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Shrine to the Fallen

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"There's a clock tower in Hereford where the names of the dead are inscribed. We try to honor their deeds, even as their faces fade from our memories. Those memories are all that's left when the bastards have taken everything else."
Captain Price, Modern Warfare 3

Whether it's your dead little brother, your child that passed on after an illness, your lost love or just that one person you couldn't save, some characters are so attached to a deceased loved one that they have a hard time letting go. A shrine to the dearly departed is often a good way to inform the viewers of this connection, especially if the shrine is to someone who kicked the bucket before the show even started. In fiction, showing a child or bereaved spouse praying at such a shrine is a visual shorthand for the Disappeared Dad or Missing Mom.

These are typically created with a photograph and a number of votive candles or incense, but traditions vary from culture to culture. In Asian cultures, shrines to the dead are a traditional part of the mourning ritual and are placed either in a prominent position in the home or, if the household is wealthy, a place can be purchased/rented at the local temple. There are even shrines for the anonymous dead or women who died unmarried (so they don't come back as a Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl).


The main Western variant of the "shrine" is for the family of a deceased person (especially parents for children) to keep the deceased's bedroom exactly how it was when they were alive, and not using it for anything else because it would be the final admittance that the deceased is never coming back. Sometimes they will leave a chair for the deceased; this is especially noteworthy if said chair was the deceased's favorite.

If the circumstances of the deceased's death mean there is Not Enough to Bury, the creation of a shrine in their memory may be treated as a funeral, complete with as many of the accompanying rituals as possible and often including a Memorial Photo. In such cases, this trope overlaps with Burying a Substitute.

Compare and contrast Stalker Shrine in which this idea takes on a much more sinister note, and Shrine to Self when you just love yourself that much. Compare The Dead Have Names, another way to commemorate the fallen, and Grave-Marking Scene, in which the deceased's final resting place is visited and treated as a shrine.


As this is a trope about deaths, there may be some spoilers.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The Masaki family has one in Tenchi Muyo! for Tenchi's mother, who died during a snowstorm.
  • Bleach:
    • Isshin keeps a wall-sized poster of his deceased wife and often makes a show of crying to her over his children.
    • Byakuya has a traditional one for his dead wife, Hisana, which is kept behind closed doors in a wall recess.
    • Orihime keeps a shelf with photographs of her deceased brother on it. She will often kneel on a cushion in front of it to talk to him about her day.
    • Ryuuken keeps a discreet one for his deceased wife on his desk at work; on the anniversary of her death, he places a photograph on his desk and wears an all-white suit to work.
  • Played for Laughs in Ranma ½, where a seemingly crazy widow treats a shrine to her dead husband almost like an imaginary friend.
  • In one mystery on Detective Conan, Conan deduces that the name placard of such a shrine is the hiding place of a valuable stamp.
    • In another, Heiji and Kazuha almost fall to their deaths investigating a memorial rock that has incense placed on it.
    • In yet another, a similar rock commemorating the drowning of a young boy is the plot point to the mystery.
  • Sano finds out about what happened to his mother this way in Rurouni Kenshin. He prays to it under the guise of wanting to eat dinner faster.
  • In The Kindaichi Case Files, the body of one of the victims is found under such a memorial, and Kindaichi takes that to be a sign that the murderer wasn't the monster he claimed to be.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha ViVid, the "Yagami Family" keeps a small shrine to the first Reinforce in their house, shown with a picture and a food offering.
  • Pegasus from Yu-Gi-Oh! has a tower room and portrait dedicated to his dead fiancée.
  • In Ouran High School Host Club, the Fujioka family has a photo of Haruhi's mother in their living room.
  • The first chapter of March Comes in Like a Lion features a standard family shrine in the Kawamoto home, with Hina offering some of the curry she and her sisters made to their deceased mother and grandmother.
  • In Naruto, the Leaf Village has a memorial which consists of a stone shaped like the blade of a kunai and engraved with the name of every leaf ninja to die in the line of duty.
  • In Digimon Adventure 02, Iori's family has a traditional shrine in their home for Iori's deceased father, Hiroki. Ken's family also has a photo of Ken's deceased older brother, Osamu, placed in a prominent spot in their living room.
  • Played for Laughs in Kiss Him, Not Me: Kae has one dedicated to Shion, a character from her favorite anime.
  • Kimi from Barefoot Gen builds a shrine to her husband, son, and daughter who were killed in the atomic bombing and places their skulls recovered from the remains of their house in the middle of it and often prays to them, by the time of the sequel she and Gen have since buried their remains.

