Abstract: One consequence of the introduction of cremation as a way of disposal was the creation of a new landscape of mourning and remembrance. A shift in commemorative culture within the last decades makes the modern crematoria inadequate for post-modern death rituals. In this paper we use post-modern crematorium Haarlem to analyze its sense of place, as it stands out with an innovative ideology, lay-out and architecture. An in-depth interview with the architect revealed that as bereaved people attach meaning to a farewell ceremony that is strongly remembered, the key feature behind his design is about recalling the crematorium and the ritual procession. The light-footed, transparent chapel is intended not to dominate the place, while it incorporates the surroundings within its design. Physical influences are important during the ceremony and the ritual procession, as along with time and distance, environmental transitions will provide comfort and will help to recall the whole event. Interviews with the staff of crematorium Haarlem shows that they changed some ideas in order to meet what they considered as the needs of the bereaved. If this is true, does this mean that the general public is not yet ready for Zeinstra’s crematorium?
Mots clés : iconographie religieuse, représentations macabres, temps circulaire, temps linéaire, roue de la Vie, roue de Fortune
Abstract:In Poland, the first crematorium has been built in 1993 in Poznań, just after the entry in the post-modern era.
According to the theories of denial of death developed during the 70s this phenomenon would have been considered as a proof that (post-)modernity leads to deny death. Indeed, researchers from this time interpreted the increasing use of cremation as a symptom of an ill society who refuses the death and who wants to destroy the dead. However, from two decades those theories are less and less used to explain funeral phenomena such as cremation. Indeed, nowadays more and more researchers in social sciences think in terms of privatisation or personalization of funeral practices instead of thinking in terms of taboo. In this case of theoretical renewal, cremation can not be explained anymore as a way to destroy the dead. Then, how can be explained the increasing use of this “new” practice through the case of Poland
Marius Rotar, Cosmin Bodrean
Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to emphasize the necessity of a cremation association in Romania for promoting and sustaining this practice of the disposal of the body. At the very beginning is presented a short history of the former cremation society in Romania. But, the starting point of this pleading is the framework of cremation in Romania of nowadays: there is just one functional crematorium for a country having about 22 million of inhabitants Under these circumstances, this association claims to be the heir of the Romanian inter-war cremationist movement, present in the activities of the cremation society Nirvana, later entitled Cenuşa, whose activity was brutally ended by the Romanian Communist regime. The name of this association is Amurg (Twilight in English). Foundation of this association is based on the reality of the burial crisis places in urban area and also, due to the economical reasons. The authors showed up some of the possible difficulties trying to implement the cremation realities in Romania: for instance the strong rejection of cremation by the Romanian Orthodox Church. Also, the authors emphasize the legal status of cremation in Romania drawing the main aims and objectives of their association.
Abstract:The First World War brought a new idea of war, contesting all the common reasons of war and showing its pointless. Like literature, cinematography came with an vanguard representation of war. In this article, two film patterns are analyzed, insisting on the way how death is represented. “Les croix de bois” (directed by Raymond Bernard, 1932) is an “ordeal-movie”, one of the most realistic films dedicated to the Great War; the film focuses the first line of the battle, so death is very present, and the whole film looks like a long agony and a clinging to life. “La grande illusion” (directed by Jean Renoir, 1937), on the other hand comes with a similar perspective and a very strong anti-war message, but a different theme and technique; here the war behind the lines is depicted, and death is rather exceptional.
Abstract: In England, the history of change in burial provision has tended to be dominated by narratives that focus on the urban experience. In the nineteenth century, the cemetery emerged as a new kind of burial space – large in scale, owned by municipal authorities and intended to cater for the needs of the entire community. Unlike many countries in continental Western Europe, in England the cemetery did not develop as a consequence of the Edict of Saint Cloud in 1804 that was disseminated largely through the imposition of the Napoleonic Code. Rather, the English cemetery’s history lies more squarely within a context of independent burial provision funded and managed by religious denominations outside the dominant Church of England. These Nonconformists – including Methodists, Unitarians, Baptists, and Quakers – benefited substantially from increasing industrialisation and rose to achieve considerable economic and political importance in the rapidly increasing towns and cities of the provinces in the first half of the nineteenth century. By the mid-nineteenth century, national legislation underlined the principal that local agencies should retain control of burial space: as a consequence, there has never been any level of state provision of cemeteries or even any statutory requirement that a community should make provision for interment of the dead.
