Don’t Blink! – Cemetery Artistry
Last year, in August, my husband and I drove to Stratford, Ontario for the Shakespeare Festival, to see Antony and Cleopatra. On the way, we stayed over in Rochester to break up our trip. Once before we’d been to the city and had been driven past two wonderful cemeteries. We decided that if we ever came back to town, we had to visit. We love the nineteenth-century “Romantic-style” cemeteries, most of them based on Mt. Auburn in Cambridge: sloping grounds, ponds, shady trees, a beautiful parklike setting. As a matter of fact, when these cemeteries were originally designed, the idea was for the whole family to take a Sunday afternoon and picnic, relaxing in the beautiful scenery, communing with nature, and visiting with lost beloveds. The exquisite, evocative, wistful statuary creates a mood of delicious melancholy –– though Whovians may feel far different emotions when surrounded by (seeming) stone weeping angels.
These two cemeteries face each other across a busy road. Yang and I started on the side without the redstone, castle-like gates. I don’t remember the names, but I bet my friend Tim Shaw could tell me!
The first cemetery that we visited was Catholic, which is brought home by the beautiful statuary of saints and angels.
This large monument celebrated St. Joseph, holding his “step son” Jesus. I love the angels flanking on both sides. It was extremely hard to get a picture without too much shadowing. I always liked St. Joseph. He was a good Dad, and my father’s middle name was Joseph – and he was a wonderful dad as well.
Here are two of the St. Anthonys immortalized, also holding baby Jesus. Clearly St. Anthony is a popular patron saint in Rochester. Maybe this is St. Anthony’s Cemetery, or a lot of people were praying to find something they’d lost- he’s the patron saint of finding what’s been lost. Whatever the case, they are so wonderfully sculpted. The faces show such deep and beautiful feeling. the graceful folds of the robes seem ready to shift with the breeze or a movement. And the mossy covering adds a lovely Gothic shading.
St. George and the Dragon, no less! This guy’s family clearly thought he was a champion of . . . what? Pretty impressive, huh? The monument is actually much wider, with statuary on the sides. Many of these graves had such elaborate stones that had arches and side statuary. Two other places you see a lot of these kind of elaborate tombs are at Sleepy Hollow in Tarrytown and Woodlawn in the Bronx. Note that this is one one really long monument.
There were also many of the traditional weeping ladies and powerful angels that you find in many Victorian cemeteries. Again, some are still smooth, while others are mossy, but all have a lovely melancholy to them.
Look at this child, someone’s little girl. The closeup shot of her face lets us see her as a real person. Look at the sadness in her expression as she holds a basket of flowers as delicate, lovely, and evanescent as her own life.
I’m particularly fascinated by this brooding woman, standing tall, but not quite able to look us in the eye. Still, she’s peeking through one uncovered eye. Or maybe she just has a really bad migraine? Anyway, Dr. Who fans would probably think she’s trying to cheat.
Across the street and past the redstone gates it was much shadier; there were far more trees. And this was a brutally hot August afternoon. You can tell by how washed out the sky looks in some of the shots how brilliant the sun was that day. As my physicist husband pointed out, the UV was baaad. I have to point out some images of my favorite monument, the greiveing angel. This figure was actually a tad unnerving, but beautiful. The grace of the carving made it seem on the verge of movement. And those enormous wings hinted at an unsettling power. So here are two shots.
Again, Dr. Who-followers, keep your eyes open!