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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Santa Rosa Memorial Park in Santa Rosa, California

A cemetery is a place in which dead bodies and cremated remains are buried. The term cemetery (from Greek κοιμητήριον: sleeping place) implies that the land is specifically designated as a burying ground. Cemeteries in the Western world are the place where the final ceremonies of death are observed. These ceremonies or rites differ according to cultural practice and religious belief.



The Oxford English Dictionary states that a cemetery is "A burial-ground generally; now esp. a large public park or ground laid out expressly for the interment of the dead, and not being the ‘yard’ of any church. (Cemetery c)" and that it "... Originally applied to the Roman underground cemeteries or CATACOMBS (Cemetery a)"[1]

In the Scots language or Northern English language a churchyard can also be known as a kirkyaird or kirkyard. However, it should be noted that a churchyard can also be any patch of land on church grounds, even without a place of burial. Graveyards are sometimes owned by the place of worship next to which they are situated. However, in America, private companies are increasingly purchasing and operating formerly church owned cemeteries. Some cemeteries are owned by independent non-profit cemetery organizations. The use of graveyards for burial of the dead was largely discontinued in towns from the 19th century onwards as they were replaced by cemeteries.

Cemeteries through history


Prehistoric cemeteries are sometimes referred to by the term 'grave field'. They are one of the chief sources of information on ancient and prehistoric cultures, and numerous archaeological cultures are defined by their burial customs, such as the Urnfield culture of the European Bronze Age.

Early Christian history

From about the 7th century, European burial was under the control of the Church and could only take place on consecrated church ground. Practices varied, but in continental Europe, bodies were usually buried in a mass grave until they had decomposed. The bones were then exhumed and stored in ossuaries, either along the arcaded bounding walls of the cemetery, or within the church under floor slabs and behind walls.

In most cultures those who were vastly rich, had important professions, were part of the nobility or were of any other high social status were usually buried in individual crypts inside or beneath the relevant place of worship with an indication of the name of the deceased, date of death and other biographical data. In Europe this was often accompanied with a depiction of their family coat of arms.

Most others were buried in graveyards again divided by social status. Families of the deceased who could afford the work of a stonemason had a headstone carved and set up over the place of burial with an indication of the name of the deceased, date of death and sometimes other biographical data. Usually, the more writing and symbols carved on the headstone, the more expensive it was. As with most other human property such as houses and means of transport, richer families used to compete for the artistic value of their family headstone in comparison to others around it, sometimes adding a statue (such as a weeping angel) on the top of the grave.

Those who could not pay for a headstone at all usually had some religious symbol made from wood on the place of burial such as a Christian cross, however this would quickly deteriorate under the rain or snow. Some families hired a blacksmith and had large crosses made from various metals put on the place of burial.

Graveyards replaced by cemeteries

A Soviet military cemetery on the island of Saaremaa, Estonia.

Various conditions in the late 18th century and throughout the 19th century led to the burial of the dead in graveyards being discontinued. Among the reasons for this were:

As a consequence of these reasons, city authorities, national governments and places of worship all changed their regulations for burials. In many European states, burial in graveyards was outlawed altogether either by royal decrees or government legislation.

In some cases, skeletons were exhumed from graveyards and moved into ossuaries or catacombs. A large action of this type occurred in 18th century Paris when human remains were transferred from graveyards all over the city to the Catacombs of Paris.

However in most places across Europe completely new places of burial were established away from heavily populated areas and outside of old towns and city centers. Many new cemeteries became municipally-owned, and thus independent from churches and their churchyards, however even these were still segregated by the faith of the deceased to be buried there.

Thus cemeteries (certainly in their modern landscaped or garden cemetery form), rather than graveyards, became the principal place of burial for the deceased and continue to this day.

Modern cemeteries

The Laird's traditional Scottish graveyard at Kindrogan House, Strathardle.
The town cemetery on the plains of Calhan, Colorado.
The 1,400 square feet (130 m2) plot pictured here has the graves of nineteen members of the Hillendahl family, including one who was interred in 1854, in the Spring Branch area of Houston, Texas, United States. A descendant of the family sold all of the land around the grave site, but refused to move the actual graves.[2]

The earliest of the spacious landscaped-style cemeteries is Père Lachaise in Paris. This embodied the idea of state- rather than church-controlled burial – a concept that spread through Europe with the Napoleonic invasions, and sometimes became adapted leading to the opening of cemeteries by private companies. The shift to municipal cemeteries or those established by private companies was usually accompanied by the establishing of spacious, landscaped, burial grounds outside of the city limits.

Cemeteries are usually a respected or protected area, and often include a crematorium for the cremation of the dead. The violation of the graves or buildings is usually considered a very serious crime, and punishments are often severe.

The style of cemeteries varies greatly internationally. For example, in the United States and many European countries, modern cemeteries usually have many tombstones placed on open spaces. In Russia, tombstones are usually placed in small fenced family lots. (This was once common practice in American cemeteries as well, and such fenced family plots are still visible in some older American cemeteries.)

Usually there is a legal requirement to maintain records regarding the burials (or interment of ashes) within a cemetery. These burial registers usually contain (at a minimum) the name of the person buried, the date of burial and the location of the burial within the cemetery, although some burial registers contain far more information about the deceased person. Burial registers are an important resource for genealogy.

In order to physically manage the space within the cemetery (to avoid burials in existing graves) and to record locations in the burial register, most cemeteries have some systematic layout of graves in rows, generally grouped into larger sections as required. Often the cemetery displays this information in the form of a map, which is used both by the cemetery administration in managing their land use and also by friends and family members seeking to locate a particular grave within the cemetery.

Traditionally cemetery management only involves the allocation of land for burial, the digging and filling of graves, and the maintenance of the grounds and landscaping. The construction and maintenance of headstones and other grave monuments is usually the private responsibility of families of the deceased. However, increasingly, many people regard the resultant collection of individual headstones, concrete slabs and fences (some of which may be decayed or damaged) to be aesthetically unappealing, leading to new cemetery developments either standardising the shape or design of headstones or plaques, sometimes by providing a standard shaped marker as part of the service provided by the cemetery. This has led to the development of new styles of cemetery.

