A timely word for today’s dictionary.com word of the day, sepulcher or sepulchre is notably associated with The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, (from Wikipedia) also called the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, or the Church of the Resurrection by Eastern Christians, a church within the Christian Quarter of the walled Old City of Jerusalem. It was first built in the second century AD by Roman Emperor Hadrian to honor the goddess, Venus. Notably, it is said to have been built directly over the cave where Jesus is said to have been buried. It wasn’t until the year 325/326 when Constantine ordered that it be torn down and a church erected in its place. Constantine’s mother, Helena is said to have discovered the tomb. A freestanding chapel was erected to House the tomb. Recently the tomb’s housing was renovated, unsettling and revealing was has remained enshrined for centuries.
Dictionary.com explains: Sepulcher comes via French from Latin sepulcrum “grave, tomb,” a derivative of the verb sepelīre “to perform the funeral rites, bury, inter.” The Latin verb comes from the Proto-Indo-European root sep- “to honor,” extended to sep-el- “sorrow, care, awe.” The same root appears in Sanskrit sapati “(he) worships, tends.”The Greek derivative of sep- is the root hep-, which usually occurs in compound verbs, e.g.,amphiépein “to look after, tend to,” as in the last line of the Iliad, “Thus they tended to (amphíepon) the funeral of horse-taming Hector.”Sepulcher entered English in the 13th century.
It is defined as a tomb, grave, or burial place; also called Easter sepulcher. Ecclesiastical (a cavity in a mensa for containing relics of martyrs; a structure or a recess in some old churches in which the Eucharist was deposited with due ceremonies on Good Friday and taken out at Easter in commemoration of Christ’s entombment and Resurrection); to place in a sepulcher; to bury the dead.
My google rambling revealed a few other uses for the word. A ‘whited sepulcher’ is described literally, as a whitewashed tomb, outwardly clean but continuing decaying corpses. One would call someone who is a ‘hypocrite’ a whited sepulcher.
There is also a legal term called “right if sepulcre”. It is a common law doctrine that human remains must be left undisturbed in their place of deposition. There is a gruesome case that invoked ‘right of sepulchre’ as it related to the remains of a young man killed in a car accident. An autopsy was prescribed and the coroner retained the young man’s brain in a jar for further evaluation after releasing the body to his family for burial. The family would have been none the wiser had the boy’s sister not discovered the jar, with her brother’s name prominently displayed, on a shelf, while she and her classmates were on a school field trip to the coroner’s office.
And finally, Marvel Comics introduced a superheroine named Sepulchre in its Quasar series in 1993. Also nicknamed “shadow-woman”, she was the alter ego of Jillian Marie Woods empowered with the ability to manipulate dark forces as a member of the Roxxon Energy Corporation Secret Defenders Shock Troop.
Sepulcher is certainly an ancient word with relevance for this day, especially if you celebrate. Happy Easter Weekend to you if you do!
what secrets linger
in dark ancient sepulchers
for some light and life