    Comic Books 
  • There was a public one for Vita in Transmetropolitan.
  • Batman
    • Following Jason Todd's death, his Robin costume was put on display in the Batcave. When he was brought back to life, Bruce opted to keep it to remind him of his failure.
    • He did the same when post-Flashpoint Tim Drake appears to have been killed, though the readers are aware Tim's been kidnapped and imprisoned in another dimension.
  • In Nth Man: The Ultimate Ninja , Dr. Yagyu kept his son's room locked and intact after he died from pneumonia. He eventually opens the room and passes on his son's possessions after adopting John.
  • In Y: The Last Man, the Washington Monument becomes a shrine to men, all of whom but one died in the Gendercide that kicks off the plot. It's lampshaded that this is because of the monument's phallic interpretations.
  • In The Death of Superman, his gravesite bears a giant statue of the Man of Steel that remained even after his resurrection. There was also a small marker in front of the Daily Planet to show where he fell, but it was vaporized by the Cyborg Superman.
  • Wonder Woman
    • Wonder Woman (1987): There is a memorial outside of Doom's Doorway for the Amazons (and Steve Trevor's mother) who have fallen fighting the evil trying to escape into the wider world through the door. Amazons frequently leave flowers and other items at the carved marble marking the place.
    • Wonder Woman (2006): There is an eternal flame set before Hippolyta's grave, which has a twenty-four hour guard.

    Fan Works 
  • In the first story of The Smurfette Village series, Hefty Smurf's house is boarded up and considered off-limits to everyone in the Smurf Village when he ends up missing.
  • In the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf novel, Papa Smurf has a statue erected of his son Empath as an adult when he was presumed dead by the hand of the Psyche Master when he was still an infant. Later on, though, when Papa Smurf found out his son was still alive, the statue was converted to one promising hope that Empath would someday leave Psychelia, which in turn gets perverted into a shrine for Empath's fellow Smurfs to worship him as their hero who would someday deliver them from the greatest evil of all — namely, Gargamel.
  • The fanfic The Wall by Doctor Song on is about a wall at Grimmauld Place that displays memorabilia of all those who died in the war against Voldemort, and, as time goes on, of veterans of that fight who've passed on.

    Film - Animated 
  • In Mulan, the Fa family shrine is the home of the ancestral spirits.
  • In An American Tail, the Mousekewitz family build a shrine to Fievel, whom they believe is dead, in their new home.
  • In Coco, the shrine is more than just a remembrance; spirits in the afterlife can return to visit the living on Dia de Los Muertos if someone has put their picture on an ofrenda.