Abstract:The nineteenth century was the Golden Age of the opiates (laudanum, morphine, heroine and so on), due both to the scientific evolution, cultural interest and lack of legal and social boarders. The search of a more and more powerful painkillers and anesthesia – to heal serious illnesses or injuries (in the wars, for instance) or alleviate (palliatives for the dying) led to the interest in discovering synthetic opiates such as morphine or heroine. The scientists dealing with this newly born ‘dangerous chemistry’ played a game at the boarder between life and death (such as Paracelsus said: “everything is poison, nothing is poison, only the dose makes the difference”), increasing more and more the power of opiate medication and therefore approaching the thin barrier between cure, addiction and lethal dosage. The present study focuses on this relation between life and death marked by the ‘invention’ of opiates: on one hands this obsessively present interest (especially in the second half of the nineteenth century) for alleviating strong pains and on the other hand, the deadly ‘demon’ of the opiates themselves.
Abstract: This historical time remains dominated by superstition and religious belief, despite the openness towards modernity. A piece of evidence in this respect is the perception of death, as a fact and experienced feeling, which leads individual destinies through collectivity. The various literary works of the age, the writings of the foreign travelers, the artistic representations inside churches, they all present death, not as an ending, but under the following shapes:
loss of the soul, leading to social banishment as well
forgetfulness, that is social death
death of the body, as a necessity for destiny fulfillment.
Death did not discourage, it was a landmark with moral significance, a corrector of behaviour, a determinant of ethical recovery and of ensured permanence, thus strengthening the individual’s role among the others.
Résumé :Le paradigme de la mort interdite semble entrer dans un temps dissolutif. Le signe de l'absence sous lequel la mort se trouvait dans l'imaginaire, depuis longtemps, s'irise des couleurs de la présence. Témoignages: l'émergence augmentante de la mort sujet mass-médiatique, ou la diversification des études regardant la mort. Mais, entre ce vieillissement d'un paradigme culturel et la détabouisation de la mort, la direction est minée par des courants souterrains qui lui donnent une configuration insolite, à explorer. C'est ce que ce travail se propose. On détecte les mécanismes socio-culturels qui déterminent des transformations dans l'imaginaire de la mort, en les soumettant à une analyse herméneutique.
On investigue plusieurs facteurs comme l'hyperconsommation (l'approche du problème de la consommation médiatique), le nouveau rationalisme (la psychologie superficialisante, l'idéal du progrès), la tyrannie visuelle, l'hédonisme (l'infantilisation, la déculpabilisation) etc. On observe ainsi les manières dont la mort se charge de masques, contenus prépondérant imagistiques, d'une solide base (néo)clichéisée, nouvelle tentative d'apprivoisement, plutôt centripète (le masque construit plus qu'il ne déconstruit). L'étude examine le masque en tant que processus/stratégie (cacher/dévoiler) et quelques types de masques. Aussi relève-t-on la structure ambiguë des masques, leurs fonctions et leurs limites.
Les conclusions convergent vers la nécessité de la ressémantisation de la mort et la distinction entre les possibilités des masques, soit d'y contribuer, soit d'y préjudicier.
Anna E. Kubiak
Abstract: The author describes the virtual cemeteries, mourning blogs and the electronic participation in funerals. The growing impact of the electronic communication gradually changes the traditional features of the Polish death. As McLuhan puts it: the medium is the message. Construction and visiting of the Polish and Word Wide Web e-cemeteries has to be followed by cultural postmortem rituals. The communication with the dead in cyberspace creates the new patterns of death. The author characterizes the visual and statistical features of the virtual cemeteries. The paper analyzes the content of the memorials in reference to the traditional patterns of grief and memory. It is argued that e-cemeteries are the other world. The three functions of the virtual cemeteries are distinguished: self-reflexive, communicative and evocative.
