Sunday, September 25, 2016

Purple Skies and Dead Guys: Exploring Two of Downtown Charleston's Historical Graveyards

Chasing storms and knowledge, the Beyond the Grave FYE class at College of Charleston was able to visit two of the closest graveyards near campus.

The serene, historical sections of Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul and the St. Patrick Catholic Church provided the first experiences of our small class of twenty. Walking through these old graveyards we saw several different types of gravestones with many different symbols. I want to show you some of my favorites along with the interesting epitaphs on these stones.     
A picture of the storm we ventured into. This photo does not
do the violet skies justice.

The sign on the front of St. Luke's
They also have a coveted Carolopolis

First we visited the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. John, on beautiful Coming Street (I'm a little biased because I live on Coming), which boasted a grand white steeple and wrought iron fencing around the property. This graveyard featured a collection of different styles along with a variation of different  years people were placed into the yards there; the most recent I found was 2013.

Found in the graveyard of St. Luke,
this is an example of a Pedestal tomb with an urn atop it.
The site pictured on the left, reads "Thos. George Simons and Catherine Hume, His wife Catherine died Aged 84, 6 months, 26 days." On the other sides of the square, an epitaph to George was also written. This particular urn stood out to me because it was in a section that had flood lighting. I am very curious to know why lights were placed around this one little section of St. Luke's.

This mausoleum is fenced in with gates and has no
indication of what family is inside.  

This mausoleum is one of the most "decorated" of the graveyard. It has two torches and a phrase in Latin across the top. The phrase "qui christo vivit perire nescit" I found has conflicting meanings. On Professor Harwood's blog it says the inscription means "it is hard to kill a rose in a churchyard" but in Google Translate the phrase translates to "He knows that Christ lives lost" which I believe makes more sense because Christo is Latin for Christ. This monument also has inverted torches with flames that symbolize eternity and death. (As of October 19,2016, Professor Harwood's blog now has an updated explanation of this phrase.)

This column was hidden in a back section of the graveyard and has the cut off top to symbolize a life stopped too soon or "cut off." It also has a wreath on the top that was adopted by Christians and Greeks as victory and redemption. This one looks like an laurel wreath which is usually used for people who have a high distinction in the literature and arts.

The picture below is of  Alice Flacc Simons who was born April 19, 1849 and died on January 13, 1891. Her grave was extremely beautiful to me and offered a sense of serenity when I looked at it. She is in what is known as a tomb grave; hers is just lower than most typical tomb graves.


Our last stop for the night was the St. Patrick's Catholic Church graveyard which offers very little variety in headstones with many of them containing crosses.

During this trip one specific cross stuck out more than any other the others, it was carved to look like a tree in my perception and it had ivy leaves carved around in a winding pattern like it had just overgrown onto the cross. It is also a representation of the die and socket style of gravestone. The ivy winding around the cross is a symbol for many things like memory, immortality, and eternal life among others.

There was another cross with what looks to be grapes surrounding it on vines on a headstone. The grapes are used to symbolize Christ. It also appears to have some sort of ivy snaking around it as well.
The last symbol is probably one of my favorites as Weeping Willows remind me of my childhood down here in South Carolina. The weeping willow is said to stand for nature's lament and mourning. This stone is also very peculiar to me as the top of it resembles the Devil's horns.

As this post draws to a close, I encourage you to visit both of these beautiful graveyards and walk among the stories hidden in stone. Thank you for following my stormy adventure around Charleston!

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