Each country has its own beauty, history and culture. Religion has had a fundamental effect on each of these factors. Each religion has not only its faith, but also rites and rituals to be observed. 

Polish Style
of Tombstones

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Each religion requires conformity, whether that be to prayer or to ceremonies such as matrimony and burial. This is equally  true of memorialisation. With this in mind, we will focus on styles of headstones commonly found in different European countries. Poland, Germany, Italy, Spain and France are predominantly Protestant and Catholic, whilst and the United Kingdom is divided into two major faiths: Catholicism and Church of England. In Russia almost half of total population adheres to the Russian Orthodox Church.

Poland is known to be one of the most traditional and religious countries in Europe. Polish cemeteries are full of very similar gravestones which differ from one another only in details such as finish and inscription. The most common type of Polish memorial is the kerbed headstone, (or ledger marker), which can be single or double. Polish people prefer to be buried with other members of their families and therefore they are also swaying towards family tombs. Weather conditions in Poland demand that headstones are created from the most durable and resilient raw material – granite. Many Polish graves are decorated with colourful flowers and candles. Cremation is less common in Poland, and cremation memorials, again, conform to more traditional designs.

One of the most characteristic features of Spanish funeral tradition is that people are usually buried in a large memorial stones, (lápida in Spanish), which resemble huge walls with “drawers” for coffins. The grave is bricked in, but in front of the wall, there are plaques with inscriptions. This style of burial leaves little opportunity for accessories such as flower pots or candles. Small shelves or vases are built in to the design to hold small posies of flowers. Interestingly, many of the plaques are engraved with crests of Spanish football teams such as FC Barcelona or Real Madrid.

As with most aspects in life, technological advancement in the memorial industry is influencing design and delivering wider choice to the customer

In older Italian cemeteries there are numerous chapels, monuments and big headstones. However, in modern cemeteries people are interred in the same type of ‘burial wall’ as in Spain. Italian cemeteries are now struggling with the problem of a lack of space. Italian cemeteries are brimful of ‘ burial blocks’ with designated ‘drawers’ for coffins. Most inscriptions on Italian plaques consist of engravings of only the first and last names of the deceased, and the dates of birth and death. Sometimes, pictures are inlaid and small vases for flowers are attached.

Probably the most original and elegant headstone designs can be found in French cemeteries. As well as traditional and classical headstones and crosses, French funeral monument companies offer a wide range of individualised designs. Recently the market has been revolutionized by extremely unique designs. Personalised designs have become vibrant and colorful. Headstones now incorporate pictures that we might usually pick as wallpapers for our desktops. The images are high-tech and tasteful but can be controversial as well. Some argue that these memorials are out of place as they believe that the funeral ceremony and the death of family members should be regarded as a sad and painful experience. Distinctive book-shaped plagues containing dedications for deceased and pictures are becoming more commonplace.

Grave marker types in Germany vary across the country. Germans are said to be quite bold in their memorial designs. The memorials are manufactured from a diverse range of materials. A variety of stone types are used, along with glass and steel. Many different shapes are also used. Candles and fake flowers are seldom seen in a Germany cemetery, however, lanterns containing holy water are often found. In older cemeteries in the southern part of Germany many wrought-iron crosses can be found. In other regions of the country crucifixes are mainly made of wood, while in the others huge plaques with mantel shelves abound. Modern German designs are largely minimalist in design, i.e., a discreet inscription containing only name, last name and birthand death dates of a deceased. Previously, all details such profession and marital status were included.

In the United Kingdom, the choice of grave markers has traditionally been wide and varied. However, over time, size and design have been limited mainly by demands on space. The most common form of burial marker has become the lawn-type grave. This has been encouraged by cemeteries on economic grounds due to the ease of maintenance with less effort being required to mow around individual graves. Additionally, the lawn marker is smaller and thus is far less expensive, thereby reducing funeral costs A rise in the popularity of cremation has also had a significant effect with a rise in the prevalence of cremation monuments Despite all of this, traditional grave markers are still available on the British market. Most commonly purchased are headstones, flat tablets and upright headstones, as well as cremation memorials. No matter the type of memorial chosen, more recent designs have become more personalised. Inscriptions include greater detail on the deceased and are far more personal in nature, often including poems, quotes or even song lyrics.

Russia is a country of contrasts in all senses of this word. The gulf between the rich and the poor relates to all aspects of Russian life and funerary architecture is no exception. Russian monuments companies offer a comprehensive selection of materials, for instance, expensive granite or marble, or low-priced concrete or artificial stone. As in Poland, kerbed gravestones prove to be the most desirable type. Nonetheless, Russian gravestone designs are richly varied and can range from the imposing to the grand and ornate. Memorial architecture is believed to be an art form and designs on offer truly reflect this. Those made from the highest quality materials can be enormous. They can be in the form of extraordinary, highly polished shapes. Detailed inscriptions are often engraved in gold and accompanied by huge portraits of deceased.

In conclusion, we can say that not only religion but also culture, economics, social history as well as weather conditions, all play their part in determining which type of gravestones  are the most popular in each European country. As with most aspects in life, technological advancement in the memorial industry is influencing design and delivering wider choice to the customer.

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