Contemporary styles of cemetery

There are a number of different styles of cemetery in use. Many cemeteries have areas based on different styles, reflecting the diversity of cultural practices around death and how it changes over time.

Monumental cemetery

A monumental cemetery is the traditional style of cemetery where headstones or other monuments made of marble, granite or similar materials rise vertically above the ground (typically around 50cm but some can be over 2 metres high). Often the entire grave is covered by a slab, commonly concrete but can be more expensive materials such as marble or granite, and/or has its boundaries delimited by a fence which may be made of concrete, cast iron or timber. Where a number of family members are buried together (either vertically or horizontally), the slab or boundaries may encompass a number of graves. Monumental cemeteries are often regarded as unsightly due to the random collection of monuments and headstones they contain. Also, as maintenance of the headstones is the responsibility of family members, over time many headstones are forgotten about and decay and become damaged. For cemetery authorities, monumental cemeteries are difficult to maintain. While cemeteries often have grassed areas between graves, the layout of graves makes it difficult to use modern equipment such as ride-on lawn mowers in the cemetery. Often the maintenance of grass must be done by more labour-intensive (and therefore expensive) methods. In order to reduce the labour cost, devices such as whipper-snippers are increasingly used in cemetery maintenance, but unfortunately such devices can damage the monuments and headstones. Cemetery authorities dislike the criticism they receive for the deteriorating condition of the headstones, arguing that they have no responsibility for the upkeep of headstones, and typically disregard their own maintenance practices as being one of the causes of that deterioration. [citation needed]

Lawn cemetery

A lawn cemetery (as the name suggests) is covered in grass. Each grave is marked with a commemorative plaque (around 30cm x 20cm is typical) placed horizontally at the head of the grave at ground-level. While families are normally still involved in the design and information contained on the plaque, generally the size and materials of the plaque are constrained by the cemetery authorities, who often strongly encourage (or in some cases mandate) the use of a standard design. Typically lawn cemeteries comprise a number of graves in this lawn setting with trees and gardens on the perimeter. While aesthetic appeal to family members has been the primary driver for the development of lawn cemeteries, cemetery authorities were initially very enthusiastic about this new style of cemetery, as they appeared to be easier to maintain. By initally selecting (or grading) the land intended for a lawn cemetery to be completely flat, it allows the use of large efficient mowers (such as ride-on mowers or lawn tractors) to be used as the plaques (being horizontally set in the ground) lie below the level of the blades and are not damaged by the blades. Unfortunately, in practice, while families are often initially attracted to the uncluttered appearance of a lawn cemetery, the common practice of placing flowers (sometimes in vases) and increasingly other items (e.g. small toys on children's graves) re-introduces some clutter to the cemetery and makes it difficult to use the larger mowers. While cemetery authorities increasingly impose restrictions on the nature and type of objects that can be placed on lawn graves and actively remove prohibited items, grieving families are often unwilling to comply with these restrictions and become very upset if the items are removed. Another problem with lawn cemeteries is that over time the grass can grow over and cover the plaque to the distress of families who can no longer easily locate the grave. Grasses that propagate by an above-ground stolon (aka runner) can cover a plaque very quickly. Grasses that propagate by a below-ground rhizome tend not to cover the plaque as easily.

A lawn beam cemetery is a recent development which seeks to solve the problems of the lawn cemetery while retaining many of its benefits. Low (10-15cm) raised concrete slabs (beams) are placed across the cemetery. Commemorative plaques (usually standardised in terms of size and materials similar to lawn cemeteries) are placed on these beams adjacent to each grave. The graves themselves are covered with grass like a lawn cemetery. The areas between the beams are large enough that they are easy to mow with a larger mower. As the mower blades are set lower than the top of the beam and the mowers do not go over the beam, the blades cannot damage the plaques. Up on the beam, the plaques cannot be easily overgrown by grass and there is space between the plaques for families to place flowers and other objects without interfering with the mowing.

Natural cemeteries

A natural cemetery or eco-cemetery or green cemetery is a new style of cemetery and is an area set aside for natural burials (with or without coffins). Natural burials are motivated by a desire to be environmentally conscious with the body rapidly decomposing and becoming part of the natural environment with incurring the environmental cost of traditional burials. Although in principle natural burial can be performed in any style of cemetery, typically the environmental motivations of those requesting natural burial tend to favour the use of a natural bushland or woodland setting for the natural burial. Because of the number of trees usually present in a natural cemetery, burials occur in whatever location and orientation best fits the natural environment as opposed to the more traditional rows or other orderly arrangements in traditional cemeteries. As a consequence, natural burial may actually be less efficient land-use than a traditional cemetery. However because of the rapid decomposition of a natural burial, in principle the re-use of the grave site can occur earlier than in other conventional burials, which would improve the efficiency of land use. However, it remains to be seen if family members will accept the early re-use of natural burial sites, given the general community dislike of re-use of any kind of grave. Another consequence of the lack of orderly burials is the need for highly accurate surveying of the grave site for effective cemetery management, to prevent the accidental re-use of a grave site.

In keeping with the intention of "returning to nature" and the early re-use potential, natural cemeteries do not normally have conventional grave markings such as headstones. Instead, the planting of a tree or bush or placement of a rock is regarded as the more appropriate way to commemorate the deceased. However, as with other types of cemetery, the intentions of the cemetery authorities may be in conflict with the grieving practices of family and friends, for whom being able to visit the precise location of a grave and see the name of the deceased is often important. In some natural cemeteries, names can be inscribed on naturally-shaped rocks (not carved headstones) but, unless the rock is particularly large and heavy, it can easily be knocked or kicked to another nearby location.