Abstract – This paper approaches aspects regarding cemeteries’ destiny in the (former) vlachs villages from Istria. Part of a larger research project regarding Istro-Romanians, the study of cemeteries is an important aspect in order to learn more about the Istro-Romanians culture in villages like Susnievika, Zejane, Brdo, Poljane, Hum etc. An increasing number of these villages have very few actual residents, so my construct addresses the way cemeteries are preserved, their evolution, in some cases – their fall into ruin and the role of the Diaspora in preserving them (i.e. Istro-Romanians that established themselves in the U.S., Australia etc.). From the anthropological viewpoint, cemeteries are an important place to obtain data regarding: family genealogy, villages’ former social composition, and to better understand the way social identity of the dead is preserved. The study of cemeteries is crucial for a better understanding of the way Istro-Romanians regard death and the relatives that are dead.
 This paper represents a part of broader study developed in the project UESISCO ROMANIA, PN 2 IDEI, CNCSIS GRANT, SU 57-09-01.
Abstract: This study tries to underline the central meanings of the martyrical death in the Romanian communist reclusion. Focused on the oral history (documents, testimonies of the survivors), on the detention literature, this study proposes to explain such a complex phenomenon (martyrical death) whose spiritual implication is pre-eminent. The martyrdom in the communist prisons is followed in our research through certain pattern of the anticommunist prisoner (the case of Valeriu Gafencu), guided by an extraordinary spiritual modus vivendi. This significant figure of the Romanian Anticommunist Resistance prove that the way of martyrdom he chose is not accidental, being the expression of the belief exercised along his entire life, upon the spiritual change (metanoia) of the Romanian face. The assuming of the sacrifice on behalf of the Christian religion as the only opportunity to preserve the national identity and the self-denial represent the major articulations of the martyrical death. From the perspective of the history’s theology, the martyrical death in the communist reclusion constitute a supreme and exemplary form of the Romanian Anticommunist resistance to the red hell incarnated by the Bolshevik ideology.
Abstract: In the 21st century the phenomenon of death is no longer surrounded by fear, anxiety and traumas. On the whole artistic expression has removed the question of dying from its representational storage. Starting with the Expressionist groups, death is rather a risible mask than a vibrant happening, rather an act of sloppiness belonging with the academic traditional culture than a serious matter for the new modern spirit. The fall into desuetude can be linked either to the short term visual language shifts along the Modernism, to the impact of historical events (especially war), or to the subsequent media implication in art fluency. An obvious weakness in the meaning of death is due to the props used to convey it: skeletons, skulls or funeral masks – no more death icons, but bedchamber ornaments. From that reason Death became the otherness per se, accepted in our homes, but never interrupting or taking trouble.
Nowadays, death confused with televised live show friezes indecency and wild voyeurism. Art in action such as performance or happening prepared the contemporary stage for the inconsequent drama of death. By replacing representation with experiment, vendible art with noncommercial art, the value of death has dropped consequently. According to the postmodern age death is under a stultification process: a theme amongst other themes, a concept that can be explored at the mercy of economic and social powers. For the fact of being disposable, art itself is at the same time imperfect and easily accessed. Therefore, death is at least a general question of freedom in relation to a corporative authority, not anymore a vision or a private question upon dying.
Abstract: Folklore has traditionally as a potential source of evidence for historical popular cultures. This paper seeks to demonstrate that although folklore is indeed not unproblematic in this regard, it can nonetheless yield a rich, fascinating picture of the popular rituals and beliefs which attended death and dying in England during the nineteenth century. In so doing, the traditional view of the nineteenth century as a time of progress is challenged, and inter-class tensions evidenced. The paper opens with discussion of some of the challenges encountered in using folklore as historical evidence, before proceeding to summarise a portion of the folklore material collected during the author’s PhD research. Particular attention is paid to the Yorkshire region of England. The paper concludes with a brief analysis of some of the implicit (or not so implicit) socio-cultural values revealed by the folklorists through the construction and presentation of their material.
