Sunday, 23 March 2014

Cenotaph - An Empty Tomb

Unbuilt cenotaph to Sir Isaac Newton
A proposed cenotaph to Sir Isaac Newton by French architect Étienne-Louis Boullée


Noun & verb. Early 17th century.
[French cénotaphe from late Latin cenotaphium from Greek kenotaphion, from kenos empty + taphos tomb.]

A noun. An empty tomb; a sepulchral monument to honour someone whose body is elsewhere. E17

B verb trans. Honour or commemorate with a cenotaph. M19

Although usually thought of as monuments to commemorate those that have died in war, cenotaphs also exist to honour the victims of disaster, such as the sinking of the RMS Titanic. There is something heart-wrenchingly poignant about the idea of 'an empty tomb', constructed to remember those who, for whatever reason, went away and never came back.

Do please leave any comments in the box below.


  1. Though against my religion I don't deslike the idea of an empty tomb. As a symbol if nothing else.

    It might be that we're deep on Lent and I'm dreaming (craving) the empty tomb we'll be presented on Easter Sunday - and no way I'm going to talk this with my priest and have him looking at me as you are;) - but I believe Tombs give Rest. Not only to the deceased but also, or more, to those who survived... And the idea of an "unburied" body can be (is) haunting so Cenotaph is a wonderful name and place to let those who stayed behind have "somewhere" to go and focus and keep on dedicating to their loved ones...

    I've been following, a bit, the case of the missing plane from Malaysian Airlines and last Friday, I felt that the families were no longer hoping for a real case of LOST they just wanted their loved ones' bodies. In case they won't have them a Cenotaph, or several, will be created, so they can "bury" there their loved ones... Heart-wrenchingly poignant indeed, but necessary. For the living...

    Wishing you a nice Sunday,

    1. There is a definite psychological need for a body when a loved one is lost - I've experienced this myself. Thus, the idea of a cenotaph, a memorial to someone whose body was never found, recovered, or brought home, is deeply saddening.

  2. For some reason I can't explain, the tragic story of Titanic fascinates me and I had no idea about these cenotaphs in Arlington. It's a cemetery I would like to visit. (Oh yes, cemeteries fascinate me too; I don't know what's wrong with me.)

    1. I considering doing 'cemetery', Evi - its root is Greek for 'dormitory', but then I bet you already knew that : o )