We have just returned from an incredible holiday on the Northern German island of Föhr . My loyal and amazingly patient friend Marret ~ whose Mother originally came from the island ~ who accompanied me on my *Tombstone Tours* and is diligently translating the Talking Tombstones of Föhr especially for this blog, so that I will be able to share them with you in future posts.I am eternally grateful to her, for without her immense help, these stones would have remained silent.
A History of the Talking Tombstones of Föhr
The first stones to be used on the island, were field cobbles, head sized granite stones that were hardly shaped and usually bore only the initials and the year of death. Few of these remain, as they were used for building dykes and stone walls.
During the whaling and seafaring age of the 1650's, the islanders began trading further afield. With the introduction of Sandstone, which was easier to work with, the field cobble became regarded as the headstone of the poor.
The larger laying plate memorials, were well used in the 16th and 17th centuries, with only a few now still existing. They were made from Weser Sandstone and the almost black Namur Marble from the foot of the Ardennes mountains in Belgium.
In the 18th century, many were split into smaller pieces for the use of gravestones and for other building work. Some houses on the island, still retain the threshold strips that were made from these stones.
The classical shape of the Talking Tombstones, is a narrow Stele with a depiction at the top and crowned with a quotation. The text that follows, often describes the events of the deceased's lifetime.
At the base of the stone maybe another picture or further inscription.
Many of the stones had their original text erased, and would be re-carved with their new owners details, however the ornamentation would remain intact.
The front and reverse of the stone is commonly used for members of the same family and brightly painted stones can still be seen in some parts.