Gothic Style – the simple and the sublime

The Gothic Revival in the United States began in the late 18th Century.  At first, there were only small features of the Gothic style that were incorporated into buildings such as tracery and other minor embellishments but after a few decades the Gothic style was full on mainly in churches.  But the influence did find its way into the American cemetery not only with the design of mausoleums but with tombstones and monuments—everything from the simple to the sublime.

The gravestone of Nancy Hanks Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s mother, in the Pioneer Cemetery in rural Indiana close to Lincoln City, is an example of the influence of the Gothic revival.  Here, the plain unadorned white marble tablet is carved with a simple pointed arch as it’s only form of decoration.  Yet, the pointed arch, a significant feature of Gothic architecture, was visually lighter than the Romanesque rounded arch.  And, even though it looked more elegant, it was stronger and allowed churches and cathedrals to be built higher and higher.

The Caroline Padelford white marble tablet is a more elaborate example of the influence of the Gothic Revival pointed arch.  The gravestone mimics a window with a pointed arch complete with tracery that frames the arch.  Another feature of Gothic style is the highly ornamented and decorated surface treatments which is evident on the top of the pointed arch.  The arch is also topped with an ornate finial. 


The Edward and Elizabeth Padelford white marble monument in the Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia is a Gothic confection.  The plinth sits on layers of stacked bases each progressively smaller and atop that is a canopy supported by four columns with highly decorated capitals.  Lining the inside of the pointed gables are rows of round ball-like stylized buds known ballflowers which were characteristic of 14th Century English architecture.  The four pinnacles flanking the pointed gables are decorated with stylized foliage projecting from the edges known as crocket and topped with decorated finials.

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4 Responses to Gothic Style – the simple and the sublime

  1. gsb03632 says:

    Thanks for these valuable examples. I like the Nancy Hanks one particularly.

  2. Barbara P. says:

    a bit off topic, would you know the meaning of a triangle within a triangle, with the letters B L E?

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