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10 beautiful and unusual graves

Unusual graves from around the world

1. Star-crossed lovers in Holland

Two graves on opposite sides of a wall, with stone hands emerging from the top of the headstone, holding hands across the top of the wall Photos by Janssenfrank and Dqfn13 via Wikimedia Commons

These are the graves of husband and wife Colonel van Gorcum and Lady van Aefferden, who are still holding hands more than 150 years after their death.

Their marriage in 1842 was a great scandal – Lady van Aefferden was an aristocratic Catholic, while the Colonel was a Protestant with no noble connections. When Colonel van Gorcum died in 1880, he was buried in the Protestant cemetery in Roermond.

Knowing that she would be buried in the Catholic cemetery, his wife made it clear that she did not want to be buried in her family's burial plot. Instead she chose a burial site right by the wall dividing the two cemeteries, as close to her husband’s grave as possible. Atop their headstones, two hands meet across the wall, proving that love really doesn’t end with death.

2. Tragedy and romance in Paris

A stone grave with a bronze statue emerging from a crack, holding a rose in his hand Photo by Pyb via Wikimedia Commons

Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris is world-renowned for its beautiful mausoleums and gravestones, but few are as striking as that of Georges Rodenbach, a 19th Century Belgian writer. From his tomb, a bronze statue of Rodenbach can be seen emerging from the grave, clasping a single rose in his hand.

Dramatic and romantic, Rodenbach’s tomb reflects his writing. His best-known work, a symbolic novel called Bruges-la-Morte, is the heartbreaking story of a widower living in Bruges, struggling to cope with grief in the wake of his wife’s death.

3. The grave that keeps growing

A long room with an 18m sarcophagus covered in a tapestry Photo by Dan Lundberg via Wikimedia Commons

This tomb in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, has grown to extraordinary lengths over the centuries. It’s said to be the final resting place of Daniel, the Old Testament prophet, and local legend has it that his body continued to grow after death, resulting in a tomb that is now 18 metres long.

The story goes that Timur, a Turco-Mongol leader who conquered parts of Persia and Central Asia, interred Daniel’s remains at Samarkand for good luck. It’s believed that the truth behind the growing grave is that Timur became wary of robbers, and extended the tomb to make it harder for them to plunder the precious remains.

Although several other places, mainly in Iraq and Iran, also claim to be home to the grave of Daniel, Samarkand’s remarkable ever-growing tomb is unique.

4. A burial facing the open sky

A minimalist memorial, with two sets of stairs leading down to a lake

Designed by revolutionary American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the Blue Sky Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, New York, is in tribute to his close friend and supporter, Darwin D. Martin. Wright and Martin had discussed the unique mausoleum in detail between 1925 and 1928, but sadly it was not built in either of their lifetimes.

In 2004, architect Anthony Puttnam, who was once apprentice to Wright, worked with Forest Lawn Cemetery to bring the two friends’ vision into reality. The design is based on detailed sketches and plans by Wright, but is now a memorial rather than grave. The memorial's inscription was taken from a note written by him to Martin as an epitaph: “A burial facing the open sky…The whole could not fail of noble effect…”

5. The artist’s assistant and his colourful cat

A six-foot tall mosaic cat statue in white, red, yellow, green and blue, marking a grave in the cemetery Photo by Ricardo Zappala, via Flickr

Among the Victorian mausoleums and granite tombstones of Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris, you’ll find this colourful creature. Standing at about 1.5 metres tall, this gravestone is known as Ricardo’s Cat and is decorated with mosaic tiles.

The unusual headstone was made by artist Niki de Saint Phalle for her assistant, Ricardo Menon, who died aged 37 in 1989. The epitaph at the cat’s feet reads: “To our friend Ricardo who died too soon, beautiful, young and loved.”

6. A dancer’s final curtain call

A mosaic grave which looks like a draped Persian carpet in gold, red and turquoise, the grave of Nureyev Photo by Vitold Muratov via Wikimedia

Known as Lord of the Dance, Russian dancer Rudolf Nureyev was one of the 20th Century’s best-known figures in ballet and the famous dance partner of British ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn. Regarded as one of the most gifted dancers in living memory, Nureyev, who in the later years of his life was director and chief choreographer of the Paris Opera Ballet, died of heart complications in 1993.

Nureyev was an avid collector of fine carpets and tapestries. He was buried with a pair of ballet shoes and his gravestone in Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois, France, resembles a lavish oriental carpet. If you look closely at the grave, you’ll see that the carpet is in fact made of thousands of mosaic tiles, the drapes and folds carefully crafted to create this beautiful optical illusion.

7. Love-struck in the afterlife

Bronze memorial statue showing a man lying down, holding a woman's head in his hands, gazing into her face Photo by Steve Soper via Flickr

Another striking bronze gravestone in the world-famous Père Lachaise cemetery is that of actor and musician Fernand Arbelot, who died in 1942. Little is known about Arbelot, but it is thought that the face he is holding is that of his wife, which he wished to gaze upon for all eternity.

The epitaph on his grave reflects the love he and his wife shared: “They were amazed at the beautiful journey which led them to the end of life.”

8. The girl in the shadow box

Luyties memorial scultpure in Bellefontaine Cemetery

Also known as ‘the girl in the shadow box’, this hauntingly beautiful headstone marks the Luyties family plot in Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri USA.

Herman Luyties commissioned the memorial stone after falling hopelessly in love with the sculptor’s muse, an Italian model, while he was in Europe. Although she declined his marriage proposal, he shipped the statue of her to St. Louis and kept it in his home. Eventually it was moved to mark the family burial plot in Bellefontaine Cemetery, where Herman added a glass case to protect his beloved from weathering. He died at the age of 50 in 1921 and was buried at her feet.

9. Broadcasting an icon

A granite gravestone, with a tin of Campbell's soup at the base Photo by Allie Caulfield via Flickr

At first glance, Andy Warhol’s grave in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania USA, looks like a fairly ordinary headstone. What makes Warhol’s grave unique is the fact that it is livestreamed 24/7 on the internet.

The perpetual broadcasting of his grave began in 2013, to mark what would have been the artist’s 85th birthday. The livestream from St. John Chrysostom Byzantine Catholic Church is an art project called Figment. It’s named in tribute to the artist, who once said: “I always thought I’d like my own tombstone to be blank. No epitaph and no name. Well, actually, I’d like it to say ‘figment’.’’

Webcam observers can view the headstone at all hours of the day or night, come rain or shine. You can choose to view it through a pop art filter, lending it Warhol’s distinctive colourful style. You can also pay to send a tin of soup to his grave, in honour of his famous artwork ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans’, with proceeds going to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

10. Memorial candle for a Hungarian heroine

A gravestone in the shape of a melting candle, carved from stone Photo by Dr Varga József via Wikimedia Commons

Katalin Karády was a Hungarian film star in the 1940s, known for her remarkable efforts to save Hungarian Jews during the Second World War, including hiding children in her home. In 1944 she was arrested for being an Allied spy and imprisoned for three months. After the war ended she travelled around the world, eventually settling in New York where she opened a hat shop. She died in February 1990 and she was brought back to Hungary for her burial.

Her grave in Farkasreti Cemetery, Budapest, bears a large and intricately carved sculpture resembling a melting candle, with a copy of her distinctive autograph imprinted at its base. This grave has become a pilgrimage for those wanting to thank Katalin for her bravery in the face of conflict.

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