Columbarium wall

A columbarium wall at Lawnton, Queensland, showing empty niches, plaques and flower holders

Columbarium walls are a common feature of many cemeteries, reflecting the increasing use of cremation rather than burial. While cremated remains can be kept at home by families in urns or scattered in some significant or attractive place, neither of these approaches allows for a permanent commemorative plaque to honour the deceased nor provides a place for the wider circle of friends and family to come to mourn or "pay their respects" (the practice of honouring a deceased person by visiting their grave). Therefore, many cemeteries now provide walls (typically of brick or rendered brick construction) with a rectangular array of niches, with each niche being big enough to accommodate a person's cremated remains. Columbarium walls are a very space-efficient use of land in a cemetery compared with burials and a niche in a columbarium wall is a much cheaper alterative to a burial plot. A small plaque (about 15cm x 10cm) can be affixed across the front of each niche and is generally included as part of the price of a niche. As the writing on the plaques has to be fairly small to fit on the small size of the plaque, the design of columbarium walls is constrained by the ability of visitors to read the plaques. Thus, the niches are typically placed between 1 metre to 2 metres above the ground so the plaques can be easily read by an adult. Some columbarium walls have niches going close to ground level, but these niches are usually unpopular with families as it is difficult to read the plaque without bending down very low (something older people in particular find difficult or uncomfortable to do).

As with graves, the niches may be assigned by the cemetery authorities or families may choose from the unoccupied niches available. It is usually possible to purchase (or pay a deposit) to reserve the use of adjacent niches for other family members. The use of adjacent niches (vertically or horizontally) usually permits a larger plaque spanning all the niches involved, which provides more space for the writing. As with graves, there may be separate columbarium walls for different religions or for war veterans. As with lawn cemeteries, the original expectation was that people would prefer the uncluttered simplicity of a wall of plaques, but the practice of leaving flowers is very entrenched. Mourners leave flowers (and other objects) on top of columbarium walls or at the base, as close as they can to the plaque of their family member. In some cases, it is possible to squeeze a piece of wire or string under the plaque allowing a flower or small posy to be placed on the plaque itself or clips are glued onto the plaque for that purpose. Newer designs of columbarium walls take this desire to leave flowers into account by incorporating a metal clip or loop beside each plaque, typically designed to hold a single flower stem or a small posy. As the flowers decay, they simply fall to the ground and do not create a significant maintenance problem.

Family cemeteries

The grave of an infant at Horton, Northamptonshire

While uncommon today, family (or private) cemeteries were a matter of practicality during the settlement of America. If a municipal or religious cemetery had not been established, settlers would seek out a small plot of land, often in wooded areas bordering their fields, to begin a family plot. Sometimes, several families would arrange to bury their dead together. While some of these sites later grew into true cemeteries, many were forgotten after a family moved away or died out. Today, it is not unheard of to discover groupings of tombstones, ranging from a few to a dozen or more, on undeveloped land. As late twentieth century suburban sprawl pressured the pace of development in formerly rural areas, it became increasingly common for larger exurban properties to be encumbered by "religious easements," which are legal requirements for the property owner to permit periodic maintenance of small burial plots located on the property but technically not owned with it. Often, cemeteries are relocated to accommodate building. However, if the cemetery is not relocated, descendants of people buried there may visit the cemetery.[3]

Holland Cemetery: A rural cemetery in northeast Oklahoma

More recent is the practice of families with large estates choosing to create private cemeteries in the form of burial sites, monuments, crypts, or mausoleums on their property; the mausoleum at Fallingwater is an example of this practice. Burial of a body at a site may protect the location from redevelopment, with such estates often being placed in the care of a trust or foundation. Presently, state regulations have made it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to start private cemeteries; many require a plan to care for the site in perpetuity. Private cemeteries are nearly always forbidden on incorporated residential zones. Notwithstanding, many people will bury a beloved pet on the family property, knowing fully that this violates local health code.

Customs and practices involving cemeteries


In many countries (such as America and Australia) flowers are common gifts brought to dead loved ones. They are brought during major holidays and birthdays. Privately owned cemeteries will often throw away these flowers after a few weeks in order to keep the space maintained.

Contemporary cemetery management

Basilica of Santa Croce, Florence, prestigious burial place of italian personage

Traditionally cemetery management only involves the allocation of land for burial, the digging and filling of graves, and the maintenance of the grounds and landscaping. The construction and maintenance of headstones and other grave monuments is usually the private responsibility of families of the deceased. However, increasingly, many people regard the resultant collection of individual headstones, concrete slabs and fences (some of which may be decayed or damaged) to be aesthetically unappealing, leading to new cemetery developments either standardising the shape or design of headstones or plaques, sometimes by providing a standard shaped marker as part of the service provided by the cemetery.

Grave digging

Usually cemetery authorities dig the grave, usually to ensure it is in the correct place and the correct depth, in order not to interfere with other burials in the cemetery. This is usually done before the mourners arrive for the burial. The cemetery authorities usually fill the grave after the burial, generally after the mourners have departed. Mechanical equipment, such as diggers, are used to reduce labour cost of digging and filling, but some hand shovelling may still be required.

Burial registers

Usually there is a legal requirement to maintain records regarding the burials (or interment of ashes) within a cemetery. These burial registers usually contain (at a minimum) the name of the person buried, the date of burial and the location of the burial within the cemetery, although some burial registers contain far more information about the deceased person. Burial registers are an important resource for genealogy.

Land use management

In order to physically manage the space within the cemetery (to avoid burials in existing graves) and to record locations in the burial register, most cemeteries have some systematic layout of graves in rows, generally grouped into larger sections as required. Often the cemetery displays this information in the form of a map, which is used both by the cemetery administration in managing their land use and also by friends and family members seeking to locate a particular grave within the cemetery.

Pressures on cemetery management

Cemetery authorities face a number of tensions in regard to the management of cemeteries.

