Posts Tagged ‘wreath’

Wexler (2)


We spent last weekend at an event in Saline, Michigan, and on the way back, we stopped at some rural Ohio cemeteries.  We stumbled by accident over the Beth Shalom Cemetery in Oregon, Ohio. Anyone who’s been following this blog for any length of time knows of my fondness for memorials that include a portrait of the deceased, and my not-so-infrequent rants abut the destruction of porcelain portraits. Beth Shalom Cemetery has a large number of portraits, and I only noticed two empty spaces where portraits should have been but were missing. So over the next few weeks, I am happy to report that you will be seeing a lot more portraits on here. (And some new cemeteries in general.)

Simon (2)


Wexler (10)

Wexler (3)

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One word: oxidation.


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Otis Monument

As I’ve written before, wreaths, particularly laurel wreaths, often symbolize victory over death in the form of eternal life. There is probably nowhere else in Cleveland with as many artistic renderings of laurel wreaths as the grande dame of the forest city’s cemeteries, Lake View.



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New York state monument

This monument to the soldiers of New York state at the Battle of Gettysburg stands inside the National Cemetery, making it an interesting combination of cenotaph (as not everyone being honored is buried nearby) and mass funerary monument (since some of those men most undoubtedly were killed at Gettysburg and lie within site of the monument). The symbol at the very top is also a melding of multiple meanings.

New York state monument (2)

Towering high above the slight hills of the cemetery and nearly alone on this section of landscape (save the Solder’s National Monument), a woman clothed in classical garb holds out a laurel wreath as if to crown the brow of an invisible New York soldier before her. Laurel wreaths outside of the cemetery have long been a sign of victory, and so seem a fitting tribute to those New York soldiers who helped bring this important victory to the Union. In the cemetery, laurel wreaths signify not victory at war or competition, but of the soul over death, as well as immortality. This monument braids together multiple meanings by its placement inside another place of dual purposes: a cemetery that was once a battlefield.

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Last week, I showed statues from Spring Grove Cemetery holding laurel wreaths, a symbol of eternity and the victory of eternal life over earthly death. This statue looks as if she is about to drop the laurel wreath from her hands in her grief, but the symbol of hope remains clasped in her hand.


The Miller statue is holding a wreath in its damaged arm.


One of my favorite statues holding a laurel wreath is on the Otis monument at Lake View.

Otis Monument

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Earlier this week, I wrote about the symbolism of wreaths, particularly laurel wreaths, in cemeteries. Wreaths signify immortality and victory of the soul over death. In addition to appearing on the sides of monuments, they fit nicely into the hands of statues that sit mourning on top of (or on the side of) the pedestal.

This statue, a wreath resting on her knee, serenely watches over the memorial for Isaac Bates in Spring Grove Cemetery.


The statue on the Doane monument walks, her eyes cast downward, with a wreath carved of leaves that seem to be laurel.


The Tanner statue rests her arm on a draped urn as she stares at it, wreath in her hand.


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Those who study the “classical” world of Greece and Rome probably have an association with wreaths, particularly wreaths of laurel wreaths. They were used to crown the victors of contests. So what is a wreath doing in the cemetery, like this one in the monument to president James Garfield?


Probably still conveying the idea of victory, but now as the triumph of the soul over death and a symbol of immortality. Laurel, in particular, is used as a symbol because laurel leaves do not wilt or fade. This wreath is carved in the Peck monument as if it was laid there.

Wreath on Peck monument

These wreaths adorn all the headstones in the Mather plot.


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Most statues in cemeteries gaze heavenward, toward the hope of eternal life, but some statues are bent over in such a way that they seem to convey the very moment in which the full weight of a death has hit someone, the point at which grief is so overwhelming that it seems an unbearable weight.

Atop the Groesbeck mausoleum in Spring Grove, this statue kneels, head drooping, a wreath on her lap apparently forgotten as she sags under the weight of her sorrow.



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A small number of monuments have two statues upon them. On the Cooper family monument, the seated female statue seems to be comforting (or perhaps educating) the younger kneeling figure.

Cooper monument

The Chamberlain monument has an even more striking representation of the older hopeful woman comforting the kneeling figure. In this one, the seated woman gazes into the skies, but keeps her hand on the figure who has buried grieving sobs in the folds of her dress.

Chamberlain Monument

The statues atop the Morris monument seem to have blended aspects of many other individual statues – one stares upward into the heavens while the other casts her eyes down in grief. The one looking up holds an open book, while the one with downcast eyes holds a closed book, often symbolizing a life ended, along with a memorial wreath.


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