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Burial Grounds

Burial Grounds

Three kinds of gravescapesthat is, memorials and the landscapes containing themhave dominated the funerary scene in North America from colonial times to the present. The first, the graveyard, almost invariably is located in towns and cities, typically adjoined to a church and operated gratis or for a nominal fee by members of the congregation. The second, the rural cemetery, is usually situated at the outskirts of towns and cities and is generally owned and managed by its patrons. The third, the lawn cemetery, is typically located away from towns and cities and ordinarily is managed by professional superintendents and owned by private corporations. These locations are generalities; in the nineteenth century both the rural cemetery and the lawn cemetery began to be integrated into the towns and cities that grew up around them.

The Graveyard

From the beginning of colonization and for many years thereafter, Euroamerican gravescapes in North America uniformly presented visitors with a powerful imperative: Remember death, for the time of judgment is at hand. The graveyard serves as a convenient place to dispose of the dead; however, its more significant purpose derives from its formal capacity to evoke or establish memory of death, which serves to remind the living of their own fragility and urgent need to prepare for death. Locating the dead among the living thus helps to ensure that the living will witness the gravescape's message regularly as a reminder "to manifest that this world is not their home" and "that heaven is a reality" (Morris 1997, p. 65). Devaluation of all things accentuating the temporal life is the starting point for a cultural logic that embraces the view that "the life of the body is no longer the real life, and the negation of this life is the beginning rather than the end" (Marcuse 1959, p. 68).

Inscriptions and iconography continually reinforce these imperatives by deemphasizing temporal life and emphasizing the necessity of attending to the demands of eternal judgment. Only rarely, for example, do the memorials indicative of this perspective provide viewers with information beyond the deceased's name, date of death, and date of birth. Icons reminiscent of death (for example, skulls, crossed bones, and the remarkably popular winged death's head) almost invariably appear at or near the center of the viewer's focus, while icons associated with life appear on the periphery. Popular mottos like memento mori ("remember death") and fugit hora ("time flies," or more literally "hours flee") provide viewers with explicit instruction.

Certain actions run contrary to the values that give this gravescape its meaning. For example, locating the dead away from the living, enclosing burial grounds with fences as if to separate the living from the dead, decorating and adorning the gravescape, or ordering the graveyard according to dictates of efficiency and structural linearity. The constant struggles to embrace and encourage others to embrace the view that life is nothing more than preparation for death demands constant attention if one seeks to merit eternal bliss and avoid eternal damnation. This view thus unceasingly insists upon a clear and distinct separation of "real life" (spiritual life, eternal life) from "illusory life" (physical life; the liminal, transitory existence one leads in the here and now). The formal unity of memorials in this gravescape both ensures its identity and energizes and sustains its rhetorical and cultural purpose.

Even from a distance the common size and shape of such memorials speak to visitors of their purpose. Although the graveyard provides ample space for variation, an overwhelming majority of the memorials belonging to this tradition are relatively modest structures (between one and five feet in height and width and between two and five inches thick), and most are variations of two shapes: single and triple arches. Single arch memorials are small, smoothed slabs with three squared sides and a convex or squared crown. Triple arch memorials are also small, smoothed slabs with three squared sides but feature smaller arches on either side of a single large arch, which gives the impression of a single panel with a convex crown conjoined on either side by similar but much narrower panels, or pilasters, with convex crowns. Together with location and general appearance, such minimal uniformity undoubtedly helped to ensure that visitors would not mistake the graveyard for a community pasture or a vacant lot.

The Rural Cemetery

For citizens possessed of quite different sensibilities, the graveyard was a continual source of discontentment until the introduction of a cemeterial form more suited to their values. That form, which emerged on September 24, 1830, with the consecration of Boston's Mount Auburn Cemetery, signaled the emanation of a radically different kind of cemetery. Rather than a churchyard filled with graves, this new gravescape would be a place from which the living would be able to derive pleasure, emotional satisfaction, and instruction on how best to live life in harmony with art and nature.

Judging from the rapid emergence of rural cemeteries subsequent to the establishment of Mount Auburn, as well as Mount Auburn's immediate popularity, this new cemeterial form quickly lived up to its advocates' expectations. Within a matter of months travelers from near and far began to make "pilgrimages to the Athens of New England, solely to see the realization of their long cherished dream of a resting place for the dead, at once sacred from profanation, dear to the memory, and captivating to the imagination" (Downing 1974, p. 154). Part of the reason for Mount Auburn's immediate popularity was its novelty. Yet Mount Auburn remained remarkably popular throughout the nineteenth century and continues to attract a large number of visitors into the twenty-first century.

Moreover, within a few short years rural cemeteries had become the dominant gravescape, and seemingly every rural cemetery fostered one or more guidebooks, each of which provided prospective visitors with a detailed description of the cemetery and a walking tour designed to conduct visitors along the most informative and beautiful areas. "In their mid-century heyday, before the creation of public parks," as the scholar Blanche Linden-Ward has observed, "these green pastoral places also functioned as 'pleasure grounds' for the general public" (Linden-Ward 1989, p. 293). Mount Auburn "presented [and still presents] visitors with a programmed sequence of sensory experiences, primarily visual, intended to elicit specific emotions, especially the so-called pleasures of melancholy that particularly appealed to contemporary romantic sensibilities" (p. 295).

The owners of rural cemeteries played a significant role in the effort to capture the hearts and imaginations of visitors insofar as they sought to ensure that visitors would encounter nature's many splendors. They accomplished this not only by taking great care to select sites that would engender just such sentiments but also by purchasing and importing wide varieties of exotic shrubs, bushes, flowers, and trees. Both from within the grave-scape and from a distance, rural cemeteries thus frequently appear to be lush, albeit carefully constructed, nature preserves.

