The Mysterious Reverse Gravestone
Growing up, I was always one of those kids who stayed out of the graveyards and never felt the impetuous to go “hang out” in one. With the changing of paths and an increased interest in Typography, I find I can’t help but go exploring.
My first real change to spend time looking at grave inscriptions was at Type Camp Buffalo when we were given a few hours to explore the historic Forest Lawn Cemetery (founded in 1849!). Later I had the opportunity to wander about in Glendalough following AtypI and a small graveyard in Sonning, just west of of Reading. With Halloween upon us, it seemed particularly appropriate to present a collection of some of the most interesting from my travels.
But first a story.
This story takes place in Glendalough in the midst of the graveyard that dates back to the 6th century. Talking with a tour guide, she said, “Do you want to see my favourite grave stone here?” Not one to pass up an insider’s insight, I agreed. With a twinkle in her eye, she led me to a particular gravestone … and moved around to the back. “Do you see the upside-down text? I bet that isn’t something you’ve seen before”. Indeed, I hadn’t.
“What sort of gravestone has text on both sides?” I wondered.
The story goes that this grave stone was originally that of an untrustworthy family. After commissioning the stone from the craftsmen and installing it to mark the grave, they were unable (or refused?) to pay. So, in the middle of the night the craftsmen and his mates went to the graveyard and snatched the stone back to re-use.
Turning it upside down, he re-carved the top to sell to another client. Annoyed with the previous defaulters, he tried to hide or remove the former inscription but over time the weather revealed it once more.
Now, I haven’t been in a lot of graveyards, but I found this quite unique. There were no other examples like it in Glendalough. So next time you’re in a cemetery, be sure to look at the back of the gravestones as well as the front! You never know what you’ll find.
There’s more to be had on Flickr. Go check them out!