Savannah (Part 1: Bonaventure Cemetery)

On July 10th, my girlfriend, Dawn, and I set out on an adventure for my 40th birthday. We headed to the lovely city of Savannah, Georgia. I absolutely love this city. It is so full of history and stories and lovely architecture. I took so many photos on this adventure that I decided to make this into three posts: Bonaventure Cemetery, Architecture, and City Life.

The first place we stopped when we got into town was Bonaventure Cemetery. We headed straight for the older section, but of course, I saw so many things along the way that we made several stops before reaching the historic section.

The first thing that caught my attention was a mausoleum in the Jewish section. It was a magnificent tomb. With the Spanish moss draping around it and the tropical plants surrounding it, it reminded me of an ancient tomb in the jungle somewhere (well, actually it made me think of the old tv show Land of the Lost for some reason).

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After taking a few shots of this tomb and a few others, we moved on. It was a beautiful drive with tree lined roads in places and Spanish moss everywhere.

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The next place that caught my attention was a small section of the cemetery with veterans graves in it. Each headstone had a US Flag displayed, and the graves were in nice neat little rows. I thought it would make a good picture to display on holidays like Memorial Day and Independence Day.

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One thing I was curious about, however, were the little stones on all the headstones. I began to notice that they were everywhere. I asked Dawn about it, and she explained that some people believe that you are supposed to leave a gift for the dead when you visit their graves. Having grown up with an old cemetery on our property, which my mother to this day is caretaker of, this seemed very odd to me. I knew about putting flowers or other such memorabilia on graves in memory, but leaving gifts for complete strangers was interesting. So, I decided to research it.

Apparently, this practice stems from a Jewish tradition. Early in history, graves were not nearly as elaborate as the ones we see today. Many times only stones marked the grave-site. Visitors would leave a stone in remembrance and honor of the deceased and help “build” the tomb. Another belief was that the soul of the dead would haunt the grave-site for a considerable length of time, and the stones helped to keep the soul in its place of rest and protect the visitor from any negative emotion from the spirit. So the conclusion I have come to is that the stones represent the number of visitors who have come to honor the dead with a visit. It is a show of love, honor, and respect. And here in this portion of the cemetery, a show of respect for those who have fallen in battle defending our country.

However, apparently the leaving of such gifts has become a problem over the years, as well as the taking of things from grave-sites, so Bonaventure Cemetery kindly asks you to leave the grave as you see it.

After leaving this portion of the cemetery, we headed into some of the historic section. I was immediately struck by how elaborate some of the grave markers were. I determined that some very wealthy people must have been buried here. The first grave we came to was marked by an angel reaching out to put a feather or palm frond onto an elevated cross. (I really must admit that I didn’t necessarily pay attention to who the graves belonged to or know any history about any of those laid to rest here. I was mainly interested in photographing these elaborate monuments to these deceased. After all, I’m pretty sure I don’t know anyone buried here.)

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I was captivated by how beautiful this angel was and how detailed the carvings were, and the inscription written beneath was “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”

Of course, at the risk of sounding disrespectful, the Whovian in me popped out with the next thought being, “There sure are a lot of weeping angels here. Don’t blink.” Way too much Doctor Who in my diet obviously.

The next grave I came to was that of a little girl named Gracie. Apparently, she died rather young, and her parents hired a local sculptor to sculpt her image from a photograph in memory of their beloved child. This is quite possibly one of the most amazing sculptures in the cemetery. It is as if this lovely child sits still to this day admiring the garden that surrounds her.

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As I began to wander around and photograph these amazing monuments, I was struck by another feeling. It was as if you could feel the presence of old lingering spirits in this section of the cemetery. Perhaps it was a combination of the spooky Spanish moss hanging from all of the ancient trees and the warm summer breeze rustling through the leaves and waving the moss, or perhaps there really were some lingering spirits. After all, when you build such lovely and elaborate homes for the dead, it seems that you are inviting them to stay a little longer on this earth. Not a wise invitation, I am sure, but an invitation nonetheless. Either way, I determined that this would be a very interesting and perhaps a little spooky place to visit in the evening or at night. Maybe on the next trip, I’ll visit a little later in the day.

The next group of grave-sites I visited looked like above-ground stone caskets. Having not really researched what they are, I assume they are indeed above-ground vaults or tombs. Many were adorned with crosses across the top of the “casket”. Being a fan of the old monsters, my first thought upon viewing these was, “There sure are a lot of vampires buried in this cemetery.” I am sure you can see what I mean…

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Perfect way to entomb that old monster, Nosferatu, don’t you think?

And then there were a few beautiful, though a bit spooky, enclosed family sites like these…

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These two tombs caught my attention as I walked by. Not because of any ornate embellishments, but from their stately simplicity…

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And for one last showcase of the spooky quality of this section of the cemetery, I present these photographs…

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I do realize they are angels, but they tended to be a little creepy to me.

The next section that we visited started out as a hunt for an angel. I saw her from the road and jumped out of the car in search of her. As I was on my quest, I felt as though I were walking through a Greek sculpture garden. The memorials here were quite stately and ornate. The first one I came across looked like a doorway, and through this “doorway” you could see the most beautiful landscape. It looked as though you could step through to another world. Perhaps Narnia was on the other side.

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The next memorial I came across was absolutely beautiful, though I didn’t appreciate the full beauty until I was going back through the pictures. From the photographs, you can see that the sculptor was adept at perfectly capturing the details of the hands. The intact hand looks like a living lady’s fingers were transformed into stone. It is quite remarkable in photograph.

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My favorite sculpture in this “garden of the dead” was a beautiful lady positioned atop a raised platform. From afar, she is framed by dangling Spanish moss and vines. Her image is so serene and brings a quality of peace to the area as she rests atop her stones in quiet contemplation.

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The rest of this lovely garden I will simply show you in picture…

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And in the end, I did locate my angel before we headed away to the lovely city of Savannah.

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