Thursday, August 23, 2012

Catholic Symbols and Icons

An icon is a work of art or or image, picture, or representation of an object which, for this post, is going to be associated with the Catholic Religion. Throughout history, various cultures have been inspired or supplemented by these images, whether in two dimensions or three.

In Christianity, the icon generally depicts a holy being or object such as Jesus, Mary, saints, angels, or the cross. Creating free-standing, three-dimensional sculptures of holy figures was resisted by Christians for many centuries, out of the belief that demons inhabited "pagan" sculptures.

Almost everything within the image has a symbolic aspect. Christ, the saints, and the angels all have halos, angels have wings because they are messengers, etc..  In addition to icons there are also Christograms which are monograms or a combination of letters that form an abbreviation for the name of Jesus Christ. Different types of Christograms are associated with the various traditions of Christianity; such as the IHS monogram referring to the Holy Name of Jesus or ΙϹΧϹ referring to Christ.

The most common Christogram became "IHS" or "IHC", denoting the first three letters of the Greek name of Jesus, iota-eta-sigma.

The Greek letter iota is represented by I, and the eta by H, while the Greek letter sigma is represented by S. Because the Latin-alphabet letters I and J were not distinguished until the 17th century, "JHS" and "JHC" can be equivalent to "IHS" and "IHC".

"IHS" is sometimes interpreted as meaning Iesus Hominum Salvator ("Jesus, Savior of men" in Latin). These other interpretations are known as backronyms. English-language interpretations of "IHS" have included "I Have Suffered" or "In His Service".

INRI or I.N.R.I. a Latin acronym reading Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum, which in English translates to "Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews", the Latin inscription over the cross of Christ on Calvary. The Greek version reads ΙΝΒΙ.

Most crucifixes with Jesus include a plaque or parchment placed above his head, called a titulus, bearing the Latin letters INRI, or it appears occasionally carved directly into the cross and usually just above the head of Jesus.

Among the early Christians icons, the fish seems to have been one of the most important. It consists of the initial letters of five Greek words forming the word for fish. According to tradition, ancient Christians used the fish symbol to mark meeting places and tombs, or to distinguish between friends and enemies.

Alpha and Omega  
These are the first and the last letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha (α or Α) and omega (ω or Ω). The term Alpha and Omega comes from the phrase  “I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last" - Jesus. From the Book of Revelation (verses 1:8, 21:6, and 22:13).

The Staurogram (meaning monogram of the cross or Monogrammatic Cross) is composed by a tau (Τ) superimposed on a rho (Ρ). The Staurogram was first used to abbreviate the Greek word for cross in very early New Testament manuscripts.The tau refers to the cross, and the rho refers to the Greek word "help".

Chi Rho  
The Chi Rho is formed by superimposing the first two (capital) letters chi and rho (ΧΡ) of the Greek word "ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ" =Christ in such a way to produce the monogram.

IH Monogram
The initials of the name of Jesus in Greek, iota (Ι) and eta (Η), sometime superimposed one on the other, or their numeric value 18, was a well known and very early way to represent Christ.

IX Monogram
This early form of the "monogram" of Christ was formed by superimposing the first  letters of the Greek words for Jesus and Christ 
- iota Ι and chi Χ.

The rosary (from Latin rosarium, meaning "rose garden"or "garland of roses") is a Catholic devotion to prayer and is used to commemorate Jesus Christ and events of his life. The term "Rosary" is used to describe either a sequence of prayers or a string of prayer beads. The type of rosary and number of beads may vary between religious communities. Similar beads are used in other cultures; for example, the Greek use worry beads, which are used in a similar way, abut have no religious significance.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Garden Benches and Green Spaces

Garden benches are often used throughout public and private parks to give visitors places to rest and relax outdoors. To use a flexible material for these benches, such as wood or plastic, would require regular upkeep, continuous cleaning, and pest control and protection from the elements. Manufacturing benches out of granite generally means less maintenance, no need for pest control, and no protection required from weathering.

Business owners frequently utilize granite benches for company "green spaces" and garden areas; giving employees quiet places to relax while on break or eating lunch outdoors. They are sometimes used near entrances or high traffic areas where customers may have wait times for certain services. A company name, corporate logo, or laser etched photo can further personalize these commercial "green spaces".

The symbol for rest, repose and contemplation, garden bench memorials have their origins in the spacious seats used by philosophers in ancient temples and basilicas. Early examples were semi-circullar, but have evolved to more contemporary rectangular dimensions.