Promoting a love of nature, however, was only a portion of what patrons sought to accomplish in their new gravescape. "The true secret of the attraction," America's preeminent nineteenth-century landscape architect Andrew Jackson Downing insisted, lies not only "in the natural beauty of the sites," but also "in the tasteful and harmonious embellishment of these sites by art." Thus, "a visit to one of these spots has the united charm of nature and art, the double wealth of rural and moral association. It awakens at the same moment, the feeling of human sympathy and the love of natural beauty, implanted in every heart" (Downing 1974, p. 155). To effect this union of nature and art, cemetery owners went to great lengthsand often enormous coststo commission and obtain aesthetically appealing objects to adorn the cemetery and to set a standard for those wishing to erect memorials to their deceased friends and relatives.

In this way cemetery owners recommended by example that memorials were to be works of art. Even the smallest rural cemeteries suggested this much by creating, at the very least, elaborate entrance gates to greet visitors so that their cemeteries would help to create "a distinct resonance between the landscape design of the 'rural' cemetery and recurring themes in much of the literary and material culture of that era" (Linden-Ward 1989, p. 295).

The Lawn Cemetery

The rural cemetery clearly satisfied the values and needs of many people; yet a significant segment of the population found this gravescape too ornate, too sentimental, too individualized, and too expensive. Even Andrew Jackson Downing, who had long been a proponent of the rural cemetery, publicly lamented that the natural beauty of the rural cemetery was severely diminished "by the most violent bad taste; we mean the hideous ironmongery, which [rural cemeteries] all more or less display. . . . Fantastic conceits and gimeracks in iron might be pardonable as adornments of the balustrade of a circus or a temple of Comus," he continued, "but how reasonable beings can tolerate them as inclosures to the quiet grave of a family, and in such scenes of sylvan beauty, is mountain high above our comprehension" (Downing 1974, p. 156).

Largely in response to these criticisms, in 1855 the owners of Cincinnati's Spring Grove Cemetery instructed their superintendent, Adolph Strauch, to remove many of the features included when John Notman initially designed Spring Grove as a rural cemetery. In redesigning the cemetery, however, Strauch not only eliminated features typically associated with rural cemeteries, he also created a new cemeterial form that specifically reflected and articulated a very different set of needs and values.

In many ways what Strauch created and what lawn cemeteries have become is a matter of absence rather than of presence. The absence of raised mounds, ornate entrance gates, individualized gardens, iron fencing, vertical markers, works of art dedicated to specific patrons, freedom of expression in erecting and decorating individual or family plots, and cooperative ownership through patronage produces a space that disassociates itself not only from previous traditions but also from death itself. This is not to say that lawn cemeteries are devoid of ornamentation, as they often contain a variety of ornamental features. Nevertheless, as one early advocate remarked, lawn cemeteries seek to eliminate "all things that suggest death, sorrow, or pain" (Farrell 1980, p. 120).

Rather than a gravescape designed to remind the living of their need to prepare for death or a gravescape crafted into a sylvan scene calculated to allow mourners and others to deal with their loss homeopathically, the lawn cemetery provides visitors with an unimpeded view. Its primary characteristics include efficiency, centralized management, markers that are either flush with or depressed into the ground, and explicit rules and regulations.

Yet to patrons the lawn cemetery affords several distinct advantages. First, it provides visitors with an open vista, unobstructed by fences, memorials, and trees. Second, it allows cemetery superintendents to make the most efficient use of the land in the cemetery because available land is generally laid out in a grid so that no areas fail to come under a general plan. Third, by eliminating fences, hedges, trees, and other things associated with the rural cemetery and by requiring markers to be small enough to be level or nearly level with the ground, this gravescape does not appear to be a gravescape at all.

Although lawn cemeteries did not capture people's imaginations as the rural cemetery had in the midnineteenth century, they did rapidly increase in number. As of the twenty-first century they are considered among the most common kind of gravescape in the United States.

See also: Cemeteries and Cemetery Reform; Cemeteries, War; Funeral Industry; Lawn Garden Cemeteries


Downing, Andrew Jackson. "Public Cemeteries and Public Gardens." In George W. Curtis ed., Rural Essays by Andrew Jackson Downing. New York: Da Capo, 1974.

French, Stanley. "The Cemetery As Cultural Institution: The Establishment of Mount Auburn and the 'Rural Cemetery' Movement." In David E. Stannard ed., Death in America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1974.

Linden, Blanche M. G. "The Willow Tree and Urn Motif: Changing Ideas about Death and Nature." Markers 1 (19791980):149155.

Linden-Ward, Blanche. "Strange but Genteel Pleasure Grounds: Tourist and Leisure Uses of Nineteenth Century Cemeteries." In Richard E. Meyer ed., Cemeteries and Gravemarkers: Voices of American Culture. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Research Press, 1989.

Ludwig, Allan I. Graven Images: New England Stonecarving and Its Images, 16501815. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1966.

Marcuse, Herbert. "The Ideology of Death." In Herman Feifel ed., The Meaning of Death. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1959.

Morris, Richard. Sinners, Lovers, and Heroes: An Essay on Memorializing in Three American Cultures. Albany: SUNY Press, 1997.

Tashjian, Dickran, and Ann Tashjian. Memorials for Children of Change: The Art of Early New England Stone Carving. Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1974.


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Areas that are set aside by public authority or private persons for the burial of the dead.

A public cemetery is open for use by the community at large while a private cemetery is used only by a small segment of a community or by a family.

A cemetery includes not only the actual grave sites but also surrounding areas such as avenues, walks, and grounds.

Cemeteries are not governed by laws that apply to real property or corporations due to their inherently different nature. Most states have established laws that specifically apply to cemeteries.

Establishment and Regulation

The establishment of a cemetery involves the process of formally designating a tract of land for use for the burial of the dead. It must be set apart, marked, and distinguished from adjoining ground as a graveyard.

The state, in the exercise of its police power, has the right to regulate the creation of cemeteries by providing for their establishment and discontinuance as well as to monitor their use. Private interests in the place of burial are subject to the control of public authorities, which have the right to require the disinterment of bodies if deemed necessary.

