You won’t find much in the way of stone here in Florida. As a result many of our historical graveyards either have tombstones imported from elsewhere – Savannah and Charleston, for example – or wooden tombstones which have long since rotted away. A third option uses our local shell-rock, called coquina. This view of Huguenot cemetery offers a good representation of the uses – and limitations – of coquina in the graveyard.
The box grave in the foreground has a coquina foundation and is topped with a marble gravestone. The coquina shows a lot of wear as corners easily break off from the weather. The matching crosses on the left were also fashioned from coquina. Both show wear, with the one on the left especially worn. Coquina’s natural roughness makes it unsuitable for carving. As a result, often coquina was used to frame a marble plaque containing lettering. A sample of this appears in front of the crosses.
Although generally unsuitable for tombstones, coquina had its place. It was often used to build walls around family plots and to provide the foundations to tombs and tombstones made of other materials.
Coquina is a unique material that holds a special place in our history thanks to the two Spanish forts built of it. Neither fort was captured in battle – a record held in part to this porous rock. Unlike most stones which shattered when hit by cannonballs, here they either bounced off or were sucked into them as if a sponge.
When you visit this area, you will see many creative uses of our special shell-rock. Our graveyards offer a few of their own.