In a time of death and sadness, people turn to that which brings them the most comfort. For some, this can be faith, nature, therapy, and, in many ways, art.
Walking through rural North Dakota cemeteries, it is easy to see that in the late 1800’s and early to mid-1900’s, artistic religious imagery was a very large way to honor the dead. Limestone and marble headstones were carved with thoughtful text and often images. Sculptors created large, ornate figures, most often at a large price, to honor the grave of a deceased loved one for eternity.
It is clear to see that different settlements in the rural areas held different religious organizations and, therefore, different types of monumental images. Large ornate crosses, the Holy Trinity, angels, and Christ on the cross can all be found in these rural places of eternal rest.
Though intended to last for eternity, some monuments have cracked or shifted position due to the harsh elements of the North Dakota climate. As the years progressed, it is evident a shift in design existed with dark, granite headstones replacing the white marble figures. Different etchings and text style on the markers have changed and the color is now so dark and dramatic, it almost marks a line in the cemetery where the years have changed. Regardless of change, it is remarkable and pleasing to see how these monuments have withstood time.
In this current state of pandemic sadness in our country, walking through these cemeteries and witnessing these monuments can assuredly bring on a wave of emotion. Decades ago, during times of other pandemics, these shrines of love and faith can almost bring about some comfort. What our ancestors created to bring themselves solace, now do the same for those grieving today. There is so much loss and grief in the world right now due to so much death. This lost art of faith and love may be able to bring consolation and solace to some, and, perhaps, instill some peace on earth.
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Steele County Angel