This gorgeous Pre-Raphaelite window is at the back of the George J. Schmitt mausoleum in the Union Dale Cemetery, where the rich and influential of Allegheny City went to slumber in eternal style. Its Grail imagery seems to combine two forms of the Grail legend (the Grail as cup of the Last Supper and the grail as mystical jewel). The legend below reads, “Unto thee O Lord do I lift up my soul.”
Anyone worth knowing in the Union Dale cemetery has stained glass in his mausoleum. In fact, for a while in the early 1900s, it was fashionable to have a portrait of the deceased rendered in glass.
Here, for example, is Mr. William H. Walker (1841-1904), who was apparently a proud Shriner. His portrait has deteriorated a little, but not so much that you would not recognize him at once if you met him in the street.
Mr. William H.Teets (1845-1906; perhaps stained-glass portraits were offered only to men named William H.) has also deteriorated a little, but the portrait is still lifelike enough that you can almost feel the macassar oil.
Cherubs and lilies adorn the mausoleum of the McLain family. The cherubs’ faces seem to be executed with a degree of skill that the rest of the composition lacks; perhaps they were ordered from a catalogue.
There are some who would question the wisdom, or the taste, of building an extravagant monument to the memory of the deceased. Father Pitt would like to suggest, however, that money laid out on art that is still giving us pleasure after a century is hardly misspent.
A once-splendid monument lies where it toppled in the Allegheny Cemetery.
This 1849 tombstone in Old St. Luke’s churchyard, Woodville, is the work of an unusually talented stonecutter. The calligraphic styles of middle-nineteenth-century penmanship have been imitated precisely in the stone.
This monument in the Victorian Romantic style is such a jumble of metaphors that old Pa Pitt is reluctant to try to untangle it. A number of elements—calla, ferns, cushion, scroll, drapery, rustic seat—are rendered individually with great realism, but thrown together in an extraordinarily unlikely way. The monument can be found (but probably won’t be found by most people) in a nearly forgotten German Lutheran cemetery on a hillside in Beechview.
The Butler Street gatehouse was part of the original design of the cemetery in the 1840s, and it serves its function perfectly. From a busy city street we enter a romantic fantasy landscape that might have come straight from Sir Walter Scott. The contrast is almost as great as the contrast between life and afterlife.