The story behind the Swedish memorial

25 May 2022,Articles

To understand the time that has been and how people lived and thought in the past, one can study the physical traces and historical documents that have been left behind. These can say an incredible amount about the time and also the society in which people lived, which makes them very important heritage in historical archeology. Because memorial stones from the past are created in just stone material, this means that they can be preserved for a long time. This in itself means that the source material is extensive and also varied. The stones have also contributed very important information about how the stone industry functioned during the industrial revolution.

We have come a long way in development and today there are modern retailers who offer their customers everything from designing their personal tombstone to having it designed by skilled designers. In this article, we will go through the history behind the Swedish memorial stone, and what the road has looked like from the early 1800s to the 2000s.

Early 1800s

In the early 1800s, in 1815 to be specific, all memorial stones placed inside the church were banned. Before that, it was common for rich and well-to-do people to place stones in churches or burial chapels. Ordinary people, as the majority of the population were, were buried under smaller mounds of earth and received no memorial stone at their burial site but a simpler wooden marking. After the ban in 1815, the stones of the rich people began to be moved out to the cemetery, and Swedish cemeteries quickly developed into very well-kept places with lavish and exclusive memorial stones. A trend in terms of design during this time can be linked to ancient Rome and Greece, where it seems to have taken a lot of inspiration. The thin standing limestone slab is common and both the front and back of the stone were decorated with text and decoration.

Mid-19th century

In the middle of the 19th century, it began to be possible to identify influences from ancient Egypt in the stones. An example of this is, among other things, the classically obelisk-shaped memorial stone that is being lifted in Swedish cemeteries. In addition to the obelisk, one also sees an increased popularity in less discreet stones with inlaid details in, among other things, marble and biscuit porcelain. It was common to add details in biscuit porcelain with motifs similar to the sculptural technique relief. At about 1980, more memorial stones designed as Doric columns and trunks are also seen. This becomes a trend that lives on for a very long time and until the early 20th century, these stones can be identified.

Late 1800s

Towards the end of the 19th century, it became clear that the formerly smaller and provincial stone quarries were becoming industrialized and more efficient facilities. New modern technology enables the facilities to quickly and efficiently produce more stones in a shorter time, which is of course revolutionary and results in the market being opened up to more people. But as more and more people have the opportunity to buy and assemble memorial stones in the cemeteries, the stones of the rich also become more exclusive and high-class. So even if the cemeteries are suddenly filled with considerably more memorial stones, the rich can still stand out from the crowd with their large and unique creations. During the time of the national romantic trend, so-called monumental stones are also beginning to appear among Swedish memorial stones. The monumental stones were, as the name implies, often enormously large and not infrequently roughly carved in granite stone.

From the early 20th century to today

However, the huge and relatively clumsy monumental stones do not become a long-lived trend and by the 1920s, the knightly designed Art Nouveau stones began to take place. It is also during this period that the debate over the cemetery as a whole begins, and discussions begin on how to achieve a more harmonious and symmetrical impression of the cemetery. The debate results in stricter guidelines regarding the design and size of the memorial stones, which in turn results in the stones becoming increasingly uniform in their appearance. During the 1990s, the rules for how memorial stones may look began to soften again and it is now noticeable that people are starting to create more individually shaped stones. Asymmetrical shapes are becoming more common and the classic stone material is being replaced by alternative materials that simplify production, maintenance and also supplementation of text and decor.

What will we see in the future?

It is difficult to say what the Swedish memorial stones will look like in the future. But what we can be sure of is that, as the stones of the day do, they are likely to reflect their time and society.