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a sculptural work or a small architectural form. Its purpose is to perpetuate the memory of the deceased on whose grave it is erected (in contrast to a tomb, in which the body of the deceased is enclosed, or to a cenotaph).

In Neolithic cultures, graves were marked by wooden pillars (menhirs). In ancient Greece, statues and stelae portraying the deceased were erected over the grave. In Europe during the early Middle Ages, with the spread of Christianity, the low-relief stelae characteristic of the period of the Great Migrations were replaced by crosses. Beginning in the 11th century the most common type of gravestone in Western Europe was an empty stone or bronze box, covered with a slab bearing a portrait of the deceased in the form of a relief, an engraving, or a statue; it was placed above the grave, usually inside a church. Stone slabs with carved ornaments were common in the medieval period in the Caucasus. Chinese gravestones—vertical slabs on which names rather than portraits were carved—gradually became freestanding memorial walls.

During the Renaissance, gravestones, as a rule, were replaced by sepulchers. During the 17th and 18th centuries, portraits on gravestones were often combined with symbols of the transience of life on earth and with allegorical figures; inscriptions acquired a more important role in the overall composition. From the late 18th century to the early 19th, gravestones were usually erected not in churches but in cemeteries, forming what might be considered gravestone museums.

Since the second half of the 19th century, the religious and didactic nature of gravestones has gradually diminished, and the only ornament on the grave has been a portrait of the deceased or a terse emblem, having a purely commemorative purpose.


Netunakhina, G. D. , and N. I. Udimova. Muzei gorodskoi skul’ptury: Kratkii putevoditel’. Leningrad, 1972.
s’Jacob, N. Idealism and Realism: A Study of Sepulchral Symbolism. Amsterdam, 1954.
Panofsky, E. Tomb Plastik. London, 1955.


References in periodicals archive ?
At its furthest point, gravestones were affected at Overpool Cemetery, together with local businesses and vehicles which required cleaning.
A local man said: "There are people still living around here who would be related to the people whose gravestones were carted off.
More than 70 gravestones at the Russian Orthodox and Serbian Orthodox sections of the Sydney's Rookwood cemetery were vandalised approximately between 9 pm on Dec 9 and 6 am on Dec 10.
The 90-minute presentation is built on photographs recently taken in these burial places and charts the evolution of cemeteries and gravestones from the colonial era into the 21st century.
Gravestones have also been smashed in Llanbeblig cemetery, Caernarfon, leaving relatives distraught.
GATESHEAD Council planners have given permission for six gravestones to remain in the front garden of 7 Tyne View Place, Teams, Gateshead.
Earlier this year the Evening Gazette reported two separate incidents of vandalism at Linthorpe Cemetery that caused more than PS9,000 damage to 20 gravestones.
London, Sep 6 ( ANI ): Funeral directors in the United Kingdom are now adopting new and modern ways to make the gravestones of people more interactive.
SIX forgotten victims of World War One are to be given the honour of official War Commission gravestones - thanks to the research of a Northumberland author.
FAMILIES have three months to fix any unstable gravestones found at council-run cemeteries in Gwynedd - or the stones could be laid flat.
It brings to mind the current pointless and unjustified desecration in all cemeteries by Birmingham council's overzealous 'Topple Testing' of gravestones, which is clearly disproportionate to the risk of someone getting injured or killed by falling gravestones.
Prophets and Gravestones is neither traditional patristic scholarship nor historical fiction; as "imaginative history" it is a journey into the experiences that can be inferred from what evidence we do possess of an early Christian movement called Montanism.