Despite having a reputation for being scary places full of dead people, cemeteries and graveyards are not all doom and gloom. As well as being associated with death, they can also be full of life and often house an abundance of flora and fauna. For those seeking peace and quiet, they can act as spaces for reflection and contemplation while artwork and inscriptions on some of the headstones can give an insight into cultural and religious beliefs throughout the ages. Many cemeteries also serve as multi-function spaces within their communities. For instance, at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in L.A. you can catch an outdoor movie or music concert, in Edinburgh walks through graveyards have become a popular activity, while in London you can take a guided tour through some of the old 'magnificent seven' cemeteries such as Abney park and Highgate while learning about the inhabitants and their lives.
Of course, social activities in burial grounds are not a new thing. In Medieval Spain, families would take pan de ánimas (spirit bread) and wine to the graves of their deceased relatives on All Souls Day, and there's the famous Día de los Muertos tradition which sees families feast in the cemeteries while welcoming back the souls of their loved ones for a brief reunion. Victorians in Britain were also known to have had picnics and days out in the cemetery, while 'Ultimate Goth' Mary Shelley was famously a fan of hanging around the graveyard - and reportedly lost her virginity on her Mother's grave (which is maybe going a wee bit too far....).
For many people, visiting an old cemetery or burial ground is just as appealing as visiting a conventional museum. Maybe even more so. While museums and art galleries are specifically curated to appeal to visitors, graveyards and burial grounds often tell natural stories of raw grief and loss from the direct perspective of the loved ones left behind. Perhaps, as a grieving person, this brings a feeling of empathy and a sense of shared grief that transcends time and space. With 'tombstone tourism' becoming increasingly popular, there is now a significant online community of taphophiles which has resulted in an impressive Digital Necropolis featuring people's favourite cemeteries and headstones.
You can see some of our own images below and check out our full Gallery here.
ACCESS THE FULL GALLERY HERE