Abstract This paper focuses upon the recent emergence of woodland burial practice in Britain, in particular how and why people engage with this innovative burial provision. The paper begins with a description of woodland burial and how it began, before demonstrating, how in the absence of a headstone, the bereaved still find ways to memorialise at woodland burial sites. The paper concludes with a presentation of some of the emerging reasons people choose to be buried in a woodland burial ground; reasons, I argue, that are predicated upon cultural imaginaries of qualities such as renewal, abundance, longevity and healing associated with nature and in particular, trees. This paper represents one theme from initial data analysis of interview transcripts from my ongoing doctoral research into woodland burial practice in England.
Abstract:Grief has traditionally been the domain of the individual. Whether approached from a personal angle, as an interior process, or from a social perspective, emphasising the griever’s social context and relationships, grief theory and research have relentlessly focussed on the grieving individual. Collective grief has not received the same amount of attention. Moreover, studies of grief within collective units, such as the family, the work team or the local community, have tended to concentrate on the reactions to loss of individual members of that unit: a genuinely collective approach is rare. This paper seeks to explore the feasibility of a collective approach to grief in the largest social grouping, that of the nation, by first analysing the grief experience, as described and defined in the academic literature and as applied to individuals, into its fundamental components; and then by examining whether, and in what ways, these same components might be seen to manifest in a national setting, might be deemed to apply to a collective national experience of adapting to loss.
I.Marincu1, L.Negrutiu1, I.Iacobiciu2, Ioana Todor3, A.M.Neghina1, R.Neghina2
Abstract: According to some historians the first Russian Orthodox relic is considered kniagina Olga’s from the 11th century. However, the relic cult explosion in Orthodox Russia began during the 15th-16th centuries, being completed with Russian believers’ hopes and understanding of the notion of sainthood. More “new” relics appeared in the 17th-18th centuries, followed by Moscow Church Council of 1667 and through the Spiritual Regulation of 1721 in order to control the proliferation of unregulated cults. 1917 is the starting point of Soviet anti-religious campaign when lots of the so-called “incorruptible” corpses were destroyed or exposed in 1920 in the Commissary National Museum, being named the “Relic exhibition”. After the Second World War the anticlerical campaign diminished its force, even returning relics to the churches they belonged to up to 1988 - the starting point of a new stage in the Russian relic history, as being the year of celebrating 1000 years from the Russian Christening and the year of Orthodox faith rebirth. The nowadays Russian Orthodox relic cult redefines the understanding of incorruptibility notion through the origins of the Russian term relic, mosci.
Abstract: The author has tried to talk about Thanatos, the personification of Death in greek-roman mithology seen through sculptural roman works descovered along the time in the ancient Apulum, the most important urban centre of Dacia. Roman Apulum enjoys a wide variety of funerary monuments which offered the specialists the occasion to research them along time.
There are presented four statues and a funerary relief representing Thanatos in two hypostasis, which attest the two iconographic types recognized in the Hellenistic art: a winged Eros, sleeping, with inclined head, leans against the reversed torch which symbolizes the end of life, or as a naked child, sleeping on a rock. The closed eyes symbolise the eternal sleep. The second statue is the only statue from Dacia, facing Thanatos in this hypostasis, meaning Eros sleeping on a rock, naked with the head laid on the left bended knee. This iconographic scheme definetly belongs to Greek tradition, being more rarely found in the provinces of the Empire, compared to the classic way of representing the god.
Initially the winged Eroses were associated with the deceased, symbolizing the soul that rose to heavens. The idea of everlasting rest was compared by the Greeks with that of immortality, of souls’ survival, thus being created the iconographic type of Eros sleeping. All artifacts are poorly created artistically, suggesting us a local art. Apulum is the urban centre from Dacia with the most attestations of this god. The Romans, being very supersticious, avoided even pronounce the name of this god.