One issue relates to cost. Traditionally a single payment is made at the time of burial, but the cemetery authority incurs expenses in cemetery maintenance over many decades. Many cemetery authorities find that their accumulated funds are not sufficient for the costs of long-term maintenance. This shortfall in funds for maintenance results in three main options: charge much higher prices for new burials, obtain some other kind of public subsidy, or neglect maintenance. For cemeteries without space for new burials, the options are even more limited. Public attitudes towards subsidies are highly variable. People with family buried in local cemeteries are usually quite concerned about neglect of cemetery maintenance and will usually argue in favour of public subsidy of local cemetery maintenance, whereas other people without connection to the area often argue that public spending comes from their taxes and therefore should be spent on the living in the district rather than being "wasted" on the dead.

Another issue relates to limited amount of land. In many larger towns and cities, the older cemeteries which were initially considered to be large often run out of space for new burials and there is no vacant adjacent land available to extend the cemetery or even land in the same general area to create new cemeteries. New cemeteries are generally established on the periphery of towns and cities, where large tracts of land are still available. However, people often wish to be buried in the same cemetery as other relatives, creating pressure to find more space in existing cemeteries and are not interested in being buried in new cemeteries with which there is no sense of connection to their family.

A third issue is the maintenance of monuments and headstones, which are generally the responsibility of families, but often become neglected over time. Decay and damage through vandalism or cemetery maintenance practices can render monuments and headstones either unsafe or at least unsightly. On the other hand, some families do not forget the grave but constantly vist, leaving behind flowers, plants, and other decorative items that create their own maintenance problem.

Re-use of graves

All of these issues tend to put pressure on the re-use of grave sites within cemeteries. The re-use of graves already used for burial can cause considerable upset to family members. Although the authorities might declare that the grave is sufficiently old that there will be no human remains still present, nonetheless many people regard the re-use of graves (particularly their family's graves) as a desecration. Also re-use of a used grave involves the removal of any monuments and headstones, which causes further distress to families (although families will typically be allowed to take away the monuments and headstones if they wish).

On the other hand, cemetery authorities are well aware that many old graves are forgotten and not visited and that their re-use will not cause distress to anyone. However, there will always be some older graves in any cemetery for whom there are local and vocal descendants who will mount a public campaign against re-use. One pragmatic strategy is to publicly announce plans to re-use older graves and invite families to respond if they are willing or not. Re-use then only occurs where there are no objections allowing the "forgotten" graves to be re-used. Sometimes the cemetery authorities request a further payment to avoid re-use of a grave, but often this backfires politically.

A practical problem with regard to contacting families is that the original person who organised a burial may themselves also be dead and buried and locating living family members many decades later is virtually impossible (or at least prohibitively expensive). Therefore communication about re-use in local cemeteries tends to occur only through in local publications, which often do not reach family members living further afield who may only become aware of the re-use of the grave after the event (and after the removal and destruction of monuments and headstones).

Some cemeteries did foresee the need for re-use and included in their original terms and conditions a limited tenure on a grave site and most new cemeteries follow this practice, having seen the problems faced by older cemeteries. However, even when the cemetery has the legal right to re-use a grave, strong public opinion often forces the authorities to back down on that re-use. Also, even when cemeteries have a limited tenure provision in place, often funding shortages force them to contemplate re-use earlier than the original arrangements provided for.

Another type of grave site that must be considered for re-use are those that have never been used (but have been purchased at some time for future use). In principle it would seem easier to re-use such grave sites as there can be no claims of desecration, but often this is made more complicated by the legal rights to be buried obtained by the pre-purchase, as any limited tenure clause only takes effect after there has been a burial. Again, cemetery authorities suspect that in many cases the holders of these burial rights are probably deceased and that nobody will exercise that burial right, but again some families are aware of the burial rights they possess and do intend to exercise them as and when family members die. Again the difficulty of being unable to locate the holders of these burial rights complicates the re-use of those graves.

Cemetery excavations, like this one in Madrid, can alleviate overcrowding.

As historic cemeteries begin to reach their capacity for full burials, alternative memorialization, such as collective memorials for cremated individuals, is becoming more common. Different cultures have different attitudes to destruction of cemeteries and use of the land for construction. In some countries it is considered normal to destroy the graves, while in others the graves are traditionally respected for a century or more. In many cases, after a suitable period of time has elapsed, the headstones are removed and the now former cemetery is converted to a recreational park or construction site. A more recent trend, particularly in South American cities, involves constructing high-rise buildings to house graves.[4]

Cemeteries in the United States may be relocated if the land is required for other reasons. For instance, many cemeteries in the southeastern United States were relocated by the Tennessee Valley Authority from areas about to be flooded by dam construction.[5] Cemeteries may also be moved so that the land can be reused for transportation structures,[6][7] public buildings,[8] or even private development.[9] Cemetery relocation is not necessarily possible in other parts of the world; in Alberta, Canada, for instance, the Cemetery Act expressly forbids the relocation of cemeteries or the mass exhumation of marked graves for any reason whatsoever.[10] This has caused significant problems in the provision of transportation services to the southern half of the City of Calgary, as the main southbound road connecting the south end of the city with downtown threads through a series of cemeteries founded in the 1930s. The light rail transit line running to the south end eventually had to be built directly under the road.

Maintenance and mourning

Cemetery authorities also face tension between the competing demands of efficient maintenance with the needs of mourners.

Labour costs in particular have risen substantially and so finding low-cost maintenance methods (meaning low-labour maintenance methods) is increasingly important. However, as discussed above, the use of large mowers and string trimmers might be efficient but often cannot be used in cemeteries because they physically are too large to fit between graves or because they can damage the monuments and headstones. In this regard, older cemeteries designed at a time of relatively low-cost labour and limited automation tend to present the greatest difficulties for maintenance.

On the other hand, newer cemeteries might be designed to be more efficiently maintained with lower labour through the increased use of equipment, e.g. lawn cemeteries where the maintenance can be performed with a ride-on mower or lawn tractor. However, efficient maintenance of newer graves is often frustrated by the actions of mourners who often place flowers and other objects on graves. These objects often require manual intervention; in some cases objects will be picked up and returned after maintenance, in other cases (e.g. dead flowers) they will be disposed of.

