whom parents see as embodying a kind of immortality. It’s posture is not even terribly peaceful, seeming to indicate tightening oneself up in fear or cold. Maybe both.
Then, there is this triumphant angel-who seems to be wearing a bustle in the height of 1880s fashion. Her broken wing unintentionally testifies to the limits of human commemorations.
Still, when I tried to capture her face with a shot from the front, the glow of the sun created this divine image that perhaps suggests that true immortality and enlightenment come from beyond this earth, transcending the capability of our mortal vision. Ya think?
Between Halloween and fall foliage, October seems the perfect month to post blogs on my cemetery visits. St. John’s Cemetery is one of my favorites, a beautiful rural setting that was just starting to put on display its lovely autumn colors. Unlike the rolling hills of some Romantic-style cemeteries, the layout is fairly flat, but it has a plethora of old trees providing shade in summer and wonderful colors in the fall. A river runs alongside with all kinds of brush that serves as home to many different birds.
There is plenty of beautiful statuary in this cemetery, as well. Some of it shows magnificently against the backdrop of autumn’s leafy splendor. Here we’ve got Jesus.
And here we have a sad woman shouldering the sacred cross, perhaps striving to lift the burden from Christ’s shoulders with repenting her sins.
There are so many beautiful statues here celebrating Catholic figures of holiness-many of which you won’t find in non-Catholic cemeteries. We found many different versions of the Virgin Mary. These are some especially interesting ones. This monument evokes the Infant of Prague motif.
These other two images of Mary are intriguing as well. The first figure reminds me of Our Lady or Lourdes or of Fatima. The second shows her crowned Queen of Earth and the Heavens, with the Christ child.
The images of angels were fascinating, too. I love this relief that seems to show Saint Michael, sword in hand, ready for Someone Special.
However this exquisite carving of an angel struck me the deepest. I’m including more than one shot, I’m so impressed with it. Look at the deep contemplation in the features. What is this angel thinking? Brooding on the fall of some many angels and humans once bright with promise? Or is there a trace of a smile in the subtle shaping of his cheeks and lips? Take time to delight in how the material of his gown seems to drape gracefully as a part of his body. What does he hold tucked behind? A sword or a staff? The features are so gracefully, believably carved that not a single Dr. Who fan would blink in his presence.
I’m just not sure who this saint is. He’s in monk’s robes, so it can’t be Joseph-and no baby Jesus. There are no animals around, so it wouldn’t be Saint Francis. No baby Jesus on his shoulder-not St. Christopher. Maybe St. Anthony or St. Peter? He is holding a cross, the way Peter was martyred, but what about the skull?
There are other wonderful statues that are not of Saints, much in line with what you’d expect in any cemetery. Behold this piece that looks like a cathedral.
Then there are some lovely statues of women, like this one of a mother reading from a book to her daughter. The book is probably a Bible, but I like to think of it as something by C. Brontë. Charlotte was actually pretty spiritual.
You can also find some impressive examples of Celtic Crosses in this cemetery, some with intricate relief designs carved on them. Below are two examples I found captivating.
The river that parallels one side of this cemetery hosts many wonderful critters. We’ve seen ducks and a Great Blue Heron here. Once we even saw a muskrat swim gaily upstream. The brush and trees along the banks host flocks of Robins, Chickadees, Vireos, Phoebes, Catbirds, and King Birds. In the summer, we’ve seen Orioles and woodpeckers flying and perching on the imposing tress on the grounds.
Speaking of birds, one time we showed up in the cemetery too late to be allowed to continue our walk. As we were driving slowly toward the main road to leave, Yang asked me, “What’s that on the tomb stone ahead?” It was a great big red-tailed hawk! The pictures aren’t perfect because it was night and we took them through the windshield of our car, but they are pretty darned neat. I especially like the one where Mr. or Ms. Hawk does an almost 180 with the head and stares right at us. Yikes!
Lastly, this gravestone raised an important question for me. If Curley’s here, where did they plant Moe and Larry? Or Shemp?