Burial sites may not be absolutely prohibited by legislative action inasmuch as they are considered indispensable and directly related to the public health. Provisions in corporate charters cannot prevent the exercise of police powers

with regard to which lands may be used for burial purposes, since burial in certain places might create a public nuisance.

Regulation by Municipal Corporations Subject to express legislative authority, and by virtue of its general police powers, a municipality may reasonably regulate places of burial within its borders. The key requirement is that a municipality may not act arbitrarily with regard to the regulations it adopts.

The power of a municipality to regulate cemeteries is an ongoing one that may be exercised as required by considerations of public health and welfare. Regulations may prohibit such actions as future burials in existing cemeteries, the enlargement of existing cemeteries, or the establishment of new ones.

A municipality may own and maintain a cemetery when it is expressly authorized to do so. General control may be exercised over a cemetery that a municipality owns, but control may not be exercised arbitrarily, capriciously, or unreasonably.

Corporations and Associations A cemetery corporation, as defined expressly by statute, is any corporation formed for the burial of the dead in a receptacle or vault. Such a corporation may or may not be organized for pecuniary profit and may or may not be organized under the general corporate law.

The members of a cemetery corporation are those people who own plots according to express statutory provisions. They cannot make a profit out of the sales of lots if the corporation is not for profit. Nor can they make a gift of their plot to another independent corporation.

If statute permits, cemetery corporations may issue stock and pay dividends to stockholders. Stockholders may enact bylaws.

Some statutes provide that a cemetery may give land shares, which are certificates entitling the holder to receive a portion of the profit from the subsequent sales of plots, in exchange for payment for the land purchased. This type of certificate is not a stock certificate but is in the nature of a nonnegotiable promise to pay money.


The establishment of cemeteries may be prohibited by state or local legislative bodies, but only under certain circumstances. The interment of dead bodies is necessary and proper and therefore the prohibition of the establishment of a cemetery must be based on the potential danger to human life or health. State and municipal organizations are not permitted to prohibit burial for such reasons as the value of adjoining land being lessened or because a cemetery might be a source of annoyance to inhabitants of the surrounding community.

Under some statutory provisions a cemetery cannot be established within a certain distance of a private residence, store, or other place of business without the owner's consent. Similarly, certain statutes provide that, prior to the establishment of a cemetery, consent must be obtained from the county or municipal authorities within whose limits the cemetery will be located.

Title and Rights of Owners of Plots, Grounds, or Graves

The purchaser of a plot in a cemetery is generally regarded as having obtained only a limited property right. He or she acquires a privilege, easement, or license to make burials in the purchased plot, exclusive of all other people, provided that the land remains a cemetery.

The plot owner's interest is a property right entitled to protection from invasion and the title is a legal estate. The owner's rights are subject to the police power of the state as well as the rules of the cemetery and any restrictions made in the contract of sale.

A cemetery corporation may cancel the contract of sale of a plot where regulations of the corporation that are part of the contract are violated by the sale due to a mistake of fact.A purchaser may, in turn, rescind the contract where substantial misrepresentations have been made by the corporation.

Plot holders cannot be prevented by cemetery owners from erecting markers, entering the grounds, or interring family members in the plots they own. If a plot owner dies intestate, the rights to the plot pass to the heirs in the same manner that personal property passes in the absence of a will. A gravestone or marker is the personal property of the person who places it near a grave and its ownership is passed to this person's heirs.

abandonment is the only way in which the use of land as a cemetery may cease. It takes place either by removal of all the interred bodies or by neglect to such a degree that the property is no longer identifiable as a cemetery. The removal of bodies may be ordered by public authorities when necessitated by the public health. The owner of a cemetery may opt to discontinue the sale of plots as initially planned, but permission to do so from government officials might be a prerequisite.

Duties as to Care and Maintenance

The owner of a plot has the duty to care for and maintain the plot either personally or through an agent. A cemetery's trustees may supervise plots to prevent them from disintegrating to the point of unsightliness.

If a statute so requires, a cemetery association must care for its plots. If a charter imposes a duty upon the association to keep the grounds in repair, this obligation does not encompass plots sold to individuals.

A cemetery association has the duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition. Doing so includes the proper maintenance of portions of the cemetery used for travel or occupation by attendants of burials.

Uniform and reasonable rules and regulations may be made for the care and management of lots by the proprietors of a cemetery. Such rules must be equal in their operation. An unreasonable rule would be to prohibit the owner of a lot from hiring his own caretaker; however, a rule requiring that such work be done by competent persons would be reasonable.

Right of Burial

Everyone is entitled to a decent burial in a suitable place. The right to be interred in a particular cemetery is an easement, license, or privilege. An element of this right is the privilege to be buried according to the usual custom in the community and pursuant to the rules and regulations set forth by the proprietor of the cemetery. When an individual does not purchase a plot subject to any restrictions on burial, the proprietors have no subsequent power to limit such right unreasonably.

An individual who obtains the right to be buried in a cemetery subject to the control of a religious organization takes the plot subject to the organization's rules. This may limit the burial right to its members or to those in communion with such organizations. The church has exclusive jurisdiction over the question of whether a person is in communion with a religious organization and thereby entitled to burial in its cemetery.

Interference with Owner's Rights

A cause of action may be based upon the interference with the rights of a plot owner. An unlawful and unwarranted interference with an individual's exercise of the right of burial in a cemetery lot is a tort. An infringement of the rights of a plot owner may be prevented by an injunction if an injury is threatened.