Again, although cemetery authorities try to prohibit the quantity and nature of objects placed on graves (a common restriction is to allow only fresh flowers, not in a vase or pot), but mourning families might ignore any such regulations and become very upset if other objects are removed. In particular, in an era in which the death of children is now relatively uncommon, some parents create quite large shrines at their child's grave, decorating them with toys, wind chimes, statues of angels and cherubs, etc as a manifestation of their grief, adding items to the pile of objects on the grave progressively over time. Cemetery authorities have to try to deal with such situations sensitively, as strong emotions are involved. However, as well as their own maintenance problems with such "shrines", families with graves in the surrounding area often complain to cemetery authorities about the "mess", as they believe it detracts from the dignity of their family's graves. It is difficult to find a solution that makes everyone happy.

Unusual cemeteries

Cemeteries for pets

The Cimetière des Chiens in Asnières-sur-Seine in Paris is an elaborate pet cemetery believed to be the first zoological necropolis in the world.

Cemeteries and superstition

Jewish cemetery "Heiliger Sand" in Worms, Germany

In many countries, cemeteries are objects of superstition and legend; they are sometimes used (usually at night-time) for black magic ceremonies or similar clandestine happenings. This legend of zombies, as investigated by Wade Davis in The Serpent and the Rainbow, is exceptional among cemetery myths.

See also

Other common types of burial places

Specific and rarer types of burial places

Removal of remains from cemeteries

Businesses and professions for cemeteries

Public holidays and traditions in relation to cemeteries

Resources to find cemetery locations or names of those buried

Other topics related to places of burial


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition 1989, online edition
  2. ^ Lomax, John Nova. "The Seoul of Houston: The Weather Was Not the Strong Point on Long Point." Houston Press. January 30, 2008.
  3. ^ Alfred Brophy, Grave Matters: The Ancient Rights of the Graveyard
  4. ^ News: New trend: Cemetery Skyscrapers
  5. ^ Cemeteries Relocated by TVA. Accessed July 13, 2009.
  6. ^ "O'Hare Growth May Mean Moving a Cemetery". NPR, November 19, 2005. Accessed July 13, 2009.
  7. ^ St. Johannes Cemetery Relocation. Accessed July 13, 2009.
  8. ^ "Remains in 19th century graves downtown ID'd as soldiers". The Tucson Citizen, April 17, 2009. Accessed July 13, 2009.
  9. ^ "Cemetery Relocation Battle Ongoing". Platte County Citizen, July 4, 2007. Accessed July 13, 2009.
  10. ^ [ Cemetery Act of Alberta. Accessed July 13, 2009.
  • Colvin, Howard. Architecture and the After-Life. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991.
  • Curl, James Stevens. Death and Architecture. Gloucestershire: Sutton, 2002.
  • Etlin, Richard A. The Architecture of Death: the transformation of the cemetery in eighteenth-century Paris. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1984.
  • Grossman, Janet Burnett. Greek Funerary Sculpture. Catalogue of the Collection at the Getty Villa. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2001.
  • Salisbury, Mike. From My Death May Life Come Forth. A Feasibility Study of the Woodland Cemetery in Canada Earthartist
  • Worpole, Ken. Last Landscapes: the architecture of the cemetery in the West, Reaktion Books, London, 2003

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CEMETERY (Gr. ?corµgTilpcov, from KOLlIav, to sleep), literally a sleeping-place, the name applied by the early Christians to the places set apart for the burial of their dead. These were generally extra-mural and unconnected with churches, the practice of interment in churches or churchyards being unknown in the first centuries of the Christian era. The term cemetery has, therefore, been appropriately applied in modern times to the burial-grounds, generally extra-mural, which have been substituted for the overcrowded churchyards (q.v.) of populous parishes both urban and rural.

From 1840 to 1855, attention was repeatedly called to the condition of the London churchyards by correspondence in the press and by the reports of parliamentary committees, the first of which, that of Mr Chadwick, appeared in 1843. The vaults under the pavement of the churches, and the small spaces of open ground surrounding them, were crammed with coffins. In many of the buildings the air was so tainted with the products of corruption as to be a direct and palpable source of disease and death to those who frequented them. In the churchyards coffins were placed tier above tier in the graves until they were within a few feet (or sometimes even a few inches) of the surface, and the level of the ground was often raised to that of the lower windows of the church. To make room for fresh interments the sextons had recourse to the surreptitious removal of bones and partially-decayed remains, and in some cases the contents of the graves were systematically transferred to pits adjacent to the site, the grave-diggers appropriating the coffin-plates, handles and nails to be sold as waste metal. The neighbourhood of the churchyards was always unhealthy, the air being vitiated by the gaseous emanations from the graves, and the water, wherever it was obtained from wells, containing organic matter, the source of which could not be mistaken. In all the large towns the evil prevailed in a greater or less degree, but in London, on account of the immense population and the consequent mortality, it forced itself more readily upon public attention, and after more than one partial measure of relief had been passed the churchyards were, with a few exceptions, finally closed by the act of 1855, and the cemeteries which now occupy a large extent of ground to the north, south, east and west became henceforth the burial-places of the metropolis. Several of them had been already established by private enterprise before the passing of the Burial Act of 1855 (Kensal Green cemetery dates from 1832), but that enactment forms the epoch from which the general development of cemeteries in Great Britain and Ireland began. Burial within the limits of cities and towns is now almost everywhere abolished, and where it is still in use it is surrounded by such safeguards as make it practically innocuous. This tendency has been conspicuous both in the United Kingdom and the United States. The increasing practice of cremation has assisted in the movement for disposing of the dead in more sanitary conditions; and the proposals of Sir Seymour Haden and others for burying the dead in more open coffins, and abandoning the old system of family graves, have had considerable effect. The tendency has therefore been, while improving the sanitary aspects of the disposal of the dead, to make the cemeteries themselves as fit as possible for this purpose, and beautiful in arrangement and decoration.

