Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Uncovering the mysteries behind Jacob Hoffner's Monument

When attempting to decide what monument I wanted to research I had no idea which one to choose. I decided to go back to Spring Grove and drive around until I saw one that stuck out to me. I drove until I realized I was lost (of course I had no map) and that's when I saw the monument that struck my curiosity. It was perched high on top of a mountain. Two lions seemed to looking down the hill guarding the steps leading to the ancient memorial. I started up the hill and when I reached the lions a sign engraved in the giant stone stated Jacob Hoffner Family Lot. Although the name sounded familiar I had no idea who he was but, I was sure curious to find out. I continued on up the steps until I reached a large memorial standing about 30 feet high. Laid at the bottom of the memorial was a book that had a message engraved dedicating the memorial to Jacob Hoffner's wife Elizabeth and children. Around the memorial in the grass were many other headstones of family members who had also passed away. As I walked around gazing at the memorial many things caught my attention. The memorial was very old so, some of the symbols had been worn away and the statue of the lady had not only begun turning black but, had also been broken in many spots. Much to my surprise when I got home and began researching Jacob Hoffner I found out some very interesting information that connected him to close and familiar places such as U.C. and Italy, a country close to my heart because of my heritage. It turns out Jacob Hoffner was a rather mysterious figure, little-known and little remembered. He was born on August 4, 1799 and died on April 8, 1894 at the age of 96 from pneumonia. He was a real estate mogul who was noted for his elaborate gardens and statuarys both inside and outside his home in Cincinnati. During a trip to Italy he visited Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence where he first fell in love with the lions. He requested a smaller version for his own home, which now grace his memorial. After his passing the University of Cincinnati requested to have two of the lions grace their McMicken Hall in 1904. There "Mick & Mack" still stand tall today. The old wives tale is that Mick and Mack will come to life and roar whenever a virgin passes by. Who would have thought! Jacob Hoffner now has a park named after him located at the corner of Blue Rock and Hamilton Avenue as well as a street in Northside, not too far from his burial ground. As I continued to uncover pieces of Mr. Hoffner's life I thought back to memorial and all of the symbols that lined it. I knew they had a story to tell but, I was at a loss as to what a lot of them meant. When I researched the symbols in my Stories in Stone book I discovered a lot of underlying meanings. The lions gracing the stairs leading to the memorial stand for courage, majesty and strength. They also symbolize the resurrection because of the belief that lion cubs were born dead but, came to life after three days when they were breathed on by a male lion. The three days is a connection to the Christian Faith symbolizing the days it took for Christ to resurrect. One of the lions had a very saddened look on his face which could symbolize grief, loss and sadness for the loss of a loved one. This may have ties to his beliefs and religion. Out of the many monuments I saw at Spring Grove high on top of mountains his was the only one that had steps leading up to it. I started thinking of the symbolism to the steps and the first thing that popped in my head was Led Zepplin's song Stairway to Heaven. I wonder if they were put there symbolize his climb into heaven and the idea that angels come down to guide you to paradise. The memorial was topped with seven tall vertices's which I related to the seven virtues. Inside the memorial stood a statue of a woman draped in a long dress in which she held many different types of flowers. She wore a crown that seemed to be made of ivy and flowers and above her was a wreath that seemed to have assorted flowers and nuts hidden in the ivy. Because of the fact that ivy is eternally green even in harsh conditions it symbolizes immortality and fidelity. Since it clings to a support it also shows the idea of friendship, attachment and undying affection. It's three pointed leaves makes it a symbol of the holy trinity as well. The other flowers appeared to be roses, poppies, lillies, pansies, and oak leaves. Each flower has a special meaning. The roses are a symbol of longevity and beauty and are known as the queen of flowers so, maybe they were trying to leave a beautiful message of who they were forever. The poppies are symbolizing sleep and death and the lillies are attributing the idea that one is casting off earthly things to attain spiritual and heavenly qualities. The calla lillies are a possible symbol of the love and devotion shared between Jacob and Elizabeth his wife. The pansy is interesting because of the fact that it is also known as the heartsease because it is shaped like a heart. This connects the idea of remembrance and being able to hear the thoughts of a loved one who has passed away. It gives the essence that one will still be able to be close to a loved one who has passed on. The oak leaf has many different important meanings including strength, endurance, eternity, honor, liberty, hospitality, faith and virtue. The wreath that hangs above the statue of the woman is in the shape of a circle which gives the idea of a circle of life. The statue of the woman has a sad expression on her face which makes us feel as if she is grieving the loss of someone. Although I am uncertain who she is depicting I get the idea that she is a Greek goddess. She seems like a very simple woman with a natural beauty which tells us a little bit about what Hoffner found beautiful in life. Although he was rich he always looked for beauty in the simple things in life such as art and gardens. His memorial definitely gives you the idea of who he was, what he did in life and the things he appreciated. Overall, the monument was very intriguing and really told a story. I am finally learning a deeper meaning of what a cemetery represents and it has really shown me a whole different meaning to not only life but, also the after life.

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