Resume: Notre propos va tourner ici autour des représentations dramatisées de la mort, c’est-à-dire de représentations qui, loin de nous offrir un visage pacifié de la mort nous la présente sous des dehors encore plus inquiétants. Pour ne citer que quelques exemples célèbres, on a affaire à de telles représentations dans Une Charogne de Charles Baudelaire, poème où le narrateur, au détour d’un chemin, rencontre une charogne animale qu’il va décrire à la manière naturaliste ; c’est le cas également du Radeau de la Méduse, où Géricault peint, là encore, de manière on ne peut plus réaliste des naufragés livrés aux affres de la survie en haute mer ou du tableau de Goya Saturne dévorant un de ses enfants ; mais pour citer des exemples plus triviaux, mais plus proches de nous, c’est le cas de l’imagerie des films d’horreur mettant en scène la déréliction de cadavres. Notre tâche consistera à mettre en lumière le fonctionnement de telles représentations afin de comprendre en quoi, bien que paradoxalement, ces images qui exaltent la mort nous permettent de juguler l’angoisse de mort.
Abstract: The aim of this study is to explore the connection between Saint Christopher and death in Romanian iconography from the 18th and19th centuries. It is well known that in Western Europe, starting from Late Middle Ages until Modernity, this saint was invoked against sudden death, the kind of death that does not allow the Christian to prepare for redemption. Although this belief is wide spread in popular culture from Roman-Catholics areas, in Romanian Christian Orthodox tradition Saint Christopher is not explicitly associated with death. Despite this fact, I will try to demonstrate that the saint has unquestionable eschatological attributes due to its position within the sacred spaces and its proximity to other characters that refer to the end of the world.
Corneliu C. Simut
Abstract. An acquaintance of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, Vito Mancuso—a young lay theologian whose latest book L’anima e il suo destino (The Soul and Its Destiny) triggered a significant amount of controversy within Italy for the past two years as it turned into a theological best-seller—sets up to re-define Christian theology from the viewpoint of human experience within history. Mancuso’s conviction that the discourse about God must to justice to man’s contemporary expectations leads him to profess a theology “from below”, as he himself labels it, which is based on the presupposition that matter is the source of all things. Such a definition also includes the problematics of the human soul which, like anything else, results from the very being of matter. It is from this particular theological perspective which gives up traditional Christian theology that Mancuso attempts to re-found or rather to re-build Christian theology with view to making it more accessible to the scientifically-informed minds of today’s people. The issue of death and dying becomes therefore a reality which needs to be re-interpreted in light of his theology from below. Thus, he elaborates on the mortality of the soul as well as on how we should understand immortality given that death is the end of human individual existence within history, as detailed in his Rifondazione della fede (Rebuilding Faith). He also explains what this perspective, namely that death is the end of the human being, entails with reference to his radical re-reading of traditional doctrines such as our union with God, hell/inferno, and resurrection.
Abstract: This paper deals with the practice of infanticide in the Serbian society during the first half of the 19th century. On the basis of legal sources and court records it explores the manners in which family, community, church and state have responded to that practice. A focus is on the changing attitude towards infant murder – it seeks to identify the ways in which infanticide began to be considered less a personal matter and social strategy and more a criminal offence.
Janneke Peelen & Joanna Wojtkowiak
Abstract:This paper discusses the subject of social identity in relation to the dead and dying body in the context of contemporary funeral culture in the Netherlands. Two cases are analyzed to illustrate our argument that ritual constructs and preserves social identity in the phase between life and death. First, the case of stillborn children and the social birth within funerary rituals. Second, the social death of the dying and the creation of an after death symbolic existence, the postself. The liminal body, which is on a social level not really alive and not really dead, is defined by its social meaning that is given within the use of ritual. We state that biological boundaries of life and death are moved symbolically in ritual and that social identity is created and preserved despite the physically dead or dying body.