The chief cemeteries of London are Kensal Green cemetery on the Harrow Road; Highgate cemetery on the slope of Highgate Hill; the cemetery at Abney Park (once the residence of Dr Watts); the Norwood and Nunhead cemeteries to the south of London; the West London cemetery at Brompton; the cemeteries at Ilford and Leytonstone in Essex; the Victoria cemetery and the Tower Hamlets cemetery in East London; and at a greater distance, accessible by railway, the great cemetery at Brookwood near Woking in Surrey, and the cemetery at New Southgate. The general plan of all these cemeteries is the same, a park with broad paths either laid out in curved lines as at Kensal Green and Highgate, or crossing each other at right angles as in the case of the West London cemetery. The ground on each side of these paths is marked off into grave spaces, and trees and shrubs are planted in the intervals between them. The buildings consist of a curator's residence and one or more chapels, and usually there is also a range of family graves with imposing tombs, massive structures containing in their corridors recesses for the reception of coffins, generally closed only by an iron grating. The provincial cemeteries in the main features of their arrangements resemble those of the metropolis. One of the most remarkable is St James's cemetery at Liverpool, which occupies a deserted quarry. The face of the eastern side of the quarry is traversed by ascending gradients off which open catacombs formed in the living rock, - a soft sandstone; the ground below is planted with trees, amongst which stand hundreds of gravestones. The main approach on the north side is through a tunnel, above which, on a projecting rock, stands the cemetery chapel, built in the form of a small Doric temple with tetrastyle porticos.

Many of the cities of America possess very fine cemeteries. One of the largest, and also the oldest, is that of Mount Auburn near Boston. Others of importance are the Laurel Hill cemetery (1836) at Philadelphia; the Greenwood cemetery (1838) at Brooklyn (New York); the Lake View cemetery at Cleveland, Ohio; while the cemeteries at New Orleans are famous for their beauty.

The chief cemetery of Paris is that of Pere la Chaise, the prototype of the garden cemeteries of western Europe. It takes its name from the celebrated confessor of Louis XIV., to whom as rector of the Jesuits of Paris it once belonged. It was laid out as a cemetery in 1804. It has an area of about 200 acres, and contains about 20,000 monuments, including those of all the great men of France of the igth century - marshals, generals, ministers, poets, painters, men of science and letters, actors and musicians. Twice the cemetery and the adjacent heights have been the scene of a desperate struggle; in 1814 they were stormed by a Russian column during the attack on Paris by the allies, and in 1871 the Communists made their last stand among the tombs of Pere la Chaise; 900 of them fell in the defence of the cemetery or were shot there after its capture, and zoo of them were buried in quicklime in one huge grave and 700 in another. There are other cemeteries at Mont Parnasse and Montmartre, besides the minor burying-grounds at Auteuil, Batignolles, Passy, La Villette, &c. In consequence of all these cemeteries being more or less crowded, a great cemetery was laid out in 1874 on the plateau of Mery sur Oise, 16 m. to the north of Paris, with which it is connected by a railway line. It includes within its circuit fully 2 sq. m. of ground. The French cemetery system differs in many respects from the English. Every city and town is required by law to provide a burial-ground beyond its barriers, properly laid out and planted, and situated if possible on a rising ground. Each interment must take place in a separate grave. This, however, does not apply to Paris, where the dead are buried, forty or fifty at a time, in the fosses communes, the poor being interred gratuitously, and a charge of 20 francs being made in all other cases. The fosse is filled and left undisturbed for five years, then all crosses and other memorials are removed, the level of the ground is raised 4 or 5 ft. by fresh earth, and interments begin again. For a fee of 50 francs a concession temporaire for ten years can be obtained, but where it is desired to erect a permanent monument the ground must be bought by the executors of the deceased. In Paris the undertakers' trade is the monopoly of a company, the Societe des pompes funebres, which in return for its privileges is required to give a free burial to the poor.

The Leichenhtiuser, or dead-houses, of Frankfort and Munich form a remarkable feature of the cemeteries of these cities. The object of their founders was twofold - (1) to obviate even the remotest danger of premature interment, and (2) to offer a respectable place for the reception of the dead, in order to remove the corpse from the confined dwellings of the survivors. At Frankfort the dead-house occupies one of the wings of the propylaeum, which forms the main entrance to the cemetery. It consists of the warder's room, where an attendant is always on duty, on each side of which there are five rooms, well ventilated, kept at an even temperature, and each provided with a bier on which a corpse can be laid. On one of the fingers is placed a ring connected by a light cord with a bell which hangs outside in the warder's room. The use of the dead-house is voluntary. The bodies deposited there are inspected at regular intervals by a medical officer, and the warder is always on the watch for the ringing of the warning bell. One revival, that of a child, has been known to take place at Frankfort. The Leichenhaus of Munich is situated in the southern cemetery outside the Sendling Gate. At one end of the cemetery there is a semicircular building with an open colonnade in front and a projection behind, which contains three large rooms for the reception of the dead. At both Frankfort and Munich great care is taken that the attendants receive the dead confided to them with respect, and no interment is permitted until the first signs of decomposition appear; the relatives then assemble in one of the halls adjoining the Leichenhaus, and the funeral takes place. In any case there is, with ordinary care, little fear of premature interment, but in another way such places of deposit for the dead are of great use in large towns, as they prevent the evil effects which result from the prolonged retention of the dead among the living. Mortuaries for this purpose have also been established in many places in England.

