Holy Sepulchre is a Roman Catholic diocesan cemetery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It hosts the Flanigan mausoleum (figure 1), whose architecture is Early English, a blend of Romanesque, Gothic, and Norman styles. It’s based upon old English chapels and village churches (compare figures 6, 7).

Figure 1. Flanigan mausoleum. Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA. Photo: author.

The spirit of the Gothic breathes best in the rear window (figure 2). There three tall lancet windows occupy a wide frame with a flat arch. Tracery articulates the upper parts of the window, and this, with the custom-cut blocks that make up the outer arch of the window, and the leaded glass inside it were almost certainly the high-dollar items of the structure.

Figure 2. Flanigan mausoleum. Detail: rear window. Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA. Photo: author.

The door (figure 3), like the window, features lancets with tracery and leaded glass. Its frame, like the rear window’s, is built from custom-cut blocks up to the springers of the arch, which is flatter still.

Figure 3. Flanigan mausoleum. Detail: Gothic leaded-glass windows in valves. Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA. Photo: author.

The window over the portal (figure 4) is a monstrum consisting of two quatrefoils over two blind lancets, the pattern imposed by the inclusion of a Latin cross as a sort of mullion. The Goths, I think, would never have done this, but would have placed a single trefoil or quatrefoil over the two lancets. Still, one can find other American funerary examples as in the Hurd mausoleum in Woodlawn in NYC. Returning to Holy Sepulchre, there is a single quatrefoil in the rear wall over the principal one, similar to the two in the front window.

Figure 4. Flanigan mausoleum. Detail: Gothic windows in façade. Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA. Photo: author.

Early English Gothic is apt to disappoint if we have in mind those soaring cathedrals that reach toward heaven. The Sainte Chapelle in Paris (figure 5) is an extraordinary case, but it shows the principles of the Gothic well: the building is really, really tall, and the lancets within larger lancets are, well, long and thin, like lances.

Figure 5. Sainte Chapelle, upper chapel. Paris, France. Photo: GregoryCalais62100. CC-BY-SA 4.0. Wikimedia Commons.

The Flanigan mausoleum, by contrast, is boxy (figures 1, 6). The lancets, door and window frames have all been squished down from Gothic norms to squarish shapes so as to fit proportionally upon the squat canvas of the walls. This is true of many an old English country church (figure 7), but even more so here, where the forms have been adapted to an even smaller mausoleum. The boxy shape is the Romanesque influence showing through.

Figure 6. Flanigan mausoleum. Three-quarter view from rear. Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA. Photo: author.
Figure 7. English village church. Photo: Pikist free download.

The engaged buttresses, too, are a solid mark of the Romanesque. As with the door and window frames, the end buttresses are custom-cut to interlock with the walls. The Flanigan masonry is meant to evoke rusticity but upon close inspection one sees it is highly manicured (figure 8); it is, however, fine, attractive work. I’d like to know what’s under the slate revetment; brick or cinderblock construction, I guess.

Figure 8. Flanigan mausoleum. Detail of inscription in façade. Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA. Photo: author.

Beside the Hurd mausoleum in Woodlawn Cemetery I mentioned above (see, too, Sylvan Cemetery, p. 67), which is a fairly close comparandum for our mausoleum, there is also the Jackson mausoleum in West Laurel Hill (figure 9). While the latter differs in its material (all granite), it shares the gothic feel and Romanesque proportions of our structure.

Figure 9. Jackson mausoleum. West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA. Photo: author.

The Hibbs mausoleum in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, D.C. (figure 10), is much more ambitious than the Flanigan, Hurd, or Jackson examples, but its exterior finish is animated with the same spirit as the Holy Sepulchre mausoleum.

Figure 10. Hibbs mausoleum. Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.

The book referenced above:

Warren, C., C. Fabian, and J. Parks. Sylvan Cemetery: Architecture, Art, and Landscape at Woodlawn. Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library and The Woodlawn Conservancy, 2014.

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Scranton, PA

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