A season when cemeteries reunite the living and the dead

Above: No rearranging of the surroundings would be needed to film a horror movie in the dark and cavernous Cimitero delle Fontanelle in Naples, Italy.

It’s not surprising that a writer who would include Haunting the Graveyard as part of a book title is drawn to cemeteries. A few random headstones can reveal stories about individuals and entire communities.

Someone in the family demonstrates great patience with sating my taphophilia wherever we travel. Naturally, All Saints Day and All Souls Day are among my favorite times to do so. Posts in this blog are filled with the resulting photos, and the links below will take you to a few from our past travels. So many graveyards from which to choose….

Continue reading “A season when cemeteries reunite the living and the dead”

Postcard from Bordeaux, France: Saint Seurin saved the city, but Vikings later destroyed his church

Above, statue of Saint Seurin of Bordeaux

With the withdrawal of Roman protection, Aquitaine became vulnerable to attacks by a host of others – the Vandals, the Goths, the Franks.

According to legends, as Saint Martin of Tours was dying in the year 397, he appeared in a vision to Seurin, a bishop engaged in fighting the spread of Arianism. Saint Martin directed Seurin to go to Bordeaux.

Bordeaux had no job openings for bishop, but, miraculously, the presiding bishop had a vision as well. The Lord directed him to welcome Seurin with open arms. So, the pair met, embraced and entered the church together; Seurin emerged with the title. The timing was fortuitous for the city’s residents, under attack by either Goths or Franks at the time, because Seurin was able to perform numerous miracles to successfully defend the city.

Continue reading “Postcard from Bordeaux, France: Saint Seurin saved the city, but Vikings later destroyed his church”

Postcard from Lecce, Italy: The road time flies upon offers no turning back

“Via Irremeabile d’ell Eternita” labels a columned entrance to the Cimitero di Lecce. Loosely translated by the blogger who knows no Italian beyond words frequently encountered on menus, it means the road to eternity has no return.

Although we walked down that road, we fortunately were able to turn around. Noted for my taphophilia, my love of cemeteries is restricted to wandering in and out of them, not an eagerness to take up any permanent residence.

While the Cimitero di Lecce is not as impressive as the monumental ones of Bologna, Turin and Genoa, symbols most often associated with freemasonry make exploring it interesting.

Freemasonry mystifies me. As do its symbols, many drawn from ancient Egyptian art.

Interpreting with the same level of expertise as applied to the Italian above, the skulls and crossbones are not meant to intimidate but are a symbol of the new life to come. The eternal flame symbolizes enlightenment. There is the unblinking, all-seeing eye. A winged disk might represent a soul that has left its body on its way up to heaven; an acacia branch immortality. The owl, perhaps originating from the one always perched on the shoulder of the Goddess of Wisdom Minerva, represents knowledge and ability to see in the darkest night.

For all of these, there are antithetical dark meanings assigned to the symbols by those who regard freemasonry as akin to worship of the devil.

Historically, masonic membership was prevalent. Among famous masons were George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Sam Houston, David Crockett, Theodore Roosevelt, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Henry Ford, Winston Churchill and Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Its symbols are engraved in the design of our own dollar bill. Even the Mister’s Boerne-raised grandfather was a mason with a mantlepiece full of the wise owls he favored.

When the lights are permanently turned out for me and I am left standing in the middle of the road with no turning back, I would gladly welcome the appearance of a little owl to guide me along the dark path that lies ahead.