What is a Graveyard?


A graveyard is a space where people are buried. It is a small space that is often attached to a church. The word cemetery comes from Latin coemeterium, which is derived from Greek koimeterion.

When you visit your forebears’ gravesite, take a good look around. Make note of what you see.


A stroll through a graveyard can be very spiritual. Many of the symbols that decorate headstones, tombs and graves have significant meaning.

Drapery is a common motif that symbolises the veil between the living and the dead. It is often used in conjunction with other motifs such as urns, Death’s heads and flowers. A weeping willow tree is a popular symbol that conveys the sorrow of a life cut short.

During the early 1800s, Americans began to move away from Calvinistic notions of predestination and damnation in favor of more hopeful ideas such as healing and resurrection. This was reflected in the changing design of gravestones that included cherubs, angels, effigies of souls and flowers.

The dove is a Christian symbol of peace and the hope of ‘eternal life’ in ‘heaven’. It is often seen on the graves of children. Similarly, lambs are a symbol of innocence and the resurrection. A circle is a symbol of eternity and may be drawn in a variety of ways.


Despite the fact that many people use the terms graveyard and cemetery interchangeably, they are not actually the same thing. A graveyard is a specific area of ground used for burial and it is usually attached to a church and only available to members of that religion.

Graveyards were originally open spaces where people from all walks of life could be buried together. The only requirement was that they were Christian. Those who were wealthy or of a high social status were buried in individual crypts inside or under the relevant place of worship and their graves were marked with a headstone that included writing, symbols and sometimes a coat of arms.

As the population increased and space became a concern it was decided to create new places for burying which were independent of churchyards, these were known as cemeteries. As a result, the graveyard went full circle from being an enjoyable community space with ordered burials to becoming crowded and unpleasant spaces reserved solely for the dead.


While the terms graveyard and cemetery are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between the two. Graveyards are usually attached to a church, while cemeteries do not have any religious affiliation and can be located far from the church.

The distinction between the two has to do with space. When church graveyards became full, new burial grounds were created outside the city and called “cemeteries.” The word comes from the Greek koimeterion, which means dormitory or resting place.

These sites were created to accommodate mass burials, unlike the old practice of keeping the bodies at home or close to their work place. To avoid erosion and mudslides, the cemetery must have a relatively level topography with a predominant slope. This allows for positive drainage, pedestrian access and headstone placement. The cemetery must also have a single Burial Section with clearly identified limits indicated by Section Markers. The final grading must be designed to achieve one predominant slope across the site.


Most people assume that a graveyard is a place only full of dead people, but it’s actually very much alive. It’s a place where many of us go to walk our dogs, take our kids for a stroll, or just visit our loved ones’ graves and memorials.

Maintaining a grave site isn’t as hard as it may seem. Most grave sites require only a few times a year for cleaning and weeding, and this shouldn’t take more than an hour or so.

During this process, it’s important to use soapy water and never wire brushes or harsh cleaners. These can cause wear and damage to a headstone, and they can also progress corrosion.

Those who manage the maintenance of a cemetery can help with documentation of each burial plot by using field survey sheets, which will help them identify and record accurate inscriptions. They should also prioritize fixing problems like unstable or unbalanced markers, which can be a safety hazard for workers and visitors.

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