BARRE, Vt. -- It was a dark and stormy day -- all the better for visiting Hope Cemetery, except that our marker map got soaked.
This is no ordinary final resting place, but a Louvre of memorial art. When you live granite, as a huge number of Italian immigrants did a century ago in this working-class central Vermont city, you die granite. What better way to memorialize a granite sculptor or a worker's loved one than with a locally produced, unique grave marker?
The 65-acre cemetery just north of Route 302 is a lovely setting for viewing and strolling. Visitors from all over the world are a common sight. A large burial service was going on when we were there late one afternoon, which kept our mood rather somber. That is, until we came upon the granite automobile marker, and the airplane, and the soccer ball. These markers celebrate life as much as mourn death, striking a balance between comical and poignant. One of my favorites was an oversize chair in the form of a favoritethe deceased had sat in.
The floral carvings are also quite something, and the Visitors Guide to Hope Cemetery, published by the Barre Granite Association, explains the meaning of some of the flowers. Roses symbolize love and wisdom, for example; Easter lilies, purity; and calla lilies, sympathy.
One of the most famous gravestones here is that of Elia Corti, who died in 1903 at 34. The statue was cut from a single piece of granite and is a life-size likeness of Corti, carved by his brother. In the sculpture, Corti is seated with his right elbow on his knee. Seams, wrinkles, creases, and buttons are detailed in his clothing. His face is extraordinarily lifelike. The tools of his trade surround him. All this from one block of rock.
You'll also come upon bas-reliefs, including one of an elaborate sailing ship said to symbolize salvation. There are family mausoleums as well. The Vanetti family's has eight crypts. The elaborate grillwork on the door is made from granite. This is a place to celebrate life and the rocks of ages.
Merchant Street and Maple Avenue Barre, Vt.
For a map, contact the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce at 877-887-3678.