Saturday, August 9, 2008

Monroe Presbyterian Cemetery

My husband and I decided that it would be a sin to stay in today as the weather was absolutely perfect (though we were still feeling the aftereffects of celebrating the completion of my master's program with some of my awesome coworkers last night).

We often take drives out in the country when we are bored, looking for old cemeteries to explore. I am always surprised how many we've driven past and never noticed. Monroe Presbyterian Cemetery is one such place. It was here I found several good examples of symbols I've seen before and one I had read about some time ago and had to look up again.

Garland or wreath: Victory or triumph. I have read two different interpretations as to what is being triumphed over or won. One explanation is that it symbolizes the triumph of death over life and the other is the exact opposite--everlasting life winning out over mortal death. I think I like the idea of the second one better, as it would seem like something a mourning relative might find comfort in.

This is a variation of the Union shield, found on the graves of soldiers.

Drapery: Represents mourning. Notice the finial propped up on top. Someone takes really good care of this cemetery and makes an effort to match up broken pieces.

The sleeping lamb, symbolic of innocence. Usually found, as in this case, on the graves of children.

The Mortal Coil. This is the first time I have seen the symbol on a stone in person. In addition to other meanings, I've read that it is an old Irish symbol of the universe or sun. Notice the engraved age of the child; when lives were often so short, they made note of every day of life. I notice this a lot in cemeteries with lots of epidemic burials as well.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Temple Church

Visiting temples, cathedrals or churches is part of my not-so-top-secret equation for an awesome vacation: house of worship+historical cemetery+local pub+botanical garden+local oddity+art and natural history museum=a trip where I do not let anyone sleep because there is SO MUCH TO SEE!

I admit I'm a whipcracker on vacation.

When my husband and I spent 3 1/2 weeks in London, Temple Church was high on our list of visiting priorities. We knew about this place long before The Davinci Code came out and though I am not personally a huge fan of the book, it was cool to see this church in the film later. In the U.S., anything over 100 years old is considered ancient. When standing in Temple Church, it blew my mind that it was built in 1185. It is one of only a handful of round Normal churches in England. The history is long and complicated and I will not attempt to go into it here, but this church was built by the Knights Templar in the time of the crusades. Later, the round part of the temple was constructed and this is where initiation rites took place. The stone knights in the floor are not graves (though this is a common misconception); they are simply effigies with mysterious positioning of the figures, the symbology of which has never quite been figured out.

Other interesting symbols can be found in the older part of the church where the effigies are. Typically, gargoyles are on the outside of buildings and sometimes serve as water spouts. In the case of Temple Church, however, the gargoyle faces appear inside the church and symbolize the evils of hell that await unrepentant sinners. Here, some sort of demon gnaws on an unfortunate soul's ear.

I think one of the most exciting things about this church is that it was somewhat difficult to locate. It is down an alley off Fleet Street in the financial district. There is a sharp contrast once you head down the alley away from the business suits and delicatessens. Nuns brushed past us as we traveled down the cobbled walk and suddenly the whole area opens up and there it is. It was actually quite shocking to see this huge open courtyard behind modern London buildings.

Visiting Info

Obama Mama

Traffic seemed a bit heavy this morning and I now know why--McCain's bus was parked in front of the Hilton Netherland Plaza, along with a good dozen or so police cars.

I just have one short message.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


EnglandFrance 006
Originally uploaded by True North Two
I spotted this piece of graffiti while visiting Oxford University in the summer of 2003. I can't make out what most of it says, but I remember that it caught my eye because the word "Mister" looked like "Aleister" at first glance and I had just visited an Occult book store.