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What does a Grotto Symbolize in Historic Cemeteries?

April A to Z Challenge 2020: It’s that time of year! Every April, bloggers around the world make posts for each letter of the alphabet. It’s a lot of fun and a great way to make friends online. Here’s my post for today:

[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 stuff after clicking it, I make a few pennies at no additional cost to you.]

Grotto in Azleland Memorial Park. photo (c) Tui Snider
Cemetery Grottos

Are you familiar with grottos? With Easter around the corner, I thought I’d share this photo of a grotto with a stone rolled away to depict the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Grotto in Azleland Memorial Park. photo (c) Tui Snider

Hollywood connections

I don’t see grottos in cemeteries very often, so I was surprised to find this one in my little North Texas town! According to the groundskeepers I spoke to, it was originally a movie prop, however they couldn’t remember which movie it was used in.

In another Hollywood connection, this cemetery is also the final resting place of Peter Mayhew, the actor who portrayed Chewbacca in the original Star Wars movies. (To see more about this, check out my video on YouTube.)

Monsterrat Abbey near Barcelona, Spain is high in the hills! (c) Tui Snider

Meant to resemble caves

Manmade grottos are meant to resemble caves. The practice of putting religious icons, votive candles, and statuary in the nooks of little caves dates back to the ancient Greeks, but today they are most commonly found in Catholic cemeteries.

I should add that Azleland Memorial Gardens, where my local grotto resides, is a non-denominational burial ground. People of any religion may be laid to rest there.

The grotto at Montserrat Abbey is dedicated to the Black Madonna. (c) Tui Snider

Hilltop grotto in Spain

Last year, my husband and I visited the hilltop monastery of Montserrat near Barcelona, Spain. It’s a gorgeous setting with sweeping views.

Tucked away near their grand cathedral I was delighted to find a little grotto dedicated to the Black Madonna. She is the local version of the Virgin Mary, and as the name implies she has dark skin.

Did you hear this?

Did you catch my radio show? Mark Olson and I discussed how and why he created several meaningful monuments on the next episode of Tombstone Tuesday, my 30-minute podcast about exploring historic cemeteries. If the topic interests you, I hope you’ll catch the replay – or maybe even call into the next show! (Click here to listen to the show and see the graphic below for more info. You can even call into the live show if you have any questions or comments.)

Learn more at my Historic Cemetery Podcast & Facebook Page:

Do you have questions about symbols you’ve seen on headstones? Drop by Exploring Historic Cemeteries on Facebook and let me know! And tune in to my 30-minute historic cemetery podcast on the first Tuesday of each month: Tombstone Tuesday with Tui Snider.

READ MY BOOK: If you enjoy historic cemeteries and want to learn more, check out my book: Understanding Cemetery Symbols. It’s available on Amazon in paperback and ebook form.

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Tui Snider
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  1. I had never heard of a grotto in a cemetery. Your posts are so interesting!

    • So glad you are enjoying my posts! I hope to keep you entertained all the way to Z! :)

    • Isn’t it? I wonder if this was used in more than one film and if there are other movie props used in other cemeteries?

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