Stones Of Faith - Pennsylvania Germans and their Gravestones

A look at the genealogy, history, folk art and archeology of the PA Germans and their gravestones, with German language translations, at the Ephrata Cloister.





Pennsylvania and American German Gravestone Guide

Lilies and Crown at Ephrata - Lilies

Ephrata Saal (Meeting House) @Ronald J. GordonA little north of Bergstrasse, in the same township in Lancaster Co., stands the Ephrata Cloister, a German Protestant religous settlement, was founded by Conrad Beissel during the Great Awakening of religious revivalism which swept the colonies in the 1730s and 40s fed by German Pietists fleeing religious persecution in Europe. This group was drawn from the surrounding congregations of Dunkers, Mennonite, Lutheran and Reformed German settlers. The main tenants advocated by Beissel were Saturday worship, celibacy, prayer, work, singing and vegetarianism. His sermons and rituals incorporated Old Testament teachings, Rosicrucian thought and alchemical practices, mixed in with basic Christian doctrine.5 The order thrived well into the 1770s, its fame reaching as far as Europe, where Voltaire mentions it in his "Dictionaire Philosophique".6

Reverse of Friedrick Keller StoneThe Cloister proper was the home of the celibate "brothers" and "sisters", who wore distinctive habits and lived in separate buildings. Two stones, found in its rock walled graveyard, are representative of the people, and beliefs, of this sect. The first stone is that of a young man named Friedrick Keller. Its carvings are fine examples of the Ephrata Cloister calligraphy which made their hand illuminated hymn books and manuscripts famous. A large lily flanked by two small blooms tops the stone's front, below which Freidrick's life dates are given in Roman script. The back has two arches composed of running wedges that could symbolize the rays of the rising sun. There is star is at the apex of the upper, while the lower bows over a stylized flower. The verse below is beautifully done in fraktur scrip and fits well on the stone face. As translated by Dr. Leroy Hopkins of Millersville Univ. it reads:

Be still again my soul
for the Lord does thee good

The front of the Friedrick Keller StoneThe lily pictured on this stone was a favorite flower symbol of the sect and was used to represent Christ and/or one of his true believers.7 In 1760, Georg Adam Martin, a pietist and revivalist, visited the Cloister, and the sisters sang him the "Song of the Lilies." The following verse from that song would have fit just as well under the lily on Bruder Frederick's stone:

My life I would give it Forever to Thee,
With Heart and with Soul; Yea, so it should Be!
For Thou art the Lily, else nothing can clothe
My poor naked soul in Peace to Repose
(translated by J. Max Hark)8

End Of Page

Copyright 1985-2005 Sandra J. Hardy. All rights reserved.

Those more interested in the genealogy, history, folk art and archeology of the PA Germans and their gravestones, with German language translations, at the Ephrata Cloister, see the Links Page.