Tag Archives: Worcester

Celtic Crosses, Funerary Statues in a Winter Cemetery

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?

 

Hope Cemetery

The beautiful colors of fall have fallen now.  November is a month of greys, maroons, and browns, of  naked grey branches stark against the sky.  So, I thought you might enjoy a last look at the earlier glories of October, resplendent in my photos from the Hope Cemetery of Worcester, Mass.  Let’s start with this lovely line of sugar maples turning into flame.

 

Yang loves to see contrasting colors, and this phenomena is often on display early in the foliage season, when some trees, still bright green, form a gorgeous contrast with the flame of their more precocious brethren.

 

 

 

 

In the cemetery, the lovely autumn colors often form a striking contrast with the white or grey of wonderfully sculpted monuments in relief or freestanding statuary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, there is this mausoleum haloed by the green being subsumed by peach and lemony yellow leaves.

The statuary itself is a pleasure to view.  I was particularly taken by this one of a mother comforting her child.  Does it bespeak the death of an actual mother who would have guided her daughter heavenward or does it tell a story of the mother guiding her daughter from beyond the vale?  Perhaps both mother and daughter are now attaining spiritual heights together in the next world?
It does seem that the opening gates on this tomb stone bespeak the gates of the death opening onto eternal life.

Other symbolic monuments include the  tree stump representing a life cut short.

 

There is the book of life.

 

The book of life for a Mason.
The sad, kneeling, lost child, its form melted away by time and the elements, the stone from which it was carved as transient as human life.
Yet this relief’s portrait reinforces the bond of parent and child through life and death and afterlife.

 

 

 

Perhaps most intriguing as a symbol of life springing from death was this natural image.  We found an old, battered, on its last roots deciduous tree hosting, providing shelter and sustenance, for a baby pine tree.  How unlikely that these two should come together and grow together.  Who knows how long either will last, but they do create an unexpected surge of life.

 

 

An Autumn Walk in St. John’s Cemetery

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?

 

Early Autumn Beauty

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Yang and I started our foliage forays early this year.  By the end of September, you could find some lovely colors if you looked in the right places.  My first description is on the Blackstone River trail near Holy Cross in Worcester.  We went just before dusk to avoid running into too many people.  We saw some really nice colors on the boardwalk that runs along the river and through some marshland.
Here  the plants in the marsh are turning lovely shades of tangerine, gold , and crimson, highlighted by the still green plants around them.  All kinds of vireos, sparrows, and other small birds flitted from swaying stalk to trembling branch.  The misty grey of twilight lent a mystical atmosphere

 

Walking into the woods of the trail, you see saffron, ruby, and orange flame emerge through the dark green trees not yet turned.

 

 

 

 

Here, you see chartreuse and tardy green leaves, segueing into flames of orange and crimson.  Beautiful!

 

 

 

 

As the season progressed, we had a chance to go further afield, journeying to a trail outside of Peterborough, New  Hampshire.  Our walk through the soft light of green woods brought us to a lookout on a large rock extruding into the river.  Looking back, we could see the trees at the water’s edge were gradually putting on their  yellow and  orange finery.
Looking in the opposite direction on the the river, you could see the lovely colors mutedly reflected in the water. At one moment we heard a splash across the water, an otter-sized splash, but alack, we never caught sight of the slick furry critter.
I did manage to get a shot of this handsome guy enjoying the beauty of the spot!
Then it was back into the woods with soft dreamy light slipping through the trees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I thought this cleft rock was pretty neat!  Glaciers leave behind the darnest things!

 

And how about this cutie?  What kind of a frog do you think this is?  I’m not sure whether Yang or I took this shot.   Yang couldn’t detect him a first, for his  (the frog’s)  colors blent into the undergrowth so perfectly.  I guess that’s the idea!

 

 

The walk out was about 2  & 1/2 miles, so when we returned to the rock outcropping on the river, we must have covered about four miles.  Needless to say, we took a rest.  I love this shot of the river.  Doesn’t it almost look like a painting?  It’s a nice image with which to leave you!

 

Christmas with the Yangs -human and feline

Christmas day approached and so did Rosalind to the manger.  Would the baby Jesus be safe?  One year Natasha ran off with one of the sheep!

