The Cemetery Gate – 5 November 2018
Here is The Cemetery Gate, 1824-6 by Caspar David Friedrich, a German Romantic painter concerned with evoking the transcendent.
A couple of figures, a man and a woman, stand at the gate of a cemetery looking in. The gate is open and they could walk in, but instead they stand and look at the place where the deceased have been buried, and so do we. The picture is a triptych of spaces, divided vertically by the monumental columns of the gate-posts. The composition of mass and space gives the picture its sense of nearness and distance. The space given to the resting place of the dead drifts far away into the mist. There is a peacefulness about the cemetery, it seems a space without a physical boundary. The figures at the gate are standing at the threshold between the living and the dead. Christ’s crown of thorns adorns the gateway. Here then is the place of prayer, located between this world and the next. Here the living and the departed are very close.
Friedrich painted this picture after a period of illness. As he became increasingly unwell through the years of his life, his pictures commonly contained elements related to death and heaven. The gate here is modelled on that of a cemetery in Dresden. This is where Friedrich himself was laid to rest.
Grant to us, Lord God, to trust you not for ourselves alone, but for those also whom we love and who are hidden from us by the shadow of death; that, as we believe your power to have raised our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, so may we trust your love to give eternal life to all who believe in him; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Common Worship, liturgy for the ‘Commemoration of the Faithful Departed’
We lie upon the grass on God’s good earth
and listen to the Requiem’s intense,
long, love-laden keening, calling forth
echoes of Eden, blessing every sense
with brimming blisses, every death with birth,
until all passion passes into praise.
I bless the winding paths that brought us here,
I bless this day, distinct amidst our days,
I bless the light, the music-laden air,
I bless the interweaving of our ways,
the lifting of the burdens that we bear,
I bless the broken body that we share
Sanctus the heart, Sanctus the spirit cries,
Sanctus the flesh in every touch replies
Sonnet for All Souls, Malcolm Guite