Each country has its own beauty, history and culture. Religion is strictly connected with all of them, and it is known to be a crucial aspect of human life.
The essence of each religion is not only faith, but also its practice forms which contain prayer, church service and rituals such as entering the state of matrimony or burial.
All of those are inseparable parts of any religion, and they are performed for identical purposes and with the same intentions, but on the basis of that religious traditions differ one from another to some extent, they can be performed differently as well.
With a special focus on styles of headstones, we would like to pay your attention to funeral mores of a few different European countries: those with the largest number of Catholics: Poland, Italy, Spain and France; dominated by Protestantism and Catholicism Germany; United Kingdom which is divided into two major faiths: Catholicism and Anglicanism; and Russia where almost half of total population adheres to the Russian Orthodox Church.
Poland is known to be one of the most traditional and religious country in Europe. In fact, Polish cemeteries are full of very similar gravestones which, in general, differ from one another with details like finishes and information included in inscriptions. The other difference which pay our attention is various condition of gravestones, which is obvious as some of them were placed, for instance, 50 years ago and the others last year. Over the course of such a long time, some trends and design have been changed and brought up-to-date, but it is not such a wide difference. In general, the most common type in Poland is kerbed headstone (ledger marker) which can be single or double. Polish people prefer to be buried with other members of their families and thereby they are also swaying towards tombs. Because of weather conditions in Poland, most gravestones are made from one of the most durable and resilient raw material – granite. Polish people are sympathizers of decorating graves with colorful flowers and candles. Poland has not accustomed to cremation as Western European countries have. In the light of that, cremation memorials are handful amongst the traditional ones.
In Spain, kerbed grave markers are not as commonly seen as in Poland. One of the most characteristic feature of Spanish funeral tradition is that people are usually buried in a large memorial stone (lápida in Spanish), which resembles a huge wall with “drawers” for coffins. The grave is bricked in, but in front of the wall, there are plaques with inscriptions. Additionally, unlike to Poland there is no possibility to put huge bunches of flowers or candles on grave markers. Anyway, if someone wants to leave anything in memory of deceased, there are only small shelves or vases designated for a few little flowers. What is really interesting, on a lot of plaques, there are engraved crests of Spanish football teams i.e., FC Barcelona or Real Madrid.
In modern Italian cemeteries people are interred in the same type of gravestones as in Spain. In old cemeteries, there are numerous chapels, monuments and big headstones, but as Italy is struggling with the problem of lack of space, like in Spain, Italian cemeteries are brimful with “blocks” with designated for coffins “drawers”. In most inscriptions of Italian plaques there are engraved only first and last names of a decedent, and dates of his birth and death. Sometimes, there are also included pictures and small vases for flowers.
Probably the most original and elegant headstone designs can be found in French cemeteries. Obviously, French funeral monument companies offer traditional and classical types, but recently the market has been revolutionized by unseen before and extremely unique designs. In a bid to make grave markers more personalized, there have been designed vibrant, colorful headstones covered with pictures that we usually pick as wallpapers of our desktops. They are absolutely high-tech and tasteful but controversial as well. They are said to be out of place as funeral ceremony and death of our family members is regarded as a sad and painful experience. As far as more traditional grave markers are concerned, French cemeteries are full of traditional granite or bronze headstones, crosses, tombs, and rarely monuments. Distinctive and conspicuous elements are book-shaped plagues containing dedications for decedents and sometimes pictures related to their hobbies. In addition, very often, inscriptions do not include deceased’s birth and death dates.
Grave marker types in Germany are not the same throughout the whole country. In fact, Germans are said to be quite bold in funerary architecture as they prefer original ornaments and modern designs. It is also difficult to precisely determine which raw material is considered the most popular or commonly used, because German grave markers feature not only great diversity of materials: from glass and steel to various stones; but also their shapes. Moreover, Germans are not enthusiastic about colorful candles, or artificial plastic flowers. In South part of Germany, old cemeteries are plenty of wrought-iron crosses. In some regions of the country, mostly seen are wooden crucifixes, while in the others, there are huge plaques with mantelshelves. Modern German designs are focused on minimalism, i.e., a discreet inscription containing only name, last name and birth and death dates of a decedent. Previously, all details such profession, marital status were included as well. Crucial elements of German design are latten, bronze, aluminum or steel lanterns and receptacles for holy water.
United Kingdom Headstones
Initially, in the United Kingdom, the choice of grave markers was various, but after a while, size and design have been limited, therefore, the most common has become the lawn type grave. The most important reason of such change was cheaper maintenance regime as it allows effortless mowing amongst graves. Additionally, such type is far less expensive than the bigger one; thereby funeral costs are reduced too. Trends in grave marker designs have been changed in parallel with the increasing popularity of cremations. That is why; numerous cemeteries impose restrictions on types of headstones, much less when it comes to cremation monuments. Even though traditional grave markers might be forbidden in some cemeteries, they are still available on the British market. Nevertheless, the most commonly bought gravestones are headstones, flat tablets, upright headstones and, obviously, cremation memorials. All types of grave stones are following trends in designing and they are becoming more and more personalized. In a bid to meet all customers’ needs and wishes, on offer there are designs referring to decedents’ hobbies or professions. People have a possibility of expressing their sorrow at someone’s death by including in an inscription bible passages, quotes or even song lyrics.
Russia is a country of contrasts in all senses of this word. A gulf between the rich and the poor relates to all aspects of Russian nation, to funerary architecture as well. Russian monuments companies offer a comprehensive selection of raw materials, for instance, expensive but fancy granite or marble, or low-priced concrete, artificial stone i.e., a little amount of natural stone mixed with polyester. As in Poland, kerbed gravestone is the most desirable type. Nonetheless, Russian gravestone designs are richly varied and can be impossibly effective, staggering and exclusive. Funerary architecture is believed to be art, and because of most designs on offer are really works of art – made from the highest quality materials, enormous, in extraordinary shapes, glossy and full of details such golden engraved inscriptions and huge portraits of decedents.
As conclusion, we can say that not only religion determine what type of gravestone are the most popular in each countries. Certainly, there are the others contributive factors such culture, economic development, weather conditions and historical background.