Whew!  All is safe in Bethlehem, until Natasha decided that the fake snow on the roof looked delicious.  This leads me to an important question:  what’s with all this snow on manger roofs that we’re always seeing on cards and in manager displays?  How much snow do they get in the Mideast?  I know:  it’s a miracle!

 

Christmas day, the girls were absolutely delighted with their presents from my friend, Kathy Healey.  Both Natasha and Rosalind liked the Jackson Galaxy-approved “base-camp mat.”  Natasha was the more taken of the two.  And both had fun with the cat-nipped toys also a part of their feline care package.

 

 

 

 

After human and felines had opened all our presents,  the turkey having been cooked,  it was off to St. Matthews for the Christmas service.  We had a lovely service, with Mother Judith Lee presiding.  The 10:00 service was the third of three services held over two days (Christmas Eve included), so there was a small number of people attending.  That only made the experience even more homey and congenial than usual.  Yang and I both were the lectors!  Yang did the two readings and I did the Intercessions.  We’re lucky to be part of a church that makes us feel at home and happy.

Back home, we put together a wonderful Christmas dinner to share with each other.  I love cooking the Christmas and Thanksgiving meals with Yang.  It’s perfect teamwork, sharing the chores of preparation – and we haven’t dropped a turkey on the floor yet (knock on wood!) ! Of course Natasha was impatient to get her share.  She pulled that turkey right off Yang’s plate!  Little devil!

 

 

 

Here she is getting some turkey in a more acceptable manner – from Yang’s hand.  Kathy Healey take note!

I saluted Yang and the girls before we all tucked in!  It was a yummy meal, suitably stuffing everyone.  And speaking of stuffing, that’s my Mom’s simple but delicious recipe. The squash was my own, with nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves, along with walnuts.  The meal was followed by a long walk around Millbury, checking out Victorian houses and Christmas decorations.

The end of the day gave us a glorious sunset, which I have to share with you in some spectacular shots.

Worcester Gargoyles

Being a Gothic kind of a gal, I’ve been fascinated by the gargoyles I’ve found on churches in Worcester.  There may be more than these three examples, but these churches caught my eye.

stmatthews4The first example is a single, friendly gargoyle that curves along a corner of the St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church on Southbridge Street.  He gracefully curls his undercarriage toward you, his wings unfurl smoothly, and he seems to offer a friendly smile. stmatthews3 Unlike traditional gargoyles, designed to scare away demons or to embody the sin and monstrosity lurking in the human soul, he almost seems to embody the thought that what we may  judge monstrous, out of our own fears and prejudices, may actually be good and loving.  An interesting thought, right?

 

allsaints1All Saints’ Church has two gargoyle guardians allsaints2on its tower.  These fierce protectors are poised and ready take flight and dive bomb whatever demonic threats to the parish’s spiritual stability may lurk in the environs of  Irving Street, Worcester, Ma. The church has played allsaints3host to the Worcester State Chorale performances, and the acoustics for their exquisite singing  was breath taking!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The final church has a veritable feast of gargoyles, although some have disappeared mysteriously since first I sighted them.  Did they fly away?  Don’t blink, then, Dr.  Who fans!  Originally, the Union Congregational Church but now the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, this building is magnificent. The church has been likened to a scaled down version of Notre Dame de Paris.  Not as many gargoyles, but a respectable showing nonetheless. gargoyle4Apparently, the missing gargoyle did not fly off (no Mr. Norell around), but was removed and sold to clear debts (see WT&G story.)  The gargoyles that remain are, indeed, something else.  My husband and I took these photos early in January, when streams of frozen ice lent the creatures a special beauty.    We see that this poor chap seems to be feeling the cold intensely.  gargoyle1Perhaps he’s existing multi-dimensionally:  here and on Dante’s ninth level of hell.  Looks as if he has the satanic wings with which to create the freezing air.  He’s clearly not enjoying himself.

Or maybe he’s just guarding the front entrance to the church against the incursion of demons with his pal here.

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These are the only churches with gargoyles that I know of in Worcester.  If you know of more, please let me know;  I’d love to find them.  I find it interesting that though the Protestant Reformation slammed the Catholic Church for superstitious, distracting, and gaudy decorations, none of these gargoyle-inhabited churches are Catholic.  They’re all Protestant.  Go figure – just don’t blink.

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