You can visit a loved one's grave to rest and reflect with comfort on a garden bench memorial that has a back. They also have larger engraving surfaces compared to simple straight memorial benches. This makes the lettering larger and more easily visible as you approach the gravesite. 

The backs and seats of garden bench memorials are often personalized with images, prayers and poems. The comfortable back rest and seat sizing allows for generous granite surfaces to help memorialize your loved one. Check with your manufacturer for available granite colors and finish options, as they may vary by region. Bases can also be added to garden benches, depending upon your preference, terrain and location.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Green Burial and Natural Monuments

Green burial is the interment of the body in the soil in a manner that allows the body to recycle naturally. The body may be prepared without chemical preservatives which can destroy the microbial decomposers that break the body down. Biodegradable coffins, containers or wraps are utilized with no outer burial container. The grave should be shallow enough to allow activity similar to that found in composting.

A wide variety of land management techniques including sustainable agriculture, restoration ecology and conservation projects may be used to maintain the burial area/green cemetery. Landscaping is not utilized as the methods may accelerate or slow down the decomposition rate of bodies, depending on the soil system and chemicals or pesticides used.

Natural coffins are suggested and are made from materials that quickly biodegrade. Ideally the materials are easily renewed or recycled and require less energy for their production. While there are generally no restrictions on the type of coffin used, most sites encourage the use of environmentally friendly coffins made from cardboard or wicker. A simple cotton shroud is another option.

Natural burial grounds employ a variety of methods of memorialization. Headstones, boulders, and other common flat markers may be allowed. Green burial headstones, or gravemarkers, are usually designed with the landscape in mind, to minimalize footprint, blend in with the landscape while further reducing natural resources (that can come from producing larger monuments). Flat markers are extremely common, as are boulder-like monuments with rock finishes. And for the nature-lover, there are always hand-sculpted memorials in any size required by the cemetery. Be sure to check with your cemetery's specifications for green burials.

Trees, shrubs, and flowers planted on or near the grave can provide a living memorial and help create habitat.

The Green Burial Council certifies three categories of cemeteries:
1. Hybrid Burial Grounds
2. Natural Burial Grounds
3. Conservation Burial Grounds

Hybrid Burial Grounds are conventional cemeteries offering the option for burial without the use of an outer burial container of any type. Hybrid Burial Grounds must allow for any kind of burial containers including shrouds.

Natural Burial Grounds in addition to the above requirement, are also required to use protocols that are energy-conserving, minimize waste, and do not require the use of toxic chemicals. They must have a program of Integrated Pest Management and maintain a naturalistic appearance, based on use of plants and materials compatible with regional ecosystems.

Conservation Burial Grounds, in addition to meeting all the requirements above, they must also protect, in perpetuity, an area of land specifically and exclusively designated for conservation. They must involve an established conservation organization that holds a conservation easement or guarantee of long-term stewardship of the property.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Garden Cremation Pedestals

Since ancient Roman times, cemeteries have been known as gardens, peaceful places of worship. These ancient memory gardens were often meticulously landscaped and adorned with sculptures and monuments. Apart from sanitary and other practical considerations, burial sites were often determined by religious and other social considerations. Religious rules may prescribe a specific zone, for example, some Christian traditions hold that Christians must be buried in "consecrated ground", usually a cemetery or burial in or very near the church. 
In North America, private family cemeteries were common among wealthy landowners during the 18th and 19th centuries. Many prominent people were even buried in private cemeteries -made to look like spectacular gardens - on their respective properties.

There are several common alternatives to whole-body burial. In cremation the body of the deceased is burned in a special cremation process. The fragments are then processed into a fine powder, which has led to the cremated remains being referred to as ashes. Cremation has become a very popular option in today's tough economic times.

There is far greater flexibility in dealing with the remains in cremation as opposed to the traditional burial. Some of the options include scattering the ashes at a place close to the heart of the deceased or keeping the ashes at home or in the cremation garden of a cemetery. One of the most unique "garden-like" ways to house ashes is in a Cremation Pedestal.

Various conditions in the late 18th century and throughout the 19th century led to the burial of the dead in graveyards being discontinued. Completely new garden-like places of burial were established away from heavily populated areas and outside of old towns and city centers. Thus, cemeteries - in landscaped or garden form - became the principal place of burial.

