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God's Acre

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Diane's been reading my blog for years, and she knows what makes my canary chirp. Big trees, great architecture, old and venerable things...The grand destination of our Friday afternoon walk was an ancient (well, for America) burying ground on the campus of Moravian Academy that's known as God's Acre. Moravians (from the easternmost part of the Czech Republic) came to America in the mid 1700's thanks to religious persecution at home, and they set up a peaceful community in eastern Pennsylvania that honored everyone no matter the color of their skin. 

This is reflected in the headstones. None are bigger or more ostentatious than others, and all are flush with the earth.

I'm thinking the Little Strength is a ship. Gee. Not many of these good people are making it out of their 40's. It must have been incredibly rough.

 One year-old Thomas Otto Braun gets the same treatment 

as 12-year-old Benigna Antes. Smallpox. How awful. I marveled that her marble stone was as crisp and readable as if it had been carved yesterday, instead of 224 years earlier.

I kind of fall into headstones when I start reading them. I absolutely love the font used on Sarah Iselstein's stone. Wow, wow, wow. There's something so 2014 about it. It's absolutely alive, antic. Might have to steal that font for a project. I'd call it Saccona.

The cemetery makes for a beautiful parklike space, albeit a kind of trippy one (in more ways than one!)

The Moravians established more than 30 settlements around the world on the "Herrnhut model," which, according to Wiki,  "emphasized a lifestyle of prayer and worship and a form of communal living in which personal property was held but simplicity of lifestyle and generosity with wealth were considered important spiritual attributes. As a result, divisions between social groups and extremes of wealth and poverty were largely eliminated." Moravians believed in universal education, for men and women, for people of color too. 

This one arrested me. It's doubtful that a mixed-race person would have received a place in many cemeteries at this time, in any other spot but here in this Moravian community. I bet she was beautiful, at 15.

Each stone I study starts a train of reflection, a set of mind perfectly in tune with walking, hands behind back, reading stone after stone, wondering about each one. I surface with difficulty from my reverie and am surprised to see people driving cars and walking about, noses down, poking away at their phone screens. I blink at them like a traveler from another time, set down in 2014.


Very 'arresting' indeed; something especially beautiful about the setting, simplicity, and equality of those markers (VERY different from a funeral grounds I walk by everyday); each one telling a story from another time to anyone who stops to listen. And perhaps somewhere, some spirits smiled and nodded back at you for taking the time.

I just love walking through cemeteries and reading the headstones, conjecturing what their lives were like and how they died. These headstones give much more information than most, which would undoubtedly have me spending hours just reading them and thinking. I wonder what sort of stone they were made of to have survived acid rain.

Beautiful! Thank you for sharing your photos and thoughts. Cemeteries are some of my favorite places on this Earth.

I'm wondering if those well preserved stones might actually be replacements. The font doesn't look like any I've seen for that period and the stones are way too crisp. The other two stones you showed, which are eroded and have a different font are from the same period.

We live very near a cemetery--though it is not so ancient as the one you describe. There is an air of sweet sadness about a cemetery. You just know that hopes & dreams are buried there along with dear ones.
Like your Moravian cemetery, ours has stones flat to the ground (all modern ones, of course). I pause at gravestones of Vietnam vets--my generation--and weep inside at such bright promise lost. Then there is a section for just wee ones--featuring a stone statue of Jesus with the little ones gathered around. I pause at two stones of babes who died just days old--these are children of a neighbor of ours.
And yet, the cemetery is a place of life--critters skitter about, chipmunks & squirrels, and birds nest in the trees and call from the branches overhead.

I agree with Bruce Mohn, three of the stones you photographed seem to be replacements. The calligraphy on the stone for Sarah Iselstein from Saccona is gorgeous! Hard to match artistry from a handcut stone such as this to the machine cut stone (the 3 that seem to be replacements are machine cut, the uniformity and consistency of letters attest to that). Look at the capital S in Sarah and compare to other capital S's on this stone! I agree with you, a wonderful font! I will copy Sarah's headstone by hand and see if I can develop a similar font.

Posted by Gail Spratley September 30, 2014 at 7:12 AM


First, to Cyberthrush for that beautiful comment. Makes me tear up. To Mimi (my new FB friend!) and Shelly for getting how cool cemeteries can be. To Bruce Mohn for surprising me yet again with his insight that these legible stones are almost certainly modern replacements of the originals (and how I'd love to see the originals). To KG Mom for stopping and musing on the lost lives, as I do. And to Gail Spratley for offering to work up a font called Saccona. That's beyond me.
You all are just grand, and I'm so happy to have such an appreciative and sensitive audience taking all this in. It makes the sharing all the sweeter. Nine years of blogging and counting...whoda thunk it could happen?

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