CITIES OF THE DEAD- THE FACE OF CHRIST

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The slate of a maritime sky hung over the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia as I worked my way among the monuments and tombstones of Holy Cross Cemetery, located in the southeast end of the city, just blocks from Halifax Harbor. Established in 1843, and adjacent to the chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows, it is famed for being raised in a day by 2000 volunteers on August 31, 1843. It is also known as the final resting place of many of the Irish immigrant population who settled in Halifax over the years, as well as the first Roman Catholic Prime Minister of Canada, Sir John Sparrow David Thompson.
Holy Cross is considered by many to be a “rural cemetery” that just happens to be located in the heart of this vibrant and bustling little city and, unless you happen to look up toward the high rise apartments and medical center that surround this quiet and serene refuge of the departed, you might think yourself transported back to the village church yard in Ireland.
My interest in such quiet resting spots tends to be centered on the art and architecture that memorializes the deceased and Holy Cross presented me with the work of many fine examples depicting Christ crucified in styles that varied widely in their rather naive and folkish manner of representing Jesus. He is portrayed here in carved relief in technique almost “native” in appearance and as androgynous or almost feminine, but wearing a beard. His hair flows, his halo shines, but on all the many variations the ravages of the Nova Scotian climate make their presence known. This is not a gentle land, and its hand has taken its toll on the many markers and remembrances in this necropolis. The cemetery has established a trust fund to aid in the restoration and maintenance of both the chapel and the graveyard itself. With luck, and help from generous donors, perhaps works of art like these, and the memories of the lives that inspired them, will be here for future generations to admire and reflect upon.
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