    Film - Live Action 

  • In the Circle of Magic series, Daja maintains a shrine to her family after she is the only survivor of a pirate attack on her family's fleet.
  • The Closers: Rebecca Verloren's mother has left her room untouched — other than dusting — since her daughter's murder 17 years ago. This eventually proves crucial to the climax as detective Harry Bosch discovers a vital clue, a fingerprint, on the floorboards of Rebecca's bed.
  • Alluded to in Phoenix and Ashes. When Reggie Fenyx comes home on medical leave, he finds that his mother preserved his room as it was when he left for World War I (though at least it got cleaned regularly). He muses that had he died in France, the room would have become his memorial.
    • An extra note should add it technically does function as such, since Reggie is no longer the same boy who left; that boy "died" in the trenches. War Is Hell indeed.
  • In Timothy Zahn's "Conqueror's" trilogy, the alien Zhirrzh have many of these. Each contains a large number of ceramic cages, each of which contains what appears to be a small sausage. While these are clearly shrines to the fallen, the humans quickly find out they aren't exactly passive...
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, it's revealed that there is a large statue in Godric's Hollow that basically functions as a shrine to Harry's parents. Various witches and wizards have carved messages on the statue. It's a variant on the trope because the messages are all really for Harry, who is still alive.
  • In The Great Divorce, one of the shades was an overbearing mother who made the rest of her family miserable with her favoritism for her son. Part of her Excessive Mourning after his death involved keeping his room completely untouched.
  • Ciaphas Cain: In Cain's Last Stand, Cain returns to the valley where one of his major battles from Death or Glory took place. The site now holds a steel obelisk with the names of everyone who fell in that battle engraved on it.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Dead Like Me, Reggie makes one out of toilet seats for George.
  • Red Dwarf: Back To Earth implies that an extra bit of the ship has been built (or at least cleaned up specially, which is a pretty big deal for Lister) just to house a commemorative gravestone to Kochanski. Who turns out not to actually be dead anyway.
  • Battlestar Galactica had a shrine to the fallen onboard. It was a big one.
  • In the Supernatural episode "What Is And What Should Never Be" (S02, Ep20), a candlelit vigil is held in Indianapolis one year after the crash of flight 424.
  • The Stinger of the Doctor Who episode "Face the Raven" reveals that one has been made from the TARDIS itself to mark the demise of Clara Oswald; Rigsy "tags" its police box exterior with painted flowers and a portrait of her. The Doctor doesn't have a say on this because he has just been delivered into the hands of an enemy and won't be using it anytime soon.
    • The Classic Series plays with the preserved room version of this trope. In the Fifth Doctor story "Terminus", it is revealed that Adric's room on the TARDIS has been untouched since his death at the end of "Earthshock", indicating that the Doctor has been unable to bring himself to jettison the room or at least put it to another use. However, when Tegan is asked to find sleeping quarters for new companion Vislor Turlough, she shows him to Adric's old room, suggesting that she is trying to remove painful reminders of Adric from the TARDIS.
  • In Day Break (2006), the mother of Jane Doe kept her daughter's room the same way for all those 15 years since the murder. Plot point as it helps Hopper to find leads to who her murderer was.
  • In Pretty Little Liars, after Jessica DiLaurentis moves back into her old home, she sets up her daughter Alison's room as it was when Ali disappeared. Emily stays in Ali's room in this state for a while and finds the experience unsettling.
  • Million Yen Women: The shrines to Shin's mother, the young policeman that Shin's father killed and Nanaka's feature prominently in the story.
  • Daredevil (2015): Following Ben Urich's death, Mitchell Ellison never bothered to clear out Ben's office and left it empty and intact, as he has deep regrets over not having backed Ben's investigation into Wilson Fisk. Ellison later gives the office to Karen Page following the closure of Nelson & Murdock. Karen blames herself for Ben's death, so she keeps all of his framed articles and other mementos around.
  • The Defenders (2017):
    • A small shrine of candles and photographs is seen erected on a burned-out car that belonged to Cole's brother when Misty and Luke walk by it. Later, when an earthquake triggered by the Hand rocks Manhattan, Luke shields Cole's mother from being crushed by a falling streetlight as she's lighting a candle at the memorial.
    • Following Matt's apparent death in the destruction of Midland Circle, we see Karen holding a very lonely candlelit vigil at Matt's church. Foggy drops by and Karen asks him to join her to hold a prayer for Matt.
  • The Punisher (2017): The death of Karen's boyfriend is still affecting her even months later when Frank drops by. A sharp-eyed observer will notice Karen has a small shrine to Matt on the table under her TV when Frank is in her apartment, specifically, a photograph of her, Matt, and Foggy celebrating St. Patrick's Day at Josie's.
  • Game of Thrones: The Starks have a family crypt in Winterfell where they put statues of their deceased relatives. In the pilot episode, King Robert Baratheon visits the crypt where he places a flower on the statue of Lyanna Stark, his late fiancee. Later in Season 7, the statue of Eddard Stark is added after he was beheaded in Season 1 and his remains were sent home. His daughters and his bastard son/nephew visit the crypt from time to time.
  • In The Handmaid's Tale episode "Unwomen", June sets up a shrine within the basement of the Boston Globe office building as a memorial of those who were slaughtered for standing up against the Gilead regime.

