Angel holding a chalice

Mount Olivet Cemetery, Nashville, Tennessee

The Acklen Mausoleum in the Mount Olivet Cemetery at Nashville, Tennessee, is a stunning example of Gothic architecture, built for Adelicia Hayes Franklin Acklen Cheatham, the daughter of Oliver Bliss Hayes—a lawyer, judge, minister, and land speculator.

Adelicia was thrice married and mother of ten children. Adelicia’s storied history begins at age 22 when she first married Isaac Franklin, nearly 30 years her senior.  Isaac raised cattle and tobacco on Fairvue, a 2,000-acre estate.  They had four children, one of whom died at birth.  Unfortunately, Isaac died at 57 leaving Adelicia a wealthy widow at the young age of 29.  Within three years, Adelcia married Colonel Joseph Acklen, a lawyer and businessman.  The couple had six children during their marriage and tripled their fortune.  Her second husband died in 1863.

Adelicia was left to manage the estate and proved to be a shrewd business person in her own right.  Adelicia was able to convince Confederate soldiers not to burn her Louisiana cotton fields.  At the same time she negotiated a million dollar sale of cotton to the British and was able to secure its passage through the Union blockade of the Southern ports.  Miraculously, Adelicia was able to survive the war without losing either her home or her fortune, one of the few Southerners to achieve that.

After the war, at the age of 50, Adelcia married Dr. William Archer Cheatham, three years her junior.  After 20 years of marriage, they separated.  When Adelicia died she was laid to rest in the mausoleum.  She is buried there with her first two husbands and nine of her ten children.

Even though the mausoleum is relatively small, the design makes it seem much taller than it actually is with the long thin pinnacle on the central dome stretching upward toward the Heavens.  The doorway of the tomb displays the pointed arch, a characteristic Gothic design that was part of the transformation away from the Romanesque rounded arch and heavy design.  Another feature common to Gothic architecture is the tracery found framing the small window above and the cinquefoil window within the doorway. The cinquefoil is an architectural feature that is composed of five sides.  The word comes from Latin meaning five leaves.

Inside the mausoleum is a magnificent statue of a nude winged angel.  The state of nudity in this statue symbolizes virtue and innocence.  This theory reflects the classical teachings of Plotonius who taught that the nude body was divine and without sin.  The idealized nude body was a reflection of the image of God Himself and therefore good and beautiful.  This angel represents the Neoplatonic ideal of nuditas virtualis, the state of innocence.

The angel, here, is holding a chalice and exposing her palm displaying drops of blood.  Usually this angel would be part of a larger scene of the Crucifixion.  Many paintings show angels capturing the blood of Christ, such as, Raffaello Sanzio’s Crucifixion (citta di Castello Altarpiece), Crucifixion by Giotto, and Crucifixion by Theophanes the Cretan.  The angels in these paintings capture the Precious Blood of the Savior which flowed from his hands, feet, and side.  The chalice that the angel holds is a symbolic reference to the Eucharist.

The Crucifixion by Raffaello Sanzio (1503-4)

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This entry was posted in Mausoleums, Symbolism. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Angel holding a chalice

  1. BMilford says:

    Thanks for the fascinating post and excellent research!

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