Neo-classical design

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WILLIAM EVANS CHAPIN

AUG. 15, 1856 – JAN. 25, 1936

NANNIE NICOLSON CHAPIN

MAY 19, 1880 – APRIL 29, 1912

The Chapin monument in the Westview Cemetery at Atlanta, Georgia, is a neo-classical design. Many ancient classical designs are replicated in modern graveyards based on the designs of Greek and Roman temples.  The canopy on the Chapin monument is modeled after the Roman tomb of Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbatus.

Scipio's tomb

Scipio’s tomb

The Scipio sarcophagus was erected around 150 BC.  Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbatus (died c. 280 BC) was one of the two elected Roman consuls in 298 BC. His tomb is an example of classical Greek design based on the same design principles used for the Parthenon.  The scroll work, at the top of the canopy represents the Heavens, and also represented a bed. In an article written for “Design Hints” by John Cargill, a designer from the Chicago design firm of Chas. G. Blake & Company, describes the meaning of the scrolls writing, “The scrolls represent a bed; the bed refers to sleep and sleep is a type of death; and to the righteous death is but glorious transport to Paradise.

Cargill described the evolution of the classical architectural design principles, which he writes were conceived from the order that the ancients found in nature, primarily astrological, that were used in Greek architecture to imbue harmony into their structures.

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The sarcophagus, as does the Chapin monument, has three distinct planes representing the universe—the base, the middle, and the top. The base is symbolic of the Earth, the middle represented man and the gods, and the top of the sarcophagus where the scroll rests represents the Heavens. In this case, the angel, as the messenger of God, clearly stands in that middle land. An angels stands holding a bouquet of Easter lilies in one arm and a single blossom in the other.

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The lily, as a funerary symbol, has many meanings including purity, innocence, virginity, heavenly bliss, majestic beauty, and Christ’s resurrection.  Christians believe that the trumpet-shaped blossoms announce the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. If the lilies are white they symbolize the hope of eternal life. The Easter lily has long been associated with the Christian religion, commonly referred to as “White-Robed Apostles of Christ.” Early Christians believed that lilies sprouted where Jesus Christ’s sweat fell to the ground in the Garden of Gethsemane.

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White has typically been a color associated with virtues of purity and innocence.  Often the lily can be found on the grave of a child, the epitome of purity and innocence.  The white lily is also associated with virginity and marriage, in particular relationship to women.  On one hand, the lily represents virginity and innocence, which is an appropriate symbol for a young unmarried woman.  On the other hand, it is symbolic of majestic beauty and marriage, which makes it an appropriate symbol for all married women regardless of their age.

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