Either criminal or civil liability, or both, exist for trespass or other types of injuries to a cemetery or to individual burial plots. If a burial ground or plot is wrongfully invaded or desecrated, an action of trespass may be brought against the wrongdoer. vandalism and destruction of tombstones are criminal offenses. The person who erects a tombstone may maintain an action for injury to it. After that person's death, his or her heirs may prosecute such an action. Generally, the measure of damages for trespass is the cost of restoration. Since there is a strong public policy against injury to gravesites due to the indignity of the act, punitive damages—intended to deter future acts of desecration—may be awarded.

further readings

Cronin, Xavier. 1996. Grave Exodus: Tending to Our Dead in the 21st Century. Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade.

Echo-Hawk, Roger C., and Walter Echo-Hawk. 1996. Battlefields and Burial Grounds: The Indian Struggle to Protect Ancestral Graves in the United States. Minneapolis, Minn.: Lerner.

Harnish, Jessica L. 2002. "Unlawful Concealment and Desecration of Burial Sites not Considered an Improvement to Land." University of Baltimore Journal of Environmental Law 9 (spring): 141–4.

Mitford, Jessica. 1964. The American Way of Death. Greenwich, Conn.: Crest.

Murray, Virginia H. 2000. "A 'Right' of the Dead and a Charge on the Quick: Criminal Laws Relating to Cemeteries, Burial Grounds and Human Remains." Journal of the Missouri Bar 56 (March-April): 115.

Rezatto, Helen. 1980. Mount Moriah: Kill a Man, Start a Cemetery: The Story of Deadwood's Boot Hill. Aberdeen, SD: North Plains Books & Art.

Wright, Roberta H., and Wilbur B. Hughes. 1996. Lay Down Body: Living History in African American Cemeteries. Detroit: Visible Ink.


Corpse; Easement; Property Law.

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CEMETERIES. The term "cemetery" entered American usage in 1831 with the founding and design of the extramural, picturesque landscape of Mount Auburn Cemetery. A non-denominational rural cemetery, Mount Auburn was an urban institution four miles west of Boston under the auspices of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society (1829).

With the exception of New Haven's New Burying Ground (1796, later renamed the Grove Street Cemetery), existing burial grounds, graveyards, or churchyards, whether urban or rural, public, sectarian, or private, had been unsightly, chaotic places, purely for disposal of the dead and inconducive to new ideals of commemoration. Most burials were in earthen graves, although the elite began to construct chamber tombs for the stacking of coffins in the eighteenth century. Most municipalities also maintained "receiving tombs" for the temporary storage of bodies that could not be immediately buried. New Orleans

favored aboveground tomb structures due to the French influence and high water table.

Mount Auburn, separately incorporated in 1835, established the "rest-in-peace" principle with the first legal guarantee of perpetuity of burial property, although many notable families continued to move bodies around from older graves and tombs through the antebellum decades.

Mount Auburn immediately attracted national attention and emulation, striking a chord by epitomizing the era's "cult of the melancholy" that harmonized ideas of death and nature and served a new historical consciousness. Numerous civic leaders from other cities visited it as a major tourist attraction and returned home intent on founding such multifunctional institutions. Major examples include Baltimore's Green Mount (1838), Brooklyn's Green-Wood (1838), Pittsburgh's Allegheny (1844), Providence's Swan Point (1847), Louisville's Cave Hill (1848), Richmond's Hollywood (1848), St. Louis's Bellefontaine (1849), Charleston's Magnolia (1850), Chicago's Grace-land (1860), Hartford's Cedar Hill (1863), Buffalo's Forest Lawn (1864), Indianapolis's Crown Hill (1864), and Cleveland's Lake View (1869). Most began with over a hundred acres and later expanded.

Prussian landscape gardener Adolph Strauch's "landscape lawn plan" brought a type of zoning to Cincinnati's Spring Grove (1845), which from 1855 on, in the name of "scientific management" and the park-like aesthetics of the "beautiful," was acclaimed as the "American system." Cemetery design contributed to the rise of professional landscape architects and inspired the making of the nation's first public parks.


Inspired by Strauch's reform, cemetery managers (or cemeterians) professionalized in 1887 through the Association of American Cemetery Superintendents, later renamed the American Cemetery Association and then the International Cemetery and Funeral Association. The monthly Modern Cemetery (1890), renamed Parkand Cemetery and Landscape Gardening in 1895, detailed the latest regulatory and technical developments, encouraged standardized taste and practices, and supplemented inter-changes at annual conventions with emphasis on cemeteries as efficiently run businesses. Modernization led to mass production of memorials or markers, far simpler than the creatively customized monuments of the Victorian Era.

Forest Lawn Cemetery (1906) in Glendale, California, set up the modern pattern of the lawn cemetery or memorial garden emulated nationwide. Dr. Hubert Eaton, calling himself "the Builder," redefined the philosophy of death and exerted a standardized control at Forest Lawn after 1916, extending it to over 1,200 acres on four sites. Innovations included inconspicuous marker plaques set horizontally in meticulously manicured lawns and community mausoleums, buildings with individual niches for caskets, no longer called coffins.

Cremation offered a new, controversial alternative for disposal of the dead at the turn of the twentieth century. Mount Auburn installed one of the nation's first crematories in 1900, oven "retorts" for "incineration" to reduce the corpse to ashes or "cremains." Some larger cemeteries followed suit, also providing "columbaria" or niches for storage of ashes in small urns or boxes. Still, acceptance of cremation grew slowly over the course of the century and was slightly more popular in the West.

National Cemeteries

The War Department issued general orders in the first year of the Civil War, making Union commanders responsible for the burial of their men in recorded locations, sometimes in sections of cemeteries like Spring Grove and Cave Hill purchased with state funds. President Lincoln signed an act on 17 July 1862 authorizing the establishment of national cemeteries. On 19 November 1863, Lincoln dedicated the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, adjacent to an older rural cemetery, for the burial of Union soldiers who died on the war's bloodiest battlefield. In June of 1864, without ceremony, the Secretary of War designated the seized 200-acre estate of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Arlington, Virginia, overlooking Washington, D.C., across the Potomac. Former Confederates dedicated grounds for their dead, often in large areas of existing cemeteries. By 1870, about 300,000 of the Union dead had been reinterred in national cemeteries; some moved from battlefields and isolated graves near where they had fallen.