In Italy the Campo Santo (Holy Field) is best illustrated by the famous one at Pisa, from which the name has been given to other Italian burying-grounds. Of the cemeteries still in use in southern Europe the catacombs (q.v.) of Sicily are the most curious. There is one of these under the old Capuchin monastery of Ziza near Palermo, where in four large airy subterranean corridors 2000 corpses are ranged in niches in the wall, many of them shrunk up into the most grotesque attitudes, or hanging with pendent limbs and head from their places. As a preparation for the niche, the body is desiccated in a kind of oven, and then dressed as in life and raised into its place in the wall. At the end of the principal corridor at Ziza there is an altar strangely ornamented with a kind of mosaic of human skulls and bones.

Cemeteries have been in use among many Eastern nations from time immemorial. In China, the high grounds near Canton and Macao are crowded with tombs, many of them being in the form of small tumuli, with a low encircling wall, forcibly recalling the ringed barrows of western Europe. But the most picturesque cemeteries in the world are those of the Turks. From them it was, perhaps, that the first idea of the modern cemetery, with its ornamental plantations, was derived. Around Constantinople the cemeteries form vast tracts of cypress woods under whose branches stand thousands of tombstones. A grave is never reopened; a new resting-place is formed for every one, and so the dead now occupy a wider territory than that which is covered by the homes of the living. The Turks believe that till the body is buried the soul is in a state of discomfort, and the funeral, therefore, takes place as soon as possible after death. No coffin is used, the body is laid in the grave, a few boards are arranged round it, and then the earth is shovelled in, care being taken to leave a small opening extending from the head of the corpse to the surface of the ground, an opening not unfrequently enlarged by dogs and other beasts which plunder the grave. A tombstone of white marble is then erected, surmounted by a carved turban in the case of a man, and ornamented by a palm branch in low relief if the grave is that of a woman. The turban by its varying form indicates not only the rank of the sleeper below but also the period of his death, for the fashion of the Turkish head-dress is always changing. A cypress is usually planted beside the grave, its odour being supposed to neutralize any noxious exhalations from the ground, and thus every cemetery is a forest, where by day hundreds of turtle doves are on the wing or perching on the trees, and where bats and owls swarm undisturbed at night. Especially for the Turkish women the cemeteries are a favourite resort, and some of them are always to be seen praying beside the narrow openings that lead down into a parent's, a husband's, or a brother's grave. Some of the other cemeteries of Constantinople contrast rather unfavourably with the simple dignity of those which belong to the Turks. That of the Armenians abounds with bas-reliefs which show the manner of the death of whoever is buried below, and on these singular tombstones there are frequent representations of men being decapitated or hanging on the gallows.

See also the articles Burial And Burial Acts; Cremation; Funeral Rites; Churchyard.

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Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

A place for the burial of the dead. The word "cemetery" is derived from the Greek κομιητήριον, "the place where the dead sleep" (from κοιμάω ("to sleep"), used of the dead in 1 Kg 11:43, LXX.; 2 Macc 12:45; Ecclus. (Sirach) xlvi. 19, xlviii. 13; Mt 27:52; 1Cor 15:20, and is applied almost exclusively to Jewish and Christian graveyards (see Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl." vii. 11, 13; "Apost. Const." vi. 30; and Herzog-Hauck, "Real-Encyc." s.v. "Koimeterien"). In Hebrew it is variously termed: (missing hebrew text) ("the place of sepulchers," Neh 2:3; Sanh. vi. 5), (missing hebrew text) ("house of eternity"; "long home," Eccl 12:5, A. V.), or (missing hebrew text) (Eccl. R. x. 9; Targ. Isa 42:11; Yer. M. Ḳ. i. 80b), and (missing hebrew text) ("house of the living," after Job 30:23 and Isa 26:19). The modern euphemistic name is "the good place," and among Polish-Russian Jews "the pure place." Non-Jewish names are: "hortus Judœorum" (garden of the Jews), probably from the trees surrounding the graves (Abrahams, "Jewish Life in theMiddle Ages," p. 77); "mons Judaicus" (Jewish hill; Berliner, "Gesch. der Juden in Rom," ii. 14); and "Juden-Sand" or "Sandhof" (sand-yard.)


The ancient law (see Burial) required the burial-place to be at least fifty ells distant from the nearest house (B. B. ii. 9); the place for the cemetery was therefore selected as remote as convenient from the city (Lk 7:12). In Talmudical times the tombs were either in caves—hence (missing hebrew text) , frequently the name for a cemetery (M. Ḳ. 17a; B. M. 85a; B. B. 58a)—or hewn out of rocks; and the site was marked by a whitewashed stone ( (missing hebrew text) , Shek. i. 1) to warn passers-by against Levitical impurity. Mausoleums, Monuments, and inscribed Tombstones, though not unknown, were exceptional. In the Middle Ages the Jewish cemetery was as a rule situated at the extreme end of the ghetto, the hospital and other communal buildings being frequently erected in the neighborhood. The limited area often made it necessary to inter bodies above those previously buried; and thus the rule became general to leave a space of six handbreadths between them (Ṭur Yoreh De'ah, 363, after Hai Gaon, and Sifte Cohen to Yoreh De'ah, 362, 4).

Sacredness of the Cemetery.

In Talmudic times the cemetery was visited on fast-days for the sake of offering prayer at the graves of the departed, "in order that they may intercede in behalf of the living" (Ta'an. 16; Yer. Ta'an. ii. 65a; compare Soṭah 34b); and this remained the custom throughout the Middle Ages (see Isserles, Shulḥan 'Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 459, 10, and 481, 4; Schudt, l.c. vi. 38, 78; Berliner, l.c. pp. 118 et seq.). Any occupation showing disregard of the dead, such as eating, drinking, profane work, even the wearing of ṭallit and tefillin, or the use of a scroll of the Law, is forbidden in the cemetery; nor may the vegetation growing there, or the ground itself, be used for private purposes (Meg. 29a; Shulḥan 'Aruk, Yoreh De'ah, 367, 3-4, and 368). The non-use of the grass, however, often led to total neglect of the cemetery, which gave it a very dreary aspect not at all in keeping with its original design. In Talmudic times great care was bestowed upon the cemetery; so that the saying became current, "The Jewish tombs are fairer than royal palaces" (Sanh. 96b; compare Mt 23:29, and Schürer, "Gesch." 3d ed., iii. 14). Orthodox rabbis in modern times, however, have strongly objected to the decking of graves with flowers (see the report of a bitter controversy in Löw's "Ben Chananjah," 1858, pp. 433-442). A singular custom in the Middle Ages permitted first-born animals, which were held too sacred for private use (Yoreh De'ah, 309, 1), to pasture in the cemetery (Schudt, l.c. vi. 8, 39). On the other hand, the cemetery was an object of fear and superstition, inasmuch as it was regarded as the dwelling-place of spirits and demons (Isa 65:4; Mt 8:28), and dangerous to remain in overnight (Ḥag. 3b; Nid. 17a); wherefore cabalists deprecated the idea of women—who since Eden's days have had a special predilection for the archfiend—visiting the cemetery.

