A cemetery is a place where people visit to remember their loved ones who have passed away. They can also learn about the history of the community from their gravestones.
While many people see cemeteries as a sad place, they can be a wonderful space for reflection and peace. It is important to respect the privacy of those who are buried there and not disturb them.
Originally, providing a resting place for one’s loved ones was a family duty. This reflected the widespread belief that ties of kinship last beyond death. The family might bury its members in a grave, tomb, above-ground vault, mausoleum, or columbarium.
A cemetery is a large burial ground independent of any church, and it usually contains various styles of tombs, mausoleums, and columbaria, reflecting the different cultures and beliefs around death. It also has administrative offices and grounds and facilities for the funeral service, interment, and maintenance of the cemetery’s infrastructure. The word cemetery is derived from the Greek words for “sleeping place” and is a secular alternative to church-affiliated graveyards. The word is also related to the Latin word coemeterium, for “burial ground.” The term was first used in the 19th century for large public cemeteries that were not attached to a church. It is often used interchangeably with the term graveyard, but some people prefer to reserve the latter for private burials.
A cemetery carries multiple social and individual functions. It is a place where the relationship between the dead and bereaved can be maintained. It is a site where the bereaved find consolation in visiting and commemorating the deceased, in planting around the grave, and in decorating the plot. It is also a location where family and community loyalties are linked and reaffirmed.
The location, arrangement, and design of a cemetery reflect basic cultural beliefs about death and life, the social class of its inhabitants, and the prevailing notions of sanitation. Its inscriptions and the size, shape and color of grave markers emphasize beliefs about resurrection, eternal life and the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead.
The difference between a graveyard and a cemetery is its association or lack of association with a church. Graveyards are associated with a church and are often located within the church’s grounds or campus while cemeteries are not associated with a particular church and may be quite expansive in size.
Grave markers, headstones and monuments can be found in many styles to match a family’s preferences. They can be flat or raised and may be set flush on the ground, or they can be displayed in a slant marker style. A slant marker is wider at the bottom and tapers to a more narrow top causing the back of the memorial to be higher than the front.
A very popular design is a book or scroll shape, often appearing as flat markers but also in upright headstones. This is an elegant and distinctive way to mark a grave.
Other unique shapes include a cross, or a carved animal that symbolizes strength, courage, the military, or that person’s love of nature. A dolphin for example could represent intelligence, freedom or teamwork and a lion might signify power or strength. Alternatively, a garden statue is a beautiful way to commemorate your loved one and can be placed outside of a cemetery.
Various factors influence the location of cemeteries. For example, sanitary precautions in the past led to church graveyards being located outside the walls of city centers; this prevented the spread of infectious diseases. Similarly, zoning regulations may limit the number of graves that can be permitted in an area.
Some modern cemeteries are located away from city centers to protect them from potential pollution and congestion. These are usually called rural or garden cemeteries, and may include park-like landscaping and memorial gardens.
In addition to the traditional cemetery style, many families choose to use columbariums (niches) for the interment of cremated remains. These are often combined with a mausoleum and may be found on the grounds of the cemetery or within the grounds of another funeral home.
Whether the cemetery is public or private, the management of the facility will dictate the financial viability through on-going maintenance charges and perpetual care funds. In addition, the management will have sole and exclusive control over all grading, planting, surveying and improvement of individual lots in the cemetery.