Abstract: This study investigates the impact of some socio-cultural effects upon suicidal behavior using the analysis of contents of articles published in the media. 332 cases of suicide and suicide attempts published in the national daily newspaper Adevărul, Libertatea and the local daily newspaper Unirea were analyzed. The results support the hypothesis that the main reason for suicide is represented by the dysfunctions in families, marital conflicts, breaking-up, and the battle between generations and do not prove any link between the impact of youth subcultures upon their suicidal behavior.
Abstract: The ancient Athenians understood this – epitaphios – as the speech held at the cemetery, for the funeral ceremony or the commemoration of those who had died for the City. This speech was elaborated according to a conventional structure comprising a eulogy of the City and the words of consolation for the surviving family. Among the most famous of the Greek epitaphs still preserved, we can mention: those of Pericles, as well as the ones honoring the first Athenian soldiers fallen during the Peloponnesian War (431 – 430 b.C.). These were reproduced by Thucydides in The Peloponnesian War (L. II, XXXIV, LVI). The term epitaphios also defines the tomb inscription, for the Greeks. Practically, the epitaphs (especially the Spartan ones) are present in various forms of narrative literature; but, the most complex ones (the later ones, from the imperial age) represented appraisals, included in a narrative similar to the imperial decrees and letters of congratulation addressed to governors by the emperor. The study of epitaphs is of particular interest in understanding the aspects of the religious life and even of the everyday life. Some of the texts can even compete with literary works, from the point of view of their artistic suggestion. From this perspective, the 700 Greek epitaphs anthologized so far are quite revealing. However, most of the inscriptions are short, concise and refer to “glorious death”. The common epitaphs are often adjusted to the professional context, age, and the deceased’s habits. The most frequent references are Parce and Styx. The Romans would later induce an even greater power of suggestion to the epitaph, developing various forms of expression for it. They were meant to be written on the sarcophagus. The large number of funerary Latin and Greek inscriptions (pagan and Christian) represented the argument for the assertion of epigraphy as a modern discipline auxiliary (to history), a discipline analyzing critically / scientifically official / public and private inscriptions on monuments, and even on everyday objects.
In Europe, as early as the Middle Ages, the term épitaphe only designated the funerary inscription with a commemorative value. From a formal point of view, the Christian epitaphs do not differ substantially from the Roman ones, dating from the period of the Roman Republic and Roman Empire. The Latin Pre-Christian funerary inscriptions started with the letters DM (i.e. “Dis Manibus”), or with DMS (“Dis Manibus Sacrum”), because the texts were dedicated to the Mani Gods. The Christian epitaphs introduced (within the Western Christianity) the monogram of Jesus Christ: IHS (the modern formula requires the monogram INRI, summarizing the inscription on the cross on which Jesus was crucified – “Iesus Nazaraeus Rex Judaeorum”) and the first specific symbols for the Christian iconography – the fish, the lamb, and the anchor. However, at least during the first centuries of Christianity, the simple monogram crosses were most common. As it happened in the pre-Christian tradition, on the tombstone there appeared the name, age, date of death of the deceased, his / her message addressed to the survivor / “passenger”, even information about the person who had ordered the tomb. As it happens today, many funerary inscriptions only included INRI and the name of the deceased (see the epitaphs from the catacombs of Rome, those from the Protestant cemeteries during the 17th century, and the inscriptions from the cemeteries for the poor). The inscriptions on the graves can not be considered a unitary discourse (a doctrine) related to Death, but rather “speeches” about the deaths of the buried ones. However, exploiting the epigraphic existing material enables a process of “mirror” reflection of the various conceptions of death. Usually, epitaphs are detached from the classical pattern requiring the presentation of the deceased, the mourning of their absence, their life’s eulogy, or a warning related to its fragility. The common themes during the medieval period were related to the nature of the relationship between body and soul, the idea of life as an exile on earth, death as a condition for the access to Eternal Life. Thus, it was an attempt to idealize the physical death, although the iconography dating from that period seemed dominated by themes derived from the “dance macabre” and was subjected to the image of the body decomposition. The funerary inscription that marked the grave and identified the deceased provided data related to the deceased, their names being always present in an epitaph, as its function is, first of all, that of celebrating the memory of the deceased. The medieval and pre-modern epitaph text was almost “liturgical”, as it also contained prayers, and, above all, asked survivors to pray for the soul of the dead. This approach was natural during the Middle Ages, and later, in the case of practitioners, as the fundamental concern (of the believers!) was / is saving the soul. The inscriptions, especially those in France, presented their texts in the vernacular language, described the beauty of the world beyond, the Life after death. Hell was never described according to the church’s doctrine. In all cultures, death was “customized” through the epitaph, as it only provided the expiration date of a single person, it did not speak about death in general. The functions of the Christian epitaph are commemorative and therapeutic, the Christian epitaph having a high formal and functional homogeneity.