After World War I, legislation increased the number of soldiers and veterans eligible for interment in national cemeteries. Grounds were dedicated abroad following both World War I and World War II. In 1973, a law expanded eligibility for burial to all honorably discharged veterans and certain family members. To accommodate veterans and the dead of other wars, Arlington grew to 408 acres by 1897 and to 612 acres by 1981. By 1981, with the annual burial rate exceeding 60,000 and expected to peak at 105,000 in 2010, new national cemeteries were needed, such as that dedicated on 770 acres at Fort Custer near Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1984.


Hancock, Ralph. The Forest Lawn Story. Los Angeles: Academy Publishers, 1955.

Jackson, Kenneth T., and Camilo José Vergara. Silent Cities: The Evolution of the American Cemetery. Princeton: Princeton Architectural Press, 1989.

Linden-Ward, Blanche. Silent City on a Hill: Landscapes of Memory and Boston's Mount Auburn Cemetery. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1989.

Sloane, David Charles. The Last Great Necessity: Cemeteries in American History. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991.

Blanche M. G.Linden

See alsoArlington National Cemetery ; Landscape Architecture .

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1. Burial-ground, especially a large landscaped park or ground laid out expressly for the deposition or interment of the dead, not being a churchyard attached to a place of worship. The first Christian examples of cemeteries physically detached from churches were established by Protestants for two reasons: decency, because of the disgusting state of overcrowded churchyards in towns; and doctrine, because of the desire to weaken RC belief in Purgatory by sundering the living from the dead. Examples are those at Geneva (1536), Kassel (1526), Marburg (1530 and 1568), and Edinburgh (1562). During C18 several suburban walled cemeteries of limited extent were formed, in RC as well as Protestant countries, from sheer necessity (e.g. Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Dessau, Belfast, all in the 1780s and 1790s). However, Europeans had been burying in cemeteries in India in C17, and erecting monuments over their graves (e.g. Surat), and in Calcutta the South Park Street Cemetery was established in 1767, a true necropolis, with streets of fine Classical mausolea and monuments far more magnificent than anything in Europe at that time. Attempts to bring major reforms to European cities were sporadic, generally unsatisfactory, and aesthetically dreadful until, by a complex process prompted by a new sensibility forged through poetry and literature, the English landscape-garden fused with the necessity of burying the dead in decent and hygienic ways, and, as a result of the Decree of 23 Prairial, Year XII (12 June 1804), cemeteries were to be established in France outside urban limits. Brongniart was entrusted with the design of a great cemetery at Mont-Louis, east of the city of Paris, which became Père-Lachaise; this was to become world-famous and enormously influential, for nothing short of a revolution had occurred. Liverpool's St James's Cemetery was created in a disused quarry (1825–9—by Foster); Glasgow's Necropolis (1831–2) followed, and, after Asiatic Cholera arrived in 1831, London's first great garden-cemeteries were established at Kensal Green (1833), Norwood (1837), Highgate (1839), Nunhead (1840), Brompton (1840), and Abney Park (1840), all of which were landscaped and embellished with architecture. No major town or city in Europe or the USA could function properly without a cemetery or cemeteries, and many of great quality were designed. Fine examples in the USA include Mount Auburn, Boston, MA (1831—a superbly landscaped cemetery by Bigelow and others), Laurel Hill, Philadelphia, PA (1839—by Notman, again a stunning layout with an arboretum), Hollywood, Richmond, VA (1848—also by Notman, who must be regarded as one of the founding-fathers of American landscape architecture), Green-Wood, Brooklyn, NYC (from 1838—a marvellously landscaped cemetery laid out by Douglass), and Albany Rural Cemetery, Menands, NY (from 1844—the apotheosis of the large landscaped cemetery, also by Douglass). However, the proliferation of monuments inhibited the maintenance of the grounds, and Downing suggested that memorials should be designed in a way that would not hinder upkeep. One of the first of the so-called ‘Lawn Cemeteries’ was created (1855) at Cincinatti, OH, by Adolphus Strauch (1822–83).

In Italy cemeteries tended to be more of the campo santo type, but very much larger than the medieval Pisan prototype. Examples were the Certosa at Bologna (1801–15), Brescia (1814–49), Verona (1828) and the superlative Staglieno, Genoa (1844–51—with its Neo-Classical galleries and Rotunda by Barabino and Resasco). C20 cemeteries include the war cemeteries established after the 1914–18 war, with contributions from Lutyens, Baker, and others; the fine Woodlands Cemetery near Stockholm by Asplund and Lewerentz (1917–41); the Slovene National Cemetery, Žale (1937–40—by Plečnik, who unquestionably created a masterpiece); the San Cataldo Cemetery, Modena (1971–6 and 1980–90— by Rossi); the Brion Cemetery, San Vito d'Altivole, near Treviso, Italy (1970–2—by Scarpa); the Woodland Cemetery, Leutkirch (1977–82—by von Branca); and the Cemetery for the Unknown, Mirasaka Sousa, Hiroshima, Japan (2001–2—by Hideki Yoshimatsu and Archipro—a moving meditation on nature, loss, and death).

2. Catacombs.

3. Consecrated enclosure for burial of the dead.


Architectural Review, ccxii/1270 (Dec. 2002), 42–5;
Ariès (1981);
Berresford et al. (2004);
Colvin (1991);
J. Curl (2000a, 2002c);
J. Curl (2000a, 2002c);
J. Curl (ed.) (2001);
Etlin (1984);
Loudon (1981);
Meeks (1966);
Stannard (ed.) (1975)

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Burial Grounds

Burial Grounds


A burial ground is a place of interment. It is a tract of land, a yard, or an enclosure for the subterranean deposition of human remains. Often the objects of legend, burial grounds have varied throughout time according to the cultural practices and religious beliefs of different peoples. Whereas Aubrey Cannon (1989) maintains that human expressions of death in burial grounds follow a general cross-cultural pattern that cycles between elitism and emulation, James Deetz (1996) suggests that burial grounds showcase culturally specific symbols that are evident in every aspect of a given societys lifeways.

