Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

Helsingin yliopisto, Helsinki 2006

Hautamuistomerkki elämän ja kuoleman tulkitsijana

Heikki Häiväojan, Kain Tapperin ja Matti Peltokankaan tekemät hautamuistomerkit 1952-2002

Brita Nickels

Väitöskirja, lokakuu 2006.
Helsingin yliopisto, teologinen tiedekunta, käytännöllisen teologian laitos.

Grave sculpture as interpreter of life and death. Grave sculptures done by Heikki Häiväoja, Kain Tapper and Matti Peltokangas 1952-2002.

The thoughts of Philippe Ariès and Erwin Panofsky on western funeral art constitute the starting point of this study. These scholars speak about the 20th century as a period of decline regarding western funeral art. The reason for this situation lies, according to them, in the fact that death has been rejected and become a private affair in modern society. Especially Panofsky sees an important reason for the decay of funeral art also in the separation of death from religion. In this study, I approach the view of Ariès and Panofsky from the angle of Finnish funeral art. The subject of the study is grave sculptures of three Finnish sculptors: Heikki Häiväoja, Kain Tapper and Matti Peltokangas, from 1952 to 2002. (The analysis of the grave sculptures has been performed with the Iconology of Erwin Panofsky. The analysis has been deepened by the ideas of a graveyard as a semiotic text according to Werner Enninger and Christa Schwens. In order to confirm their argumentation, they analyse the graveyard text with the model of communicative functions of Roman Jakobson and verify that the graveyard is a cultural text according to Juri Lotman.)

Results of the study

In the grave sculptures of the sculptors, different worldviews appear alongside Christian thoughts indicating a new stage in the tradition of funeral art. In the grave sculptures characterised as Christian, the view of life after death is included. In these memorials the direction of life is prospective, pointing to the life beyond. Death is a border, beyond which one is unable to see. Nevertheless the border is open or marked by the cross. On this open border, death is absence of pain, glory and new unity. In memorials with different worldviews, the life beyond is a possibility which is not excluded. Memorials interpret life retrospectively; life is a precious memory which wakens grief and longing. Many memorials have metaphysical and mystic features. In spite of democratization the order and valuation of social classes appear in some memorials. The old order also materializes in the war memorials relating the same destiny of the deceased. Different burial places, nevertheless, do not indicate social inequality but are rather signs of diversity.

The sculptors' abstract means of modern funeral art deepen the handling of the subject matter of death and reveal the mystery of it. Grave sculptures are a part of Finnish and sacral modern art, and there is an interaction between funeral art and modern art. Modern art acquires a new dimension, when grave sculptures become a part of its field.

Grave sculptures offer an alternative to anonymous burying. The memorial is a sign of the end of life; it gives death significance and publicity and creates a relation to the past of the society. In this way, grave sculptures are a part of the chain of memory of the western funeral art, which extends throughout Antiquity until ancient Egypt. (In this study I have spoken of funeral art as a chain of memory using the thoughts of Danièle Hervieu-Léger.) There are no signs of decay in the grave sculptures, on the contrary the tradition of funeral art continues in them as a search for the meaning of life and death and as an intuitive interpretation of death. As such, grave sculptures are part of the Finnish discussion of death.

The title page of the publication

Julkaisu on tekijänoikeussäännösten alainen. Teosta voi lukea ja tulostaa henkilökohtaista käyttöä varten. Käyttö kaupallisiin tarkoituksiin on kielletty.

© Helsingin yliopisto 2006

Viimeksi päivitetty 26.09.2006

Yhteystiedot, Contact information E-thesis Helsingin yliopisto, University of Helsinki