Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Cenotaph - Word of the Day

If you've never heard of a cenotaph [sen-uh-taf], it's not surprising.  Today, we generally use the word "monument" or "memorial" in its place but it does pop-up occasionally when performing cemetery research.  Cenotaph literally means "empty tomb" according to and comes from Greek and Latin origins.  The body is either buried somewhere else (such as a foreign country), is never recovered (possibly the result of a large scale disaster), or the result of ashes being scattered after cremation.  But people like to have a physical location to go to remember the deceased, so cenotaphs provide just that.  They can be anything from a simple plaque to an elaborate monument.

You know many cenotaphs without even realizing it:
  • Vietnam War Memorial Wall
  • Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
  • Crash sites involving the September 11th attacks
  • Multiple cenotaphs have even been erected around the world to honor those lost aboard the H.M.S. Titanic, from the U.K. to the U.S. to Australia and points in-between.
Click photograph to see full size.
You don't have to travel far to see one in person if you're a local resident.  Located in front of the Black River Coliseum is the Butler County Veterans Memorial Wall.  The granite columns arranged in a circle are inscribed with the names of veterans killed in action.  More information about this cenotaph is available on the Coliseum's website.

So the next time you're at a memorial site that doesn't contain remains, remember you're viewing a cenotaph. And now you have a trivia question with which to stump your friends!

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