More recent is the practice of families with large estates choosing to create private cemeteries in the form of burial sites. Burial of a body at a site may protect the location from redevelopment, with such estates often being placed in the care of a trust or foundation. Presently, state regulations have made it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to start private cemeteries; many require a plan to care for the site in perpetuity. Be sure to check with local ordinances if you plan to house cremated ashes in your pedestal at home.

There are so many different options for choosing a Cremation Pedestal. With so many subjects to choose from, sometimes it's hard to decide. One of the initial decisions you'll need to make is what type of pedestal you'll want. These range from simple cremation pedestals, cremation pedestals with vases, cremation birdbaths and cremation sundials.

Next, it's up to you to customize your cremation pedestal in the same way you would if it were a granite monument or headstone. You can personalize your granite cremation memorial with just about any subject matter too. Such as the cowboy boots and hat monument below.

Contact your granite monument builder for more information on choosing a granite cremation monument. The vast options that are available for today's cremation garden pedestals may just surprise you!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Adding a Portrait to Your Monument

Porcelain portraits are a wonderful way to add your loved one's picture to their monument. They are beautiful, durable, weather resistant, and will not fade. They are available in color, black and white or sepia tone, depending upon your preference. Almost any photo can be used, and in most cases, the background can be altered, or even substituted, to create a truly unique memorial portrait.

If you want to display the photo of a loved one on a headstone
a porcelain portrait plaque may be a very economical choice. Porcelain portraits are available in many shapes and sizes. They can either be recessed into the granite or can be easily placed on the granite surface with a special adhesive tape. Porcelain photographs are created by pouring porcelain over a stainless steel base, firing in a kiln until hard, and transferring the portrait onto the porcelain base. They are then kiln fired again, at a high temperature, which permanently fuses them all together.

Another option for adding a portrait to your monument is laser etching directly into the granite. The digital imaging process for laser etching offers many options, including background removal, digital touch-up, text addition, and other digital modifications. Group photos can be converted to single or couple portraits, and vise-verse. Not only photographs, but drawings, emblems, and entire poems can be added to the portrait.

Raster, bitmap or digital images are then directly etched into the surface with a laser. The granite headstone is placed directly on the laser's table and the prepared file is transferred to the stone. This creates a beautiful portrait that will endure as long as the granite monument itself. Of course, the choice depends upon the granite color as well as the monument design. Check with your monument manufacturer to see what options might be right for you.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Where Does Your Granite Come From?

The Elberton Granite deposit is a huge mass roughly 35 miles long, six miles wide, and probably 2-3 miles deep. The total amount of granite in the Elberton area is about 6 million tons. That’s enough granite to fill the Rose Bowl almost two million times!

The Elberton Granite began 325 million years ago as a large, hot (1300-1400 degrees) mass of magma–molten rock. This magma originated when some of the earth’s crust melted–probably at a depth of about 11-12 miles. The magma rose upward and came to rest about nine miles beneath Elberton. There it cooled very slowly–taking over a million years–and solidified into granite.

That was over 300 million years ago. Since then, the granite has been pushed upward, and the land above it has been removed by erosion. The result: Now the granite lies right at the surface where it can be easily, safely, and economically quarried.

The hardest mineral on earth, diamond, has a hardness of 10. It cannot be scratched except by other diamonds. The softest materials have a hardness of 1 and are easily scratched. Few materials except precious stones are harder than 7. Elberton Granite is very hard, 6-7, and very tough to break because its tightly-bonded Quartz and Feldspar grains are made of tightly-bonded atoms. No other natural stone used for commercial purposes is any harder or more difficult to break than granite.

Granites weigh 160–220 pounds per cubic foot. That’s about the same weight as marble and only one-third as heavy as steel, but 2-3 times as heavy as concrete. Granite is heavy for much the same reasons it is so hard–the minerals within it contain tightly-packed atoms. In addition, the mineral grains themselves are also tightly packed.

Photograph taken by Mark A. Wilson (Department of Geology, The College of Wooster)

Granite has been used for gravestones and memorials for centuries. Until the early 18th century granite could only be carved by hand tools. There are a few manufacturers throughout the US who still employ highly-skilled craftsmen that create one-of-a-kind monuments by hand.

A key breakthrough was the invention of steam-powered cutting tools which were inspired by ancient Egyptian granite carvings. In 1832 the first polished granite tombstone was erected in an English cemetery. It caused a sensation in the London monumental trade and for some years all polished granite ordered came from one manufacturer. Granite memorials became a major status symbol in Victorian Britain.

