The desire to be remembered after death dates back to ancient Roman and Celtic cultures. Roman headstones frequently chronicled the heroic battles of the deceased along with their name and rank in the army. Celtic headstone history is steeped in symbolism and dates back to the time of St. Patrick.
It is believed that St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland, and is reflected in the headstones which were replicas of Celtic crosses. It has its roots in pagan culture, as much of Christian symbols and celebrations do. By mimicking familiar pagan rituals, it was easier to convert the ‘barbarians’ to Christianity. For example, it is thought that the Celtic Sun is represented by the circle through the cross which is so recognizable today as a Christian Celtic cross.
Soon the Christian church was the epicentre of life for the Irish. Countless generations of families ensured that at least one son became a priest to bring God’s blessing to the family. Other members of the household became skilled craftsmen who built the churches, designed the glorious stained-glass windows or etched the headstones of the deceased in the style of the Celtic cross to ensure safe passage to heaven for their family.
The famous Irish dry humour has long been part of Celtic culture, and is reflected in headstone sayings such as “Once I stood where thou dost now, and viewed the dead as thou lost me, Ere long though lie as low as me, and others stand and look at thee.”
As the great Irish emigration to American began (where rock like sandstone, marble, and limestone were abundant), the familiar Celtic cross headstones began to appear in cemeteries. Particularly in cities where the Irish tended to flock like Boston, New York and Chicago, Celtic churches and churchyards sprung up, and this is where many parishioners were buried. Visit any historic graveyard and it will likely bear the unmistakable mark of the ancient pagan-inspired symbolism.
Today, it is common practice to etch a meaningful headstone expression to leave a message about the dearly departed for all of eternity. More often than not it is a verse of the Bible, or inspirational words to family members or even strangers who happen to meander by the final resting place. A practice that is thousands of years old, yet holds as much meaning today as it did in antiquity. Buckley Memorials will spend as much time as needed to help your family select the right headstone for your dearly departed.