Spurzheim Monument

December 5, 2011

Erected in 1832, the Spurzheim Monument was the beginning of a new trend in funerary monuments.

The monument commemorates Dr. Johann Gaspar Spurzheim, an eminent phrenologist (the science of feeling and reading the bumps on the head). Spurzheim was exactly the type of scholar and citizen of achievement that Mount Auburn wanted to celebrate, and his monument was imported by Robert Gould Shaw, who wanted to honor him in a public location like Mount Auburn. William Sturgis, a well-known Boston merchant involved in the fur trade, paid for most of the the monument.

The polished Italian marble monument is particularly notable because of its precedence: it was one of the first examples of this style of funerary monument in America. The elegant monument was copied from the Roman altar tomb of Cornelius Scipio Barbatus. Low and rectangular, the simple sarcophagus referenced Classical and Egyptian designs and was free of excessive ornament. Originally surrounded by an oval fence, the Spurzheim Monument can now be seen clearly on an elevation near the Cemetery’s entrance along Central Avenue.


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