The first hominids to bury their dead were probably Neanderthals that lived between 20,000 and 75,000 years ago. In fact, many Neanderthal interments exhibited evidence of burial customs that are still practiced, including the placement of flowers and other grave goods with the deceased and the orientation of the dead along an east-west axis. Group interments in large earthen mounds, also called tumuli, kofun, barrows, or kurgans in different cultural contexts, became common across Europe, Asia, and the Americas in the centuries before and after 1 BCE. Gigantic stone temples that housed burial chambers also occurred across the globe during this time. These mammoth structures included Egyptian and Mayan pyramids and ancient Greek necropolises.

In the centuries leading up to the 1700s, Westerners buried their dead in sacrosanct churchyards according to specific spatial norms that tied directly to their faith in resurrection. Wealthy individuals were interred within the church itself and on the east side in order to get the most direct view of the rising sun on Judgment Day, the poor were laid to rest to the south of the church, and the north churchyard was reserved for stillborns, bastards, and individuals who committed suicide. Even though these shallow churchyards often teemed with bones, scavengers, and maggots, they were still a center of social activity and frequently hosted markets, gaming events, and other gatherings. It was not until the late 1600s that the English Parliament linked these unsanitary practices with the spread of the plague and outlawed shallow graves, large funerals, and unnecessary burial-ground activities. A chronic shortage of space in churchyards in the 1700s forced a change to burial strategies. The north side of the church was no longer for social outcasts, all of the deceased were packed closer together, and numerous coffins were stacked on top of one another under the top-soil, leading many churchyards to tower a dozen feet or more above the floor of the church.

Just as the stone walls surrounding many European churchyards began to collapse under the pressure of the overcrowded burial ground, Parisian officials enacted a drastically different interment policy, transporting the bones of millions of deceased individuals into catacombs beneath the French capital. This initial act of the eighteenth-century cemetery reform movement also led to the creation of the first garden cemeterythe Père-Lachaisewhich spanned hundreds of acres in an uninterrupted picturesque landscape that was far away from the church and the crowded urban city center. Père-Lachaise was the first municipal cemetery, as the government now controlled burial procedures and planning instead of the church. Others quickly followed suit; Bostons Mount Auburn Cemetery, established in 1831, was the inaugural cemetery in the Western hemisphere to embrace this change in burial-ground planning, and it set the standard for large rural garden cemeteries in the United States that persists into the present day.

SEE ALSO Burial Grounds, African; Burial Grounds, Native American


Cannon, Aubrey. 1989. The Historical Dimension in Mortuary Expressions of Status and Sentiment. Current Anthropology 30 (4): 437458.

Deetz, James. 1996. In Small Things Forgotten: An Archeology of Early American Life. Expanded ed. New York: Anchor.

Seth W. Mallios

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Burial Ground

92. Burial Ground

  1. Aceldama potters field; burial place for strangers. [N. T.: Matthew 27:610, Acts 1:1819]
  2. Alloway graveyard where Tam OShanter saw witches dancing among opened coffins. [Br. Lit.: Burns Tam OShanter in Benét, 985]
  3. Arlington National Cemetery final resting place for Americas war heroes. [Am. Hist.: Flexner, 95]
  4. Boot Hill Tombstone, Arizonas graveyard, where gunfighters are buried. [Am. Hist.: Flexner, 178]
  5. Campo Santo famous cemetery in Pisa, with Gothic arcades and Renaissance frescoes. [Ital. Hist.: Colliers, XV, 433]
  6. Castel SantAngelo built in Rome by Hadrian as an imperial mausoleum. [Rom. Hist.: Colliers, XVI, 539]
  7. Catacombs of St. Calixtus in Rome, one of the largest of subterranean burial places, with eleven miles of galleries. [Ital. Hist.: Colliers, IV, 458]
  8. Escorial former monastery in central Spain; mausoleum of Spanish sovereigns. [Span. Hist.: NCE, 890]
  9. Flanders Field immortalized in poem; cemetery for WWI dead. [Eur. Hist.: Jameson, 176]
  10. Gettysburg site of Civil War battle; cemetery for war dead. [Am. Culture: EB, IV: 515]
  11. Gods Acre Moravian graveyard in Winston-Salem, N.C., with 3,000 identical marble markers. [Am. Hist.: Colliers, XIX, 471]
  12. Grants Tomb New York City burial place of General Ulysses S. Grant. [Am. Culture: EB, IV: 680]
  13. Great Pyramid of Cheops enormous Egyptian royal tomb. [World Hist.: Wallechinsky, 255]
  14. Holy Sepulcher Jerusalem cave where body of Jesus is said to have lain. [Christ. Tradition: Brewer Dictionary, 814]
  15. Machpelah cave where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob are buried. [O.T.: Genesis 23:19, 25:9, 49:30, 50:13]
  16. potters field burial ground purchased with Judass betrayal money. [N.T.: Matthew 27:68]
  17. Stoke Poges village whose churchyard is thought to be the scene of Grays Elegy. [Br. Lit.: Benét, 966]
  18. Taj Mahal fabulous tomb built by Shah Jahan for wife. [Ind. Hist.: Wallechinsky, 317]
  19. Tomb of Mausolus Queen Artemisias spectacular memorial to husband. [World Hist.: Wallechinsky, 256]
  20. Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery; commemorates nameless war dead. [Am. Hist.: Brewer Dictionary, 1118]
  21. Westminster Abbey abbey filled with tombs and memorials of famous British subjects. [Br. Hist.: EB, X: 632633]