  • Bleak Expectations: Played for very dark humour when the second series states that Pip Bin kept the room of his first wife, Flora Diesearly, exactly as it was the day she died... to the extent that Flora's corpse hasn't even been moved from the bed she died in (and by inference, neither has the body of her governess, who died in the room as well).

    Video Games 
  • In The World Ends with You, there's one for Beat and Rhyme, after they died in a car accident.
  • In World of Warcraft, there are a couple of in-game places that commemorate deceased Blizzard employees or their relatives. One of them is even called similarly to this trope's name.
  • An Easter Egg in Max Payne 2 is a hidden shrine for a deceased programmer, consisting of a room with just a photo, his name, and birth and death dates. As well as some creepy music.
  • Earth & Beyond had a sector with space monuments to space exploration. There were monuments to the dead astronauts of Apollo 1 and Challenger. When the shuttle Columbia was destroyed on reentry a new monument was added to the game to honor the astronauts who died in the disaster.
  • In Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 5: Rise of the Pirate God, Club 41 becomes a shrine to Guybrush, whose Martyrdom Culture is due to his Heroic (or rather Stupid) Sacrifice for saving the entire Gulf of Melange from the Pox of LeChuck. The Club even has barrels of Grog, Banang, and root beer, along with votive candles, Guybrush's commemorative photo, and a wreath to be used as kindling next to Guybrush's corpse for cremation... unless his spirit can repossess his body in time, that is.
  • In Dragon Age II, after Leandra's murder, Hawke refuses to touch anything in their mother's room.
  • In Mass Effect 3, the Normandy SR-2 has a wall that bears the names of all the crewmembers who have died over the course of the series. Depending on your actions, it can become a very crowded memorial...
    • The disaster variant also shows up on the Citadel in the Docks level, where refugees leave pictures and other mementos of dead or missing family and friends. As the game goes on, the wall gradually fills in with more memorials. You can help Ashley and Cortez make their own additions as well.
  • Fetch from inFAMOUS: Second Son turned her whole hideout into one for the brother she accidentally killed in a drug-induced psychotic break, complete with using her neon powers to graffiti the walls with his name.
  • In the "Harley Quinn's Revenge" DLC of Batman: Arkham City, in two weeks the Steel Mill has turned into a shrine to the Joker, who has died of Titan poisoning. The exterior of the former funhouse has been renamed as "Harley's Funland", with statues of Harley guarding the gates and banners bearing the Joker's pictures and writings such as "R.I.P. Joker" and "Joker Forever". The interior is redecorated a little bit, while the centerpiece of the final room is transformed into a chapel interior, with lots of lit up white votive candles surrounding the altar and the monument of the Joker holding a glass globe, with Batman encased inside it.
  • In XCOM: Enemy Unknown, there is a memorial wall for every soldier that has died during the game. In the background, you can see pictures taped to the wall, with shot glasses in front. As the casualties rise, the number of photographs and shot glasses increase.
    • In the sequel XCOM 2, there's an entire bar with a picture wall for this purpose, with each fallen soldier getting their own photo.
  • In Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, after Mahiru's death, Hiyoko creates one for her, except she made it so poorly that everyone is horrified by it.
    • In the spinoff Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls, Monaca makes one for Masaru when he goes MIA. She's only pretending to care and even forgets his name during the memorial service. When more of her group goes missing, she doesn't even bother with the memorial.
  • Part of Captain Price's String Theory in Modern Warfare 3 becomes a Shrine to Soap after the latter's death. There are also references to a clock tower at the SAS barracks, where fallen comrades' names are engraved. Soap finally gets his name on the clock tower after Task Force 141 is successfully reinstated.
  • The Ensemble Stars! event Starlight Festival has the protagonist visit one of these for all Yumenosaki students who died or were Driven to Suicide trying and failing to become top class idols. Arashi Narukami occasionally comes to pray to the cenotaph.


