How memorial headstones came- The History

Granite Kerbstes

Beautifully inscribed headstones today may make up for the most important part of our lives whereby we get to etch out our feelings for our loved ones who have already left for their heavenly abode. They are the slabs etched out from marble, granite, sandstone, slate or limestone etc, erected to immortalise the deceased forever. We hold it with great significance today and earlier was no different. Now the past of headstones differs mostly with religions, races and countries. The history of these stones, alternately known as the gravestones or tombstones, can be traced back to the earlier Roman or Celtic history when people used to put these stones up with equal reverence, as is showed today. Below is a glimpse of what they actually stood for:

Celtic headstones presented simpler offerings than their Roman counterparts simply because they did not contain elaborate information about the battles or the conflicts in which most of the souls were laid to rest at that time. The gravesides were primarily characterized by a single rock or monolith, some piles of rocks and a single huge rock, not revealing much about the earlier lives. The Irish population was primarily introduced to the Christian culture by St. Patrick. Only after this, there started a major trend of headstones being modelled on Celtic crosses with their roots in the pagan history.

The Roman headstones on the other hand were much more elaborate in terms of bringing to light the past exploits of the departed. They were erected and the names and surnames of the deceased were mentioned, mostly without fail.

Now, as one carefully traces the development of headstones he will be able to notice striking changes especially after the Western countries became more and more Christianize. The middle Ages specially witnessed the histories of the Church and the headstones being interlocked to a large extent. This primarily happened owing to the fact that Church actually became the center around which most of the people’s life went around. Most of them were, in some or the other way, associated with the institution in various capacities including priesthood, construction, architecture, designing etc.

Striking Features

• The dry Irish humour was more striking in the 18 compulsion to express feelings of sorrow on the tombstones.

• The usage of the igneous rocks for gravestones was viewed as another striking development in the history of gravestones.

The history of the American headstones make for some interesting read as well. While earlier the wooden grave markers were primarily used in the name of headstones (whereby the artisans used a lot of local materials), marble gravestones remained a choice of the affluent. Slates, limestone, granite, marble, brownstone have all been a part of the history and had gained importance at specific periods:

• Slate (1650-1900)

• Brownstone or Sandstone (1650-1890)

• Granite (1860-present)

• Limestone or marble (1780-1930)


Some of the decaying tombstones today are being replaced by the new ones that are considered better at handing climatic vagaries.


One response to “How memorial headstones came- The History

  1. Pingback: Memories from beyond the grave: Headstones equipped to relive favourite songs and videos | MrHairyBrit - Hairy Man of Youtube·

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