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cemetery, name used by early Christians to designate a place for burying the dead. First applied in Christian burials in the Roman catacombs, the word cemetery came into general usage in the 15th cent. Group burials have been found in Paleolithic caves, and fields of prehistoric grave mounds, or Barrows, are located throughout Europe, Asia, and North America. In the ancient Middle East, graves were often grouped around temples and sanctuaries. In Greece the dead were buried outside the city walls along the roads leading into the city in a necropolis (city of the dead). Christian belief in resurrection made chapel crypts and churchyards desirable for burial, but overcrowding and the rise of urban centers made it necessary to establish cemetery plots outside the city limits. Graveyards of all periods tend to reflect the familial and class groupings of their living society. Among the many beautiful and historic cemeteries of Europe are the Père-Lachaise in Paris and the Campo Santo in Pisa. A noteworthy U.S. cemetery is the Arlington National Cemetery. The National Park Service also maintains cemeteries (see National Parks and Monuments, table). See funeral customs; grave; tomb.

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cemetery XIV. — late L. cœmētērium — Gr. koimētḗrion dormitory, (in Christian writers) burial-ground, f. koimân put to sleep.

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cem·e·ter·y / ˈseməˌterē/ • n. (pl. -ter·ies) a burial ground; a graveyard.

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cemeterybeery, bleary, cheery, dearie, dreary, Dun Laoghaire, eerie, eyrie (US aerie), Kashmiri, leery, peri, praemunire, query, smeary, teary, theory, weary •Deirdre • incendiary • intermediary •subsidiary •auxiliary, ciliary, domiciliary •apiary • topiary • farriery • furriery •justiciary •bestiary, vestiary •breviary • aviary • hosiery •diary, enquiry, expiry, fiery, friary, inquiry, miry, priory, spiry, wiry •podiatry, psychiatry •dowry, floury, flowery, loury, showery, towery •brewery • jewellery (US jewelry) •curie, de jure, fioriture, fury, houri, Jewry, jury, Manipuri, Missouri, moory, Newry, tandoori, Urey •statuary • actuary • sanctuary •obituary • sumptuary • voluptuary •January • electuary • ossuary •mortuary •Bradbury, Cadbury •blackberry, hackberry •cranberry • waxberry •Barbary, barberry •Shaftesbury • raspberry •bayberry, blaeberry •Avebury • Aylesbury • Sainsbury •bilberry, tilbury •bribery •corroboree, jobbery, robbery, slobbery, snobbery •dogberry • Roddenberry • Fosbury •strawberry • Salisbury •crowberry, snowberry •chokeberry •Rosebery, Shrewsbury •blueberry, dewberry •Dewsbury • Bloomsbury • gooseberry •blubbery, rubbery, shrubbery •Sudbury • mulberry • huckleberry •Bunbury • husbandry • loganberry •Canterbury • Glastonbury •Burberry, turbary •hatchery • archery •lechery, treachery •stitchery, witchery •debauchery • butchery • camaraderie •cindery, tindery •industry • dromedary • lapidary •spidery • bindery • doddery •quandary • powdery • boundary •bouldery • embroidery •prudery, rudery •do-goodery • shuddery • thundery •prebendary • legendary • secondary •amphorae • wafery •midwifery, periphery •infantry • housewifery • spoofery •puffery • sulphury (US sulfury) •Calgary •beggary, Gregory •vagary •piggery, priggery, whiggery •brigandry • bigotry • allegory •vinegary • category • subcategory •hoggery, toggery •pettifoggery • demagoguery •roguery • sugary •buggery, skulduggery, snuggery, thuggery •Hungary • humbuggery •ironmongery • lingerie • treasury •usury • menagerie • pageantry •Marjorie • kedgeree • gingery •imagery • orangery • savagery •forgery • soldiery • drudgery •perjury, surgery •microsurgery •hackery, quackery, Thackeray, Zachary •mountebankery • knick-knackery •gimcrackery • peccary • grotesquerie •bakery, fakery, jacquerie •chickaree, chicory, hickory, Terpsichore, trickery •whiskery • apothecary •crockery, mockery, rockery •falconry • jiggery-pokery •cookery, crookery, rookery •brusquerie •puckery, succory •cuckoldry •calorie, gallery, Malory, salary, Valerie •saddlery • balladry • gallantry •kilocalorie • diablerie • chandlery •harlotry • celery • pedlary •exemplary •helotry, zealotry •nailery, raillery •Tuileries •ancillary, artillery, capillary, codicillary, distillery, fibrillary, fritillary, Hilary, maxillary, pillory •mamillary • tutelary • corollary •bardolatry, hagiolatry, iconolatry, idolatry •cajolery, drollery •foolery, tomfoolery •constabulary, vocabulary •scapulary • capitulary • formulary •scullery • jugglery • cutlery •chancellery • epistolary • burglary •mammary • fragmentary •passementerie • flimflammery •armory, armoury, gendarmerie •almonry •emery, memory •creamery • shimmery • primary •rosemary • yeomanry •parfumerie, perfumery •flummery, Montgomery, mummery, summary, summery •gossamery • customary • infirmary •cannery, granary, tannery •canonry •antennary, bimillenary, millenary, venery •tenantry • chicanery •beanery, bicentenary, catenary, centenary, deanery, greenery, machinery, plenary, scenery, senary, septenary •disciplinary, interdisciplinary •hymnary • missionary •ordinary, subordinary •valetudinary • imaginary • millinery •culinary • seminary • preliminary •luminary • urinary • veterinary •mercenary • sanguinary •binary, finery, pinery, quinary, vinery, winery •Connery • Conakry • ornery • joinery •buffoonery, poltroonery, sublunary, superlunary •gunnery, nunnery •consuetudinary • visionary •exclusionary • legionary • pulmonary •coronary • reactionary • expansionary •concessionary, confessionary, discretionary •confectionery, insurrectionary, lectionary •deflationary, inflationary, probationary, stationary, stationery •expeditionary, petitionary, prohibitionary, traditionary, transitionary •dictionary • cautionary •ablutionary, counter-revolutionary, devolutionary, elocutionary, evolutionary, revolutionary, substitutionary •functionary •diversionary, reversionary •fernery, quaternary, ternary •peppery • extempore • weaponry •apery, drapery, japery, napery, papery, vapoury (US vapory) •frippery, slippery •coppery, foppery •popery • dupery • trumpery •February • heraldry • knight-errantry •arbitrary • registrary • library •contrary • horary • supernumerary •itinerary • honorary • funerary •contemporary, extemporary, temporary •literary • brasserie • chancery •accessory, intercessory, pessary, possessory, tesserae •dispensary, incensory, ostensory, sensory, suspensory •tracery •pâtisserie, rotisserie •emissary • dimissory •commissary, promissory •janissary • necessary • derisory •glossary • responsory • sorcery •grocery • greengrocery •delusory, illusory •compulsory • vavasory • adversary •anniversary, bursary, cursory, mercery, nursery •haberdashery •evidentiary, penitentiary, plenipotentiary, residentiary •beneficiary, fishery, judiciary •noshery • gaucherie • fiduciary •luxury • tertiary •battery, cattery, chattery, flattery, tattery •factory, manufactory, olfactory, phylactery, refractory, satisfactory •artery, martyry, Tartary •mastery, plastery •directory, ex-directory, interjectory, rectory, refectory, trajectory •peremptory •alimentary, complementary, complimentary, documentary, elementary, parliamentary, rudimentary, sedimentary, supplementary, testamentary •investigatory •adulatory, aleatory, approbatory, celebratory, clarificatory, classificatory, commendatory, congratulatory, consecratory, denigratory, elevatory, gyratory, incantatory, incubatory, intimidatory, modificatory, participatory, placatory, pulsatory, purificatory, reificatory, revelatory, rotatory •natatory • elucidatory • castigatory •mitigatory • justificatory •imprecatory • equivocatory •flagellatory • execratory • innovatory •eatery, excretory •glittery, jittery, skittery, twittery •benedictory, contradictory, maledictory, valedictory, victory •printery, splintery •consistory, history, mystery •presbytery •inhibitory, prohibitory •hereditary • auditory • budgetary •military, paramilitary •solitary • cemetery • limitary •vomitory • dormitory • fumitory •interplanetary, planetary, sanitary •primogenitary • dignitary •admonitory, monitory •unitary • monetary • territory •secretary • undersecretary •plebiscitary • repository • baptistery •transitory •depositary, depository, expository, suppository •niterie •Godwottery, lottery, pottery, tottery •bottomry • watery • psaltery •coterie, notary, protonotary, rotary, votary •upholstery •bijouterie, charcuterie, circumlocutory •persecutory • statutory • salutary •executory •contributory, retributory, tributary •interlocutory •buttery, fluttery •introductory • adultery • effrontery •perfunctory • blustery • mediatory •retaliatory • conciliatory • expiatory •denunciatory, renunciatory •appreciatory, depreciatory •initiatory, propitiatory •dietary, proprietary •extenuatory •mandatary, mandatory •predatory • sedentary • laudatory •prefatory • offertory • negatory •obligatory •derogatory, interrogatory, supererogatory •nugatory •expurgatory, objurgatory, purgatory •precatory •explicatory, indicatory, vindicatory •confiscatory, piscatory •dedicatory • judicatory •qualificatory • pacificatory •supplicatory •communicatory, excommunicatory •masticatory • prognosticatory •invocatory • obfuscatory •revocatory • charlatanry •depilatory, dilatory, oscillatory •assimilatory • consolatory •voluntary • emasculatory •ejaculatory •ambulatory, circumambulatory, perambulatory •regulatory •articulatory, gesticulatory •manipulatory • copulatory •expostulatory • circulatory •amatory, declamatory, defamatory, exclamatory, inflammatory, proclamatory •crematory • segmentary •lachrymatory •commentary, promontory •informatory, reformatory •momentary •affirmatory, confirmatory •explanatory • damnatory •condemnatory •cosignatory, signatory •combinatory •discriminatory, eliminatory, incriminatory, recriminatory •comminatory • exterminatory •hallucinatory • procrastinatory •monastery • repertory •emancipatory • anticipatory •exculpatory, inculpatory •declaratory, preparatory •respiratory • perspiratory •vibratory •migratory, transmigratory •exploratory, laboratory, oratory •inauguratory • adjuratory •corroboratory • reverberatory •refrigeratory • compensatory •desultory • dysentery •exhortatory, hortatory •salutatory • gustatory • lavatory •inventory •conservatory, observatory •improvisatory •accusatory, excusatory •lathery •feathery, heathery, leathery •dithery, slithery •carvery •reverie, severy •Avery, bravery, knavery, quavery, Savery, savory, savoury, slavery, wavery •thievery •livery, quivery, shivery •silvery •ivory, salivary •ovary •discovery, recovery •servery • equerry • reliquary •antiquary • cassowary • stipendiary •colliery • pecuniary • chinoiserie •misery • wizardry • citizenry •advisory, provisory, revisory, supervisory •causerie, rosary

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GravesAlgarve, calve, carve, grave, Graves, halve, Slav, starve, suave, Zouave •Wroclaw •Jugoslav, Yugoslav •moshav • Gustave •haves •calves, scarves •headscarves • mooncalves • Graves •beeves, eaves, Greaves, Jeeves, leaves, Reeves, thieves •tea leaves • fig leaves • flyleaves •Hargreaves • lives •Ives, knives, wives •jackknives • penknives • paperknives •spaewives • alewives • midwives •fishwives • housewives • goodwives •corves, dwarves, wharves •Groves, loaves •hooves • turves •elves, ourselves, selves, shelves, theirselves, themselves, yourselves •mantelshelves • bookshelves •wolves • aardwolves • werewolves

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