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Why do the graves in the cemetery face one direction?

When organizing a funeral, it is important not only to conduct the funeral ceremony correctly, but also to figure out where the cross is placed on the graves of Orthodox Christians. Most people in our country are sensitive to spiritual and religious traditions when burying a loved one; accordingly, such issues are approached with special attention. In Orthodoxy, the deceased are necessarily buried facing east (the altar is located on the eastern side of churches), and the cross, according to the rules, is placed at the feet. It is believed that in this way a deceased Christian will see the crucifix against the backdrop of the rising sun and pray to the Almighty. What does this custom symbolize? Why is a cross placed at the feet and in what cases is it placed in the head of the deceased?

Why is a cross placed on graves?

The custom of marking a burial site with a small gravestone dates back to old – pre-Christian – times. The Orthodox Church adopted this tradition and supplemented it with its own canons, including the installation of a crucifix. It is generally accepted that throughout life each person carries his own cross, which already at the moment of existence takes on the image of the Sign of the Cross. A cross on a grave after death indicates that a true Christian rests here. His whole life was aimed at fulfilling the mission for which he was born, namely, serving the Lord and his son, the savior Jesus Christ. Orthodoxy in Rus’ is closely connected with the name of St. Andrew the First-Called. The Apostle is known for the fact that when confessing the Gospel he installed crosses, which in those days were made of wood. Today, in erecting crucifixes on the graves of the dead, the Christian Church follows the example of the apostle. The cross in Orthodoxy is considered the silent righteous saint of resurrection and immortality, which symbolizes eternal life and the faith of the soul of the deceased in heaven. When installing the cross, the relatives of the deceased fulfill one of God’s commandments – love your neighbor. It often happens that, being near death, a person does not have time to undergo the sacrament of repentance, come to terms with something, or ask someone for forgiveness. When erecting a crucifix at the burial site, relatives seem to reconcile the deceased with this, since the Lord is love, and the Cross is a symbol of Jesus Christ.

Where should you put the cross?

As mentioned above, it is considered correct to place the memorial structure at the feet, but sometimes it can be installed at the head. The choice of one location or another depends on the beliefs of the deceased and the wishes of his relatives.

At my feet

  • When the crosses are installed in this way, the deceased lies and looks at the cross through the rays of the rising sun and offers prayers to the Lord.
  • In Orthodoxy, the crucifix is ​​a symbol of eternity. It is believed that sooner or later the day of resurrection will come, and the risen dead will be the first to see the sacred symbol of the Sign of the Cross.
  • There is a belief that after the resurrection the crucifix will serve as a support for the dead. The deceased will hit the cross at the head, so gravestone crosses are placed at the foot so that the deceased can lean on it when getting up.
  • Many believers believe that before the Last Judgment, Jesus will appear to people from the eastern side, and the deceased will be the first to see him against the backdrop of the cross.

Be that as it may, the cross in the Orthodox religion is a source of light and faith, and the traditions of its installation are always honored and observed.

At the head

The custom of placing a crucifix behind the head of the deceased is more often followed by Orthodox Christians who live in the West or central Europe. They have other interpretations of this tradition. In their opinion, this arrangement symbolizes the victory of the Son of God over the devil. At the moment of Judgment Day, the cross will become a banner for the deceased, which he will bear after his resurrection. It will indicate the triumph of good over dark forces and will serve as a weapon in the fight against Satan.

What kind of crosses are placed on the grave?

Immediately after the burial, it is customary to install a wooden crucifix, which should not have any frills, pretentious design or decorations. The material can be pine or beech. Special compounds are applied to the wood to prevent its premature deterioration under the influence of precipitation.

Since wood is not durable, after the earth settles, the wooden crucifix can be replaced with a metal, marble or granite one. Products made of marble and granite are heavy and durable, have an impressive appearance and are resistant to weather conditions. It is advisable to install tombstones made of natural stones 12 months after burial. This is due not only to the settlement of the soil, which can cause the stele to skew, but also to the belief that the soul of the deceased leaves the earth a year after death.

It is permissible to decorate a crucifix with ornaments or religious symbols. Most often depicted:

  • thorn or vine;
  • abbreviations or inscriptions from the Bible;
  • figures of Jesus Christ (superimposed or carved).

Depending on preferences, relatives can select the shape of the crucifix. The most ancient is considered to be a simple four-pointed shape, which was used during the times of the early Christian church. Today it is rarely chosen and is usually used for burying people of the Catholic faith or who did not identify themselves with any denomination. The clergy today say that every cross is a true cross.

The most common is the six-pointed shape. Such a monument looks like an ordinary cross, under which there is an oblique transverse crossbar. Sometimes an eight-pointed structure is used for burials. It is in many ways similar to the six-pointed one, but a shorter straight crossbar is additionally installed in its upper part.