At the beginning of modernity, the epitaph described the personality of the deceased and the circumstances of his / her death. The stylistic approaches of the texts, as well as their tones, were various. Thus, some texts praised the deceased and provided information about his / her age, about the death occurred due to disease or war, about death itself, brought consolation to the survivors, maintaining confidence in the Resurrection, the recipients of such an epitaphic message were / are: the “passenger”, the family, posterity etc. On the contrary, the “classic” epitaph of the time firstly involved commemoration; specifically, this meant: lamentation, exposure of the circumstances of the death, evaluation of the human potential loss which was assumed by the death of the praised one, consolation of the survivors.
There are some common features in the pre-modern epitaph: the “soul” qualities seem determined by geo-cultural circumstances, such as “the place of birth” (town, country), the educational level, “glory” (reputation), social and political influence, the nature of death (the “heroic death” was considered, as in the Ancient period, a “fortunate death”). Moreover, the physical “virtues” were mentioned: strength and virile beauty. The “virtues” of the heart also held an important place in the economy of the epitaph (the frequency with which they were listed, especially in the epitaphs for women, made it a common feature, a conventional definition), men were admired for: wisdom, courage, piety, respectability and pragmatism.
As early as the 17th-18th centuries, the epitaph (medieval and pre-modern) has was the subject for numerous and impressive anthologies, as well as for various approaches. These corpuses were, firstly, significant referential documentary sources related to the funeral event. These anthologies presented the funeral ceremony and speech, reproduced medieval tomb inscriptions, as well as contemporary ones. The epitaph specialists continue to edit and also explore medieval inscriptions belonging to regional or national areas. After the epitaph became a literary genre, encountered quite frequently in the French and Anglo-Saxon poetry during the 17th-18th centuries, during the 19th century it became an object of study from the historical perspective, especially in the context of the affirmation of archeology. Anthologies reproduced the most significant epitaphs in the funeral and political culture of the Middle Ages and early modernity. Corpuses listing the most significant funerary monuments, representative for funerary art and iconography, due to their age, as well as epitaphs were also printed. There were even some attempts towards “structural” analyses. Such an approach implied the classification of the epitaphs by various criteria, the inscriptions reproduced were texts taken from the graves of soldiers and sailors, officers, people killed or mortally injured, infants and children, young people, friends, artists, musicians, actors, servants, devoted wives, demanding wives, happy couples, poets and writers, elders, clergymen, nobles, persons of modest condition, judges and politicians, architects and sculptors, astronomers, outstanding people (famous personalities).
The elaboration of anthologies of epitaphs as a positivist (and traditional) approach continued and was generalized during the 20th century. In our opinion, the earliest serious study, imposed by its complex structure, and by its fresh anthropological approach is represented by Lawrence Weaver’s work, Memorials & Monuments, Old and New: Two Hundred Subjects Chosen from Seven Centuries, an approach from the perspective of art history, concerning “venerable” monuments and memorials from the 2nd – 19th centuries, a guide that provides information about the history of the monuments described, the style and iconography / emblematic applied, an epitaph typology (military, civil, religious – the work being particularly concerned with funerary inscriptions of the clergy).
