A Walk Through Time In A Cemetery

Posted on April 2, 2020 by Jennifer Mele under All Cemeteries, Genealogy, History
2 Comments

It is a humble human desire to want the peace of knowing that after we die our mortal remains will be handled in a dignified manner.   When our Catholic cemeteries were established as early as the 1840’s, people began to purchase the best lots they could afford.  Just like any other land purchase, the view weighed heavily on location choice within the cemeteries.   Many of our cemeteries feature panoramic views of distant mountains to the east and west with the Hudson River Valley nestled in between.   A well-chosen cemetery lot brought people the comfort of knowing that when they die, they will spend eternal rest in a place where the living enjoyed visiting.  Cemetery lots were extremely important to the people of the Victorian Era.  Lot owners of all socio-economic means took great pride in maintaining their sacred spaces.  Quaint little marble headstones and ornately carved granite monuments provide the visitor with a lesson in art and in history.  The wealthiest citizens gave us even more to admire.   They competed amongst themselves to mark their lots with the grandest monuments money could buy. They certainly memorialized themselves in style!  As a result, Albany Diocesan Cemeteries feature beautiful collections of sculptures, stained glass and neo-classical architecture all located on vast and open spaces.

I’ve seen a big increase in the number of people walking cemetery grounds since the Stay at Home and Social Distancing order began.  People have always power-walked and jogged in our cemeteries, but what I see now is different.  Families, couples and the solitary walker are walking leisurely and really exploring our cemetery grounds.  Our wide-open sacred grounds make social distancing easy.  I like to see people stopping to read inscriptions on old gravestones.  Now is a good time to explore cemeteries and learn something about the past.  Why not take pictures of gravestone carvings and look up what the symbols mean?  You’ll find a variety of religious symbols and carvings of flowers, ivy, clasped hands, anchors, oak leaves and acorns and much more.  What does the actual style of the monument tell us about the person/people it memorializes?  There is a lot of information about gravestone symbolism on-line.  For an overview of gravestone styles as they relate to attitudes towards death and mourning from the 1600’s to present, check out “A Walk Through Time”  You will look at cemeteries in a new light!  – Kelly Grimaldi

Spring in St. Anthony's Cemetery, Glenville

Spring in St. Anthony’s Cemetery, Glenville

2 Responses to A Walk Through Time In A Cemetery

  1. Avatar ken Scallon says:

    Kelly – well done lecture! i saw it in your column in the Evangelist . My earliest memory of cemeteries is when i was a kid my mother would take me on a sunday and go to a dairy near our home in Oneida ,NY where u could get ice cream cones and then drive about a mile to the cemetery where we would sit and eat them- I always got a creepy feeling eating ice cream while there doing that ! My wife and I are in the Nassau Cemetery and the St. Mary’s Cemetery about 2x a week as its near our home when we walk the dog. But we also , like many, plant flowers on my wife’s grand and great grand parents graves up in Ballston each year -we take some of our grandkids with us to work -its so impt. to inculcate the links with their past , we feel.
    About 3 years ago after much work , i was able to get a gravestone on my Grandfathers Lair (they don’t use the term grave as much in Scotland). We did not know there was none on it until we visited there before that . It took some coordination with the Diocese there , who were wonderful , so it was a most rewarding feeling to complete that .

  2. Thank you so much for your kind words and for watching my lecture. I love stories like yours because the are real and straight from the heart of a childhood memory. Thanks so much for sharing. I really appreciate the fact that you marked the grave of your ancestors. It is a WONDERFUL way to respect and honor their memory. I did the same thing about eight years ago for Patrick and Catherine O’Connell, my great great grandparents buried in section 37 in St. Agnes Cemetery, Menands. Patrick came from Ireland during the famine with his mom. His dad starved to death trying to take care of his family. If Patrick and his mom had not come here and made a life for themselves – I would not exist. They more than deserved to have their final resting place memorialized in my opinion. So, 100 years after Patrick’s death, I bought he and his wife a lovely monument featuring a Celtic Cross in honor of their country of origin. It means something to memorialize a loved one in that manner. It means they will truly – no matter how much time has passed – they won’t be forgotten, because there it is; their name in granite stone forever and ever. Thank you so very much for doing that for your family. I am glad Albany Diocesan Cemeteries helped you. We encourage other families to do the same. We have a fabulous memorial design center and we are committed to doing what is absolutely the right thing to do, which is not to let the remains of people we love or the remains of ancestors we never met, rest in an unmarked and forgotten grave. Really though, I so appreciate what you did. Bless you!

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