Wooden matzevas from the town of Lenin in Polesia

Krzysztof Bielawski

Wooden matzevas from the town of Lenin in Polesia

Publication year
2013

Ashkenazi Jews, living on the territories of East-Central Europe made tombstones of various materials. The choice of the material was dependant on its availability. Fieldstone and sandstone were among most popular ones, whereas limestone and marble were not that common. In areas of developed primary industry, cast iron was used to make matzevas. Thanks to the preserved iconographic material it is known that in many Jewish cemeteries there were also wooden tombstones. The choice of wood as a material for a tombstone was probably dictated not only by the problems with the availability of a particular stone in the area, but above all, the degree of wealth of the family of the deceased. Wooden matzevas stood also in towns, which had functioning quarries, for example in Chęciny. Tomasz Wiśniewski in his book „Nieistniejące mniejsze cmentarze żydowskie. Rekonstrukcja Atlantydy” [Nonexistent smaller Jewish cemeteries. The reconstruction of Atlantis] developed a thesis that for the Jews from Polesia, living in wooden houses in a landscape of water and wood, praying in the synagogues smelling of resin, wooden matzevas were a familiar element of tradition.

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