Cemetery tour promises to be 'a lens through history' 0
STEPHEN UHLER firstname.lastname@example.org Treena Hein, tour creator and operator, describes the features on a gravestone during her Stories in Stone history tour, a guided walk through Pembroke's Calvin and Wesley United Church cemeteries. The tour focuses on the symbols and other intriguing information found on gravestones, which she says are an amazing lens through which to view history.
Consider it a different way to look at history.
Treena Hein, the person behind the Pembroke Haunted History Walking Tours, now in its seventh season, has added a cemetery stroll for 2012.
Last week, a half dozen people attended the inaugural Stories in Stone tour, held at the Calvin and Wesley United Church Cemeteries at the corner of Boundary and Forced Roads. For about an hour and a half, Ms. Hein led the group through the maze of grave markers, using the stones to point out the wealth of information available on them, if one knows where to look.
"The changes on gravestones are an amazing lens through which to view history," she said. "The same way changes in things like fashion and architecture and film reflect societal changes, gravestones also reflect how we have changed over the decades and centuries. The images and inscriptions show us what we valued then and now, and how we've viewed the afterlife throughout different eras."
This is shown through gravestone iconography, which are the symbols and images inscribed on the stones. In the early years, images and inscriptions presented a harsher view of the hereafter, with references to judgement, the risks of damnation, and reminders to the reader of the stone that death is always stalking them, and will strike suddenly, so they best be prepared.
This was backed up with images of skulls and grim reapers, inscribed on the grave markers.
Later, Ms. Hein said, this imagery gave way to a more gentle view, concentrating on love and loss, and eventual reunion in the afterlife. Symbols of willow trees, praying hands, and angel wings became more common in the later 1800's.
Other trends include a fascination with ancient cultures. Egyptian obelisks and their symbolism connecting to the divine were popular, although images of the sphinx were discouraged as they were felt to be too pagan for a church cemetery.
"You also see classical motifs, such as Greek and Roman pillars, used in gravestone design as well," she said. "These cultures held strong appeal for people throughout history and still do today."
Ms. Hein, a science and technology writer and educational resource creator who was born and raised in the Ottawa Valley, said gravestones also say a lot about cultural and class differences, and offer glimpses into the lives of people, both those long gone, and the families who still remain.
"These types of tours are an easy and exciting way for residents and visitors to get to know an area's fascinating history," she said. "Walking tours and cemetery tours are very popular in countless places across the world, and Pembroke has the history and stories to match those found anywhere. No one will leave either tour without discovering a passion for the past, and making a personal connection with those who lived here long ago."
Ms. Hein added she hopes through the tour she allows those taking part to look at history in a new way.
For more information, contact Treena Hein at (613) 635-7281 or visit www.pembrokehistorytours.ca for information about the Stories in Stone cemetery tours and Pembroke Haunted History walking tours.
Stephen Uhler is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist