Understanding Cemetery Symbols by Tui Snider
[The following is an adapted excerpt from my book, Understanding Cemetery Symbols. I hope you enjoy it! Also, full disclosure: that’s an Amazon affiliate link. If you buy my book after clicking it, I make a few pennies at no additional cost to you.]
Why are benches so common in cemeteries?
This historic cemetery tradition harkens back to ancient Greece: After erecting a table stone to place food and wine on during grave site celebrations, ancient Greeks often installed a type of stone bench called an exedra. Now the family had a place to sit during their gravesite visits.
What is an exedra?
Exedrae may be straight or curved. These benches are for public use, so you can find them in gymnasiums and public squares, as well as burial grounds. If you’ve ever seen a painting of a Greek philosopher sitting while surrounded by his students, the artist most likely painted him sitting on an exedra.
Still the most popular form of cemetery seating
Exedra-style benches were fashionable graveyard monuments in the Victorian era through the 1920’s in America, and are often found on wealthier people’s graves. Even when it’s not an exedra-style, you will notice that benches are the most common type of seating found in cemeteries, even today.
And I know I sound like Captain Obvious here, but it is perfectly fine to sit down on cemetery benches. I’m adding that bit because I sometime see people hesitate to do so. They’re worried that it is somehow disrespectful; it’s not! Just make sure that the bench is sturdy and safe before you sit down.
Want to learn more about cemetery symbols?
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