Today, modern methods of carving include using computer-controlled rotary bits and sandblasting over a rubber stencil. Leaving the letters, numbers and emblems exposed on the stone, the blaster can create virtually any kind of artwork or epitaph on the granite headstone or granite base.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Pet Memorials and Pet Loss

The death of a pet can be an intense loss, comparable with the death of a human loved one, or even greater depending on the situation and the individual pet owner. The loss can be even more intense when the owner has made the difficult decision to end the pet’s life through euthanasia. There are other types of loss that can also cause grieving like a missing pet, loss through personal separation/relocation and accidentally injured or killed.

There is no set amount of time for the grieving process. Some pet owners may even be unable to express their grief socially when it results in the loss of a pet. It somehow seems socially acceptable to grieve for the loss of a loved one, but not as much for the loss of a pet. To make things more difficult, men often internalize their feelings, and may feel it necessary to suppress grief altogether.

After the loss of an animal or pet, there are further ways of coping with grief:
  • Change your environment and try putting away pet-related items
  • Adjust your daily routine to avoid pet-related situations
  • Release emotions through writing or other activities
  • Memorialize your pet

Resources for pet loss change regularly, but include: hotlines - some veterinary schools around the US have pet loss support hotlines; online forums - use the search term "pet loss" to locate online forums for grieving pet owners; books - on "pet loss" are available through online and local booksellers.

Pet death is gradually becoming recognized as similar to other forms of death within the family. Some companies may even provide paid leave for such emotional times. Animal chaplains are also becoming popular to help in dealing with the loss of a pet. There are beautiful pet cemeteries throughout the US and a few are now allowing your pet to be buried with you in your plot. Most have great websites explaining what they can and cannot allow at this time, but all are worth exploring. If you prefer to memorialize your pet at home, consider a small marker or monument that can be easily placed without assistance. If you are memorializing a larger animal, such as an equine, a larger monument could be setup while the equipment is there to bury your equine partner. 

Another popular option is cremation, with your pets ashes being kept in an urn. (We'll have that information for you in a later post.)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Symbolism and Memorial Messages

No matter your religious preference, personalizing your monument can be an arduous process in a time of grief. With thousands of designs and religious components available, the design process can sometimes take weeks or months to complete.

Your monument counselor should be able to provide you with the necessary information to get you started. Researching the meaning of certain symbols on your own can also help save time during the memorialization process.

One of the first things you'll need to decide is whether you want a classic granite monument (with sandlblasting/hand carving) or a modern black etched granite monument. This will determine your artwork choices, as certain designs can be different for each type of monument and/or type of granite used.

According to the interpretation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, it is illegal to display a religious symbol, such as a Christian cross, on public land, as it demonstrates preference to a specific religion and thus violates the separation of church and state. Therefore, you'll need to be aware of your memorial placement if not located within a private cemetery. You should have no trouble adding religious components or scenes to your cemetery headstone. Your counselor can work with you to ensure your monument is appropriate in theme, design, type and size for your cemetery's specifications.

In addition to religious themes, many families choose to add flowers to symbolize how a life was lived or to honor their loved one in passing. For example, very popular monument flowers are red poppies, which have been associated with war since the Napoleonic Wars. The damage done to the landscape during battle often increased the lime content in the soil, leaving the poppy as one of the only plants able to grow. Families often utilize the poppy in headstone designs for family members that have served in the military.

Description=commemorative poppies laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier 
Source=self-made |Date=November 11, 2007 |Location=Ottawa, Ontario Canada 
Author=Benoit Aubry |Permission= Creative Commons 3.1

Other common flowers and their significances are:

Morning Glory: symbolizes the Resurrection, morning, 
youth and the bonds of love. 

Daisy: Innocence of the Holy Child, Jesus the infant, youth, 
the Sun of the Righteousness, and also symbolizes innocence.

Pine and Pine Cones: symbolize fertility, regeneration, and healing.

Lily of the Valley: stands for purity, humility, 
the Virgin Mary and brides.

Tree of Life: Eternal Life.

Cultured and Wild Roses: symbolize love.

Pansy: Remembrance, humility and The Holy Trinity.

Poppy: Peace, rest, sleep, eternal sleep, consolation

By combining religious components, symbolic flowers and, as seen in the monument above, photo etched family portraits, allows for a truly unique and personal family memorial.