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Churches Conservation Trust - Lunchtime Lectures #8

Whoever said churches were dull and boring clearly hasn't been following our weekly lecture series. Our free lectures take place live every Thursday online, but you can catch up on every single one right here. Our lectures explore everything from art, architecture, history, politics to even some pretty weird and wonderful topics too!

Another video in our highlights from the CCT Lunchtime Lecture series.

This weeks video: Making Headway with a Headstone: How to Look Beneath and Beyond with Sheldon K. Goodman

For the dead who could afford a grave marker, the information chiselled or inscribed on them about the lives that lay beneath is often limited. Their name, birth, death, a short passage of poetry or a biblical except - and that's it. What about their favourite piece of music? Their favourite colour? Where did they travel to? What did they achieve? This is the real information we yearn for as we reacquaint ourselves with the dead. But where do you start to find this information out? And what if they don't have a headstone? How do we deal with the contentious histories often linked to those who've passed? With the growing popularity of cemeteries as a quieter, more socially-distanced places to take time to reflect and learn more about our social history, this talk aims to help you discover their resource as a place of learning as well as mourning and how to recover a life long gone, with the pros and cons of this historical resurrection.

Picture: Gravestones Tombs & Memorials, Trevor Yorke (2017)

Gravestones and headstones have been used for centuries to mark the final resting place of the deceased. The history of gravestones and headstones is a long and varied one, and the design and materials used have changed significantly over time.

Early civilizations such as the Egyptians and Greeks often used large, ornate tombstones to mark the graves of their elite. These tombstones were typically made of marble or other types of stone and featured intricate carvings and engravings. These monuments served not only as a marker for the grave but also as a symbol of the person's status and wealth.

In medieval Europe, the use of gravestones became more widespread. Initially, only the wealthy could afford gravestones, which were typically made of stone or wood and decorated with religious symbols or the coat of arms of the deceased. However, as society became more affluent, gravestones became more common, and their design became more ornate.

During the Victorian era, gravestones and headstones became even more elaborate and decorative. The Victorians were obsessed with death and mourning, and the design of gravestones reflected this. Headstones were often made of marble or granite and featured intricate carvings, statues, and even photographs of the deceased. The use of flowers and other decorative elements was also common, as were inscriptions that conveyed sentimental or religious messages.

In the 20th century, the design of gravestones and headstones became simpler and more understated. This was partly due to the rise of cremation, which meant that there was no longer a need for large, ornate tombs. Instead, headstones and gravestones became smaller and more modest, often featuring just the name of the deceased and the dates of their birth and death.

Today, there are a wide variety of materials and designs used for gravestones and headstones. Granite and marble are still popular choices, but other materials such as bronze, brass, and even glass are also used. Modern headstones often feature simple designs, with clean lines and minimal decoration.

In recent years, there has been a growing trend towards eco-friendly gravestones and headstones. These are typically made from biodegradable materials such as bamboo, willow, or recycled paper. The design of eco-friendly headstones is often simple and natural, reflecting a desire to return to a more traditional and sustainable way of burying the dead.

Overall, the history of grave markers and headstones reflects the changing attitudes and cultural values towards death and mourning over time. From simple stones and mounds to elaborate monuments and sculptures, they serve as lasting memorials to those who have passed on.

Check out the full range of video lectures Here and Here

Stay tuned for more videos from the CCT in coming weeks.

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