On entering a cemetery the following benediction is to be recited: "Blessed be the Lord our God, King of the Universe, who created you in justice, who maintained and supported you in justice, who caused you to die in justice, and who recorded the number of you all in justice, and who is sure to resuscitate you in justice. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who revivest the dead" (Ber. 58b). Compare an older and milder version in Yer. Ber. ix. 13, and Tosef., Ber. vi. 5: "Blessed be He who recordeth the number of you all. He shall judge you all, and He shall raise you all. Blessed be He who is faithful in His word, the Reviver of the Dead." Compare also Pesiḳ. R., ed. Buber, 46b, and Baer's "'Abodat Yisrael," p. 586. For other prayers composed later, see "Ma'abar Yabboḳ," compiled by Aaron Berechiah of Modena; L. Landshuth, (missing hebrew text) (missing hebrew text) , Berlin, 1867; and B. H. Ascher, "The Book of Life," 4th ed., London, 1874. A manual of prayers and devotional readings upon visiting the cemetery was prepared by theNew York Board of Jewish Ministers, and published (1898) under the title of "The Door of Hope."

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.


Up to date as of February 01, 2010
(Redirected to Familypedia:Cemeteries article)

From Familypedia


A brief summary of cemetery formatting information on this Wikia.


Cemeteries are given their official names where practicable (but omitting any initial "The"), usually with the addition of county and state names to minimise ambiguity.

Contributors are encouraged to link each mention of a cemetery in any text even if the location details (and therefore full name) are not known, because we can have disambiguation pages to help sort out duplicate names. Thus if Great-Aunt Mary's last letter said her grandfather was buried at "Northern Cemetery" this wiki may be able to offer a list of possibilities.

Icons and templates

  • For information on icons and templates, please see the List of Icons page. Some of the original templates had names that clashed with proposed generic state names and have mostly been altered (with names such as "flagicon" replacing "flag", for example).


Categories related to cemeteries include:

  • Category:Cemeteries - high-level/"metacategory", should not be used for individual cemetery articles or even county and state cemetery articles
Now the next level down has two types of category, each appropriate for cemetery articles and subcategories; but before racing in to create lots of them please see the "bot" ideas and discussion at
  • Category:Cemeteries in Michigan - a page-level category (replace "Michigan" with appropriate US State) - it can have individual cemetery articles but better not for a large state except for cemeteries whose location is not known with greater accuracy
  • Category:Calhoun County, Michigan - a page-level category that could be used for cemetery articles, but should not be when there are over 100 articles of all sorts, in which case the counties should be broken out and given their own cemetery-specific category, in the next level down:
  • What is probably our bottom level of place-specific cemetery categories has pages like Category:Cemeteries in Calhoun County, Michigan" (replace "Calhoun" and "Michigan" with appropriate place-names). From November 2007, we had (existing or potential) county subpages (which collectively could list all cemeteries in India, United Kingdom, and United States and maybe beyond), linked from the navigation box at the top of each county or district page. Example was at Greene County, Ohio/cemeteries. However, in about September 2008 the main navigation boxes were changed to point to corresponding categories, and it is recommended that any remaining subpages be moved so as to become ordinary articles named "Cemeteries in ... County, ...". Those articles can group cemeteries in any suitable way, such as by township, etc, and should be in the category that has the same PAGENAME, such as Category:Cemeteries in Greene County, Ohio, which is done merely by typing or pasting the following on the article page: [[Category:{{PAGENAME}}| ]]. Creating those categories will very soon (probably by the time most of you read this) be almost as simple, using a template that will have this general form: {{cm-uk|London|England}} or {{cm-us|Greene County|Ohio}}; see Category:County navigation templates and its talk page.

Some in those last two groups, such as "American Civil War" and "Centenarians", might be better not used for cemeteries. "Cemeteries containing centenarians" would be better, for example.

Some cemetery pages are, perhaps unfortunately, categorised under the country of every person buried there or other factors involved such as the above-listed Category:American Revolutionary War. Far too many articles to be usefully held in such comprehensive high-level categories. We could use the services of some keen cemetery-student to change those to categories such as Category:Cemeteries in California containing remains of people born in France. Please use the talk page of this page to draft some ideas.

Other relevant categories

  • Please add Category:Construction or the template {{construction}} to any cemetery entry you find which is incomplete or that needs work in some way. (This would be preferable to using the (rather blunt undignified) {{stub}} template on cemetery pages.) This will help us fix errors that we previously didn't categorise. Thank you.

Adding categories

If adding a cemetery-related category except as specified above, you will probably save time for yourself and others by copying one of the "models" on the model "state" category page or its "Talk" page or by working your way up from Category:Cemeteries in Greene County, Ohio. But again see the notes at

External links

Facts about CemeteriesRDF feed

This article uses material from the "Familypedia:Cemeteries" article on the Genealogy wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

Simple English

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A cemetery or a graveyard is a place (usually surrounded by a fence) where people bury dead bodies and honor the dead people. Many of them have gardens and other greenery in them to symbolise life and to honor those who are dead.

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