Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A dreaded sunny day / So I meet you at the cemetry gates

Here's a little ditty for all you latter-day Egyptian Revivalists and cemetery groupies.... 

Back in 2009 I posted about the Egyptianized elements of the Terre Cabade cemetery (Toulouse), especially the pair of obelisks at the entrance.

Briefly put, these obelisks derive from Egyptian temple architecture and were adopted by the Phoenicians, who, if we are to believe Biblical accounts, applied them (as pillars) to the design of Solomon's Temple.  These pillars (Jachin and Boaz) were later incorporated into Freemasonic Lodge architecture (see I ♥ Phoenicia and Pillars of the Community).

The other day I happened to be skulking around the Saint-Simon neighborhood of Toulouse and saw that all of the pillars in the wall surrounding the parish cemetery are capped by regular pyramidions.  This is actually a rather widespread design, so I don't make too much of it....I'm not sure if it's a conscious case of "Egyptianizing" or not.

Saint-Simon:  Pillar with equilateral-sided square pyramidion. 1775?
I was walking away pondering that and saw a pair of pyramidion-capped pillars, and wondered if indeed, the builders weren't after all referencing the obelisk as entrance to a temenos, or sacred space.  I think this pair of pillars, whose pyramidions differ from the others, once marked an entrance.  Note that the walls to either side are made of brick and river stones (galets); in between, there is only brick.  I imagine it was once open and bricked up at a later date.  These obelisks are incredibly phallic, more so than most obelisks, the pyramidions strikingly glans-like.  This stylized form represents the penis, and the earth or cave which the tomb represents is likewise the womb.  Which is fitting for a cemetery, actually, as a symbol of resurrection.  Life from death, yadda yadda.
Saint-Simon:  Gateway with truncated square pyramidions.  1775?
The church dates from 1775, but there's no telling when the cemetery wall was actually built.

Just a few days later I passed through the town of Lévignac and saw a much more definite Egyptian reference.  Here we have something between an obelisk and a steep pyramid.  The left structure retains a cross, whereas the right cross (bam!) has tumbled down.

Entrance to Lévignac cemetery.  Date unknown.

Judging from the condition of the wall, I'd guess these are roughly contemporary with Terre Cabade (ca. 1840)  I'd be willing to guess within ten years or so of the latter.

Anyway, no earth-shattering revelations here; cemetery obelisks are ubiquitous in France, usually as monuments to the Great War, but this is only the second obelisk/pyramid gate design I've seen for a cemetery.

For a more thorough treatment, I encourage to follow the links to our previous posts.

Compare to:
Terre Cabade cemetery entrance, Toulouse. (1836)

Entrance to Passeio Público (not a cemetery), Rio de Janeiro. (1779-1783)

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