The Confederate Memorial Pyramid

Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia

Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia

After the French and British occupations of Egypt, there was a renewed interest in Egyptian architecture and symbolism.  That Egyptian Revival was never more evident than in America’s cemeteries, especially large garden cemeteries.  The Egyptian symbol that is most commonly found in American cemeteries of all sizes is the obelisk.  The obelisk is said to represent a single ray of sunlight, petrified from sunlight into stone.  It was thought that the Egyptian sung god Ra lived within the obelisks.  These towering monuments were often placed flanking the entrance to temples.  The most famous obelisk in America is the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.

But the pyramid, the tomb of the pharaohs, is by far the epitome of Egyptian funerary architecture.  The oldest pyramid is the Pryamid of Djoser built over four thousand years ago from 2630 BC to 2612 BC.  The largest of the Egyptian pyramids is the Pyramid of Khufu at Giza built between 2589 and 2566 BC.

Most likely the largest pyramid found in an American cemetery is the pyramid dedicated to the 18,000 Confederate war dead in the Hollywood Cemetery at Richmond, Virginia. Designed by Charles H. Dimmock, a civil engineer of the Confederate Army, it has a base of 45 square feet and a height towering at 90 feet tall.  The pyramid is built from granite stones pulled from the nearby James River.  The pyramid was begun on December 3, 1866, and built by prisoners in just short of three years—the capstone was laid into place on November 8, 1869.  The pyramid encapsulates several artifacts that were dear to Confederate soldiers, including a button from General Stonewall Jackson’s coat, a Confederate flag, and a lock of President Jefferson Davis’ hair.

Large granite blocks on the four sides of the pyramid read, “MEMORIA IN ACTERNA”, “NUMINI ET PATRIAC ASTO”, “ERECTED BY THE HOLLY-WOOD MEMORIAL ASSOCIATION A.D. 1869”, and “TO THE CONFEDERATE DEAD.”  The Latin translates to “in eternal memory of those who stood for God and country”.

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