Friday, July 31, 2009

Journal Entry - Week 5 - Norman Chapel

Today was such a dreary, humid, rain-laden day. How fitting for a cemetery and visiting its chapel, Norman Chapel! The first part of the class, we took the time to share our experiences with other cemeteries throughout the tri-state area. Through my observations, it appears that (1) a lot of people died from the late-1700’s through to the mid- to late-1800’s, and (2) we are moving away from small, sometimes secluded, personable burial grounds to large, manicured, professional (although sometimes impersonal) cemeteries. Perhaps one can conclude that space is becoming more of a premium, therefore it is prudent to condense our dead into a preplanned area. However, one must question if the “personal touch” associated with spending eternity at a small, simplistic plot/cemetery versus a sprawling, multi-acre affair is of such heightened value. After reviewing these smaller cemeteries with my classmates, it is clear that the larger, better managed cemetery (like Spring Grove or Arlington Memorial Gardens) is the logical choice. Visually understanding how quickly these smaller venues fell out of repair is sound reasoning to such a choice. Although these larger cemeteries will fill-up eventually, it should be well after our children’s, children’s death before they fall to waste side like the ones we witnessed, if at all.

On a brighter note, Norman Chapel is quite the retreat. The building itself presents a permanence that should be standing long after the “filled up” occurs. The stained glass wall at the rear of the altar-area is breathtaking. Who knew that colored glass and lead could be fashioned so beautifully? The hand-carved stone accents throughout the structure are truly a work of art. I just kept thinking to myself how dusty it must have been while the chapel was being constructed. I am sure that many a stone artisan (of the few who still actually pursue the profession) can use Norman Chapel as an example of stone masonry at its finest. The massive bronze doors that separate the waiting room and the bathroom area are additional masterpieces within Norman Chapel. Their depictions of religious figures accent the massive mural of glass pleasingly. With all of this beauty it is hard for one to imagine that the need for a jail cell word arise, but I suppose that not everyone can behave in and appreciate such a place as Norman Chapel and Spring Grove.

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