Christ Church is the only cemetery I’ve ever visited that charges admission. Yes, two dollars (as of October, 2013) to get in. It’s right across Arch Street from the Philadelphia Mint, so the fact that you have to pay money to see an historic national landmark that’s right across the street from where they make the nation’s money is kind of ironic.
see link). The saving grace of Christ Church Burial Ground (established in 1719) is that Ben Franklin’s grave is visually accessible through the iron fence near the corner of Fifth and Arch Streets. So you don’t actually have to pay to see Benjamin and Deborah Franklin’s grave marker. People throw pennies on his large, flat stone (“A penny saved is a penny earned,” Franklin said) and today, I even heard someone saying to his daughter, “Make a wish.”
|School children tossing pennies on Ben Franklin's grave (Christ Church Burial Ground)|
I suppose the Church scoops up all the pennies each day and puts them to good use. The fact that we can see, touch, and walk amidst these historic graves is a tribute to the Church’s commitment to historic preservation. According to its website: “the Burial Ground was closed to the public from 1977 through 2003. In 2002, The Christ Church Preservation Trust undertook a major program of renovation in order to reopen the Burial Ground.”
|Worn grave markers in Christ Church Burial Ground|
Still, everyBODY buried here was significant in his or her own right. The markers mark their lives, their mortal existence. Thankfully, someone had the foresight to transcribe all the engravings from the headstones in 1864, which has been reprinted in the book, A Record of the Inscriptions on the Tablets and Gravestones in the Burial Grounds of Christ Church,Philadelphia!
"The Body of
Supposedly 4,000 people are buried in this 2-acre plot of ground. Interesting number, since an acre today typically holds 1200 to 1500 side-by-side graves. How did they jam in the extra thousand? Did they bury them standing up? Without burial vaults? At various depths? ? AND …. this is still an active burial ground! My guess is that things have probably disintegrated below ground to the point where there’s probably nothing left of the 300-year-old wooden coffins, allowing room for additional burials. As you walk through the place, you do get the sense that it is rather dense with grave markers and headstones. Still, things were artfully arranged - I like the way these large flat crypt covers in the image below line the walkway from the gate off Fifth Street.
|Crypts line walkway of Christ Church Burial Ground, Philadelphia|
|Outside Christ Church|
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