Another word you really don’t need to cram into your brain – but it is a term for people like me, who like to visit cemeteries around the world. We are called Taphophiles and defined as “Tombstone tourist (otherwise known as a “cemetery enthusiast”, “cemetery tourist”, “grave hunter”, “graver”, who has a passion for and enjoyment of cemeteries, epitaphs, gravestone rubbing, photography, art, and history of (famous) deaths.” The term originates in the Greek word taphos, tomb or funeral.
My first encounter with graves outside of the cemetery visits for family was when I was maybe 12 years old and shipped off to Cambridge, England during Spring Break to improve my language. I was hosted by an academic family who had a daughter aged 16 or so who was supposed to show me the sights. She dragged me into old cathedrals and churches, supplied me with paper and wax for some serious brass rubbing – and then absconded to see her boyfriend with threats to my life if I would tell. Hours later, shivering with cold and bony knees covered with black and blues, I would have these brass rubbings of the commemorative plates on the stone floors, showing bishops or whatever, and a sense of tough independence – yes, I could do this, and enjoy the solemn quiet in these places.
These days, it is of course photography that beckons, of a world that lies between our own presence and some unknown state thereafter, satisfyingly crumbling and rusting and decaying – and beautiful – to serve as a reminder that there is a certain trajectory and we better enjoy and appreciate what we have now. And look forward to peace and quite thereafter.
Yesterday I showed porcelain and terra-cotta flowers; today is devoted to wrought iron and other iron works, all from three different cemeteries in Paris. They are so insanely large that they actually have street signs and maps to guide you around….
Should I have unlimited time and funds per some miracle, I’d take the attached guide and explore other places as well, although I’ve already seen several of the 199 listed….