Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sunday's Cemetery - Turkish Cemetery

Published in January during 1888 in the Biloxi Herald out of Biloxi, Mississippi

Turkish Cemeteries.
     According to the Koran, the deceased is the owner of his grave in perpetuity, and the objectionable system of sepulture in rotation his unknown to the Mussulmans; and in Constantinople, in Eyoub, and in Scutari, the room occupied by cemeteries is almost as extensive as that covered by dwellings. Within recent years it has been found necessary, in order to open roads that have been much needed, to the curtail and even suppress some of the cemeteries; but it required and express order form the Sultan, which made the “ulemas” utter the wail of bigots. The cypress is pre-eminedly the funeral tree. Each tomb has to have its own. And Turkish cemeteries become gloomy forests in time, which in part to certain Oriental landscapes an aspect singularly stiff and somber. It is upon the sea shore that these funeral forests are found in the greatest abundance. The trees, being nourished by the soil fertilized by human remains, reach a prodigious size and height. The largest and most celebrated of these cemeteries is that of Scutari, upon the Asiatic coast of the Bosphorus; it extends over an area more than six miles square. The tombstones are in the shape of an oval, wider at the top than at the bottom, and surmounted with a turban or fez, the form of which, varying greatly indicates the rank of the deceased. A gilt inscription in Turkish characters cut in relief on a blue background, gives the name and enxcrates the virtues of the deceased and implores divine mercy in his behalf. These stones are perpendicular, sometimes leaning very much. In the latter case a hole is dug at the base of the tomb, intended to catch rain for the little birds that come to quench their thirst. The dead are not buried very deep, and it is strange that the custom does not cause more sickness than it does. A large proportion of the epidemics of dysentery and typhoid fever that invade the low quarters of Constantinople can be traced to the custom. The proximity of the cadavers to the top of the ground produces, during the summer nights, particularly in swamy and damp cemeteries, a myriad of phosphorescent lights, which dance and flit around the tombs; and these myriad sparks of fire, while inspiring the poets, also frighten the children.