U.S. researchers elaborated collections of epitaphs and proposed a classification as early as the 19th century. It is perhaps due to this tradition that today, in America, Cemetery Studies are successful, popular university projects; they are concerned with anthologies of old, famous, funny / eccentric, literary epitaphs. Most of these American funerary inscriptions selections are called On Death and Dying. The above mentioned projects imply the study of documents dating from the 18th-19th centuries (particularly “literature” of a commemorative nature, homiletics, descriptions of the funeral ceremonies of the time), but also present epitaphs from tombstones in cemeteries (particularly from Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine). The previous attempts, especially the anthologies realized during the 19th century, were sporadic, amateur, and did not receive scientific support. Only the post-war approaches - American and European - achieved a comprehensive and rigorous scientific analysis related to the epitaph of pre-modern history until the 20th century. Especially in the U.S.A., the monographic study and the “recovery” through publishing of the epitaphs considered as elements of funeral heritage has become a tradition.
In parallel with the individual and group scientific approaches (see university projects, the research institutes), foundations and local historical societies are also investigating the local cemeteries, and funeral inscriptions in particular. Thus, the United States, the “Association for Gravestone Studies (AGS)” supports the specialized studies and historical cemetery preservation through publications, such as Markers, an annual bulletin presenting works related to the meanings of epitaphs and the cultural-historical functionality of cemeteries, the phenomenon of memorial proliferation commemorating soldiers killed in the 20th century wars (the Vietnam Veterans Memorial opened in 1982, visited by many people). They also studied events, recent monuments dedicated to those who died in car accidents, young people, collective attitudes manifested on the death of Princess Diana, the military cemeteries / of the heroes from Australia, UK, USA, USSR, the official involvement in the process of its elaboration and study. As “sites of the tragedy”, they are investigated along with those from other historical eras, particularly medieval artifact cemeteries.
In this respect, in America, the works of James Deetz and Edwin Dethlefsen, Sarah Tarlow are representative. In their studies, the authors state that the graves also represent the manifestations of society axiology, the cult of the dead and of the ancestors, patriotism. The researchers combined the inventory and classification of epitaphs as a traditional approach with the new trans-disciplinary methodologies. More specifically, they established the historical age and confessional affiliation of the funerary inscriptions, their specific linguistic and semantic characteristics, the literary influences and models. They considered the epitaphs as indirect sources indicating the high and low tides of religiosity, the advances of secularization, they extracted from the epitaphs the portraiture of civic exemplarity and the division of intra-family functions.
In the Romanian culture, anthologizing and analyzing epitaphs began along with the Romanian identity project affirmed since the middle of the 19th century and the cultural elite’s attempt to integrate with cultural movement, respectively European historical research. The first to study hundreds of Western Christian epitaphs was Alexander Odobescu, followed by Grigore Tocilescu and Vasile Pârvan who also manifested their interest for Greek and Dacian-Roman “antiques” within the Romanian historical provinces. In the larger context of publishing corpuses of historical sources, the members of the Romanian Academy planned an impressive series of inscriptions tomes. Nicolae Iorga, especially, dreamed of Mommsien-size editions. He only managed to publish two fascicles of inscriptions from Inscripţiile din bisericile României (The Inscriptions from the Churches from Romania) (1905, 1908). The elaboration of an epigraphic series remained only an “eternal desire”. During the communist years the publishing of medieval funeral inscriptions was only a sporadic phenomenon, the only possible continuity being recorded within the traditions of the Hebrew epitaph specialists, which were perpetuated more successfully after 1989.
In the context of affirmation, within the Romanian preoccupation with the history of death, we have tried to suggest a classification and analysis of funerary inscriptions, especially contemporary ones, from the urban cemeteries of Transylvania and Banat, in a series of studies which have partially achieved their goal.