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Blandford Church and Cemetery

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1734–1737; 1752–1770; 1901 restoration. 319 S. Crater Rd.

Blandford Church, the oldest building in Petersburg, was built as the mother church of Bristol Parish. Between 1752 and 1770, the north wing and brick wall were constructed around the original portion of the burying ground. When a new church was built in 1802 on Courthouse Hill, the abandoned Blandford fell into ruins. Eventually, only its walls and the brick wall that enclosed the church were still standing. In 1901, the Petersburg Ladies Memorial Association was authorized to restore the church as a Confederate shrine and to rebury Confederate soldiers, many of whom had been interred near where they had fallen. The ladies commissioned from Tiffany Studios a transom window as a memorial to their organization and a stained glass window for every Confederate state, as well as one for Maryland, which had Southern sympathies. Most of the states' windows depict the Apostles of Christ.

Blandford Cemetery covers 189 acres, the third-largest cemetery in Virginia, and has graves dating from 1702, including the mausoleum of General William Mahone, who wanted to be buried among the 30,000 Confederates laid to rest in the cemetery. Amid its cast- and wrought-iron fences and gates from firms in Richmond, New York, and Philadelphia, the cemetery has gravestones depicting grief and mourning in many symbolic forms. Each period's attitude toward death is reflected here from the forthright and literal approach of eighteenth-century funerary art, to the more stylized and abstract urns and willows of the neoclassical period, to the dramatic and romantic flowers and symbols of the Victorian era, and, finally, to the abrupt informative accountings of the modern era.

Writing Credits

Anne Carter Lee

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