Temporary wooden crucifixes, after the installation of a permanent monument, are burned on their own directly in cemeteries or in church ovens. They should not be thrown away, as this indicates disrespect for the deceased. Often a wooden cross is left next to the grave or leaned against the fence. It is important not to place it on a grave mound.

How is a monument installed?

In accordance with church canons, a memorial structure is installed at the time of burial. For 40 days nothing can be done at the grave, since it is believed that after this time the deceased will go to Golgotha, carrying a crucifix. Then the wooden cross can be replaced with a permanent one, but, as mentioned above, it is better to wait up to 12 months. The right time to install a stone structure is from March to September. There is less rainfall at this time, so the ground does not erode as much. Tombstones are placed on the foundation and decorated with a photograph of the deceased, religious attributes, epitaphs or words about the salvation of the soul.

Funeral arrangements from the Honest Agent service

If you don’t know where the cross is placed during burial, contact the “Honest Agent” ritual service for help. We are engaged in professional organization of funerals and provide a full range of services for conducting a funeral ceremony with the invitation of a priest, organizing a wake, etc. Our specialists will provide detailed consultations, help with preparations for burial and answer any questions regarding compliance with traditions for the burial of a person who was Orthodox or Catholic.

Our agency’s competence includes the production and installation of gravestones – you can study the catalog with photos and examples of work, find out how much the tombstones of the model you are interested in will cost. You can order high-quality granite and marble crosses from us, as well as receive many additional services:

  • design development;
  • production of portraits and engravings, images of any complexity;
  • insurance of grave structures;
  • delivery and installation of the monument;
  • grave care.

To order a funeral from professionals, contact us by phone. When you contact the Honest Agent company, you can count on a decent burial, which will be carried out in full accordance with the religious views of the deceased person. Specialists will produce and install a high-quality monument that will preserve the memory of the deceased for many years.

Visitors to the cemetery may note that crosses are placed at all burial sites. Few people thought about where to place a cross on the grave after burying the deceased. Many priests who know the Holy Scriptures argue that putting a cross on a grave is not at all a prerequisite. Moreover, it is not specified where to place the cross during burial. According to Christian tradition, the deceased is laid with his head to the west and his feet to the east. This is exactly how Jesus Christ was positioned in his grave. The New Testament says that after the end of the world, Christ will rise from the east. When the dead are resurrected, they should see Christ in the east, and the cross is considered a symbol of support and eternal life. In the case when the cross is installed at the head of the deceased, it is a symbol of the banner that the person will carry as a symbol of victory after the resurrection.

Where do they place a cross for a dead person?

Clergymen often associate the question of where a cross is placed for a deceased person with religious traditions. Most often this is due to the religious beliefs of local residents and their customs. The cross can be placed either at the feet or at the head. Most often, Catholics place a cross on the grave at the head, while Orthodox Christians place a cross at the feet.

A cross, like a monument, is placed at the feet of the deceased

There are disagreements among clergy regarding the question of where the cross is placed in the cemetery. Father Afanasy (Gumerov) is sure that the position of the deceased in the grave expresses his silent prayer and desire to go towards the light, from west to east. When Jesus Christ, having risen, comes from the east, everyone who has risen must see him. That’s why they put a cross at their feet. Hieroschemamonk Amphilochius said that he was ready to endure any torment, but he would never allow a cross to be laid at his feet.

Where do they place a cross on an Armenian grave?

If you have visited many religious graveyards, you have noticed the burials of Armenians. The question arises, where do they place the cross on the grave of Armenians? The Armenian burial is a khachkar – a three-dimensional structure made of stone, with a carved cross. The Armenian cross is considered an indispensable element of a tombstone. It consists of two intersecting shutters of different lengths. The ends of the cross diverge to the edges, which is why it is called flowering. It is often decorated with additional elements and patterns. Today you can find khachkars not at all Armenian burial places. Similar to the question of whether a cross is placed on the grave of Catholics or Orthodox Christians, there is no clear answer about Armenians. Almost always, a burial is decorated with a classical stele, with or without decoration.

The cross on the grave of the Germans, where to put it

Some may wonder where they put the cross on the grave of the Germans. If you paid attention to German burials, you will notice that older burials do not have a fence. Over time, this tradition was eradicated. Most often, a cross made of metal or black wood with a sign is mounted on the grave. Information is indicated in white paint. Among Lutherans you can find a cross of a traditional shape without any additional elements. Representatives of other faiths erect crosses in the form of triangles.

You can find crosses where the inscription is turned in the opposite direction from the grave. Most often, the Germans place a cross on a grave in the head of the deceased. In general, there are departures from the traditions that the Germans once honored. A typical example is the installation of a fence around the grave and a departure from the strict shape of the cross and its placement on the grave. Here you can observe the influence of Orthodox traditions and local traditions.

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