    Web Original 
  • There is no GATE; we did not fight there: In the interlude *Til' Our Dying Breaths*, Kell leads Kytheus to a memorial of the 'Sons of the Storm', which was the group led by Kryton Westwind, the first ruler of Rhavenfell and Kytheus' fallen grandfather. Statues of each fallen member are presented in the memorial, including one of Kryton himself. A number of old armor, standards, and banners are also kept within the room.
  • In RWBY, it's revealed that there's a statue of Pyrrha Nikos in her hometown of Argus as one of the Hunters and Huntresses that died during the Fall of Beacon.

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, when Iroh returns to Ba Sing Se incognito six years after failing to conquer it, he creates a shrine to his son, with a picture, incense, and food, at the place where he fell in battle.
  • During the second season of Young Justice, the team visits a room in Mount Justice called "The Grotto", the Grotto houses shrines to fallen heroes, including the second Blue Beetle: Ted Kord, the Second Robin: Jason Todd, and Tula aka Aquagirl.

    Real Life 
  • Extreme sports clubs have a custom of hanging the photos of the members, who have died in the hobby, on the wall.
  • Celebrities often get massive shrines outside their homes (or somewhere associated with them) after they pass on. Princess Diana and Michael Jackson are two pretty good examples; the shrine outside Buckingham's gates was so massive that it actually started to block foot traffic.
  • This also seems to happen for victims of drive-by shootings and car accidents, especially if the victim was very young.
  • The fictional character Ianto Jones from Torchwood received this in the real world after he died in Children of Earth.
  • Like the above example, after the final episode of One Foot in the Grave, many people left flowers and tributes at the filming location where the fictional protagonist Victor Meldrew was killed in a hit and run.
  • Can often happen at the sites of major disasters or terrorist attacks, where people leave ad hoc collections of notes and mementos to remember the dead.
  • When the highly decorated WWII veteran and former movie star Audie Murphy died in a plane crash in 1971, near the top of a mountain in Virginia, the local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars decided to build a memorial as close to the site as they could. They cleared and expanded the nearest mountain trail, and built a small stone monument with a plaque in 1974. Over the years, hikers have built a small wall or cairn around it, just by adding one stone per person to the existing pile. They occasionally leave other items as well. The informal add-ons are more impressive when you realize that most hikers tackle this trail because it is a relatively easy one, and have only vaguely heard of Murphy before they reach the monument.
  • Queen Victoria had a form of this after the death of her beloved husband, Prince Albert. For the rest of her life, the servants would lay out his clothes and toiletries every morning exactly as he would have used them in life, as though he was going to wake up at any moment and get ready for the day.
  • Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo became the great stumbling block of Japanese-Asian relations because the priests there decided to commemorate the Second World War by enshrining the kami (spirit) of everyone who died fighting for Japan; this includes a few thousand war criminals and thousands of foreign nationals who were forcibly conscripted to fight (or perform slave labor) for Japan. Needlessly to say, no one's happy about this. Even today, various Asian families are still petitioning the priests to remove the spirits of their ancestors from those who got them killed.
  • During the tribute to Motörhead frontman Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister at the 2016 Grammy Awards, a spotlight was placed on a setpiece showcasing his signature bass guitar and amp, as well as his boots and hat.
  • There's a religious and cultural phenomenon in Chile about the "animitas", which are little shrines dedicated to some deceased person who died in the street by diverse reasons (car accident, robbery victim, passional crime, etc) in where his/her family put an animita in the place he/she died as a kind of Lonely Funeral. Sometimes, the people pray some of them and then some miracles happen, there're few animitas in Chile that are venerated and are so famous as churches because of this.
  • The people of Toronto one day decided to come together spontaneously and made a shrine to honor a dead raccoon that the City hadn't picked up. It started when one smartass decided to leave a note. Things quickly spiraled from there to the point people were leaving flowers and candles around him.
  • When the Highland Gardens Hotel in Los Angeles was known as the Landmark, one night in 1970 Janis Joplin checked into Room 105...and never checked out. After it was sold, the closet of that room was dedicated fully to her memory, being the closest thing to a grave she has (her ashes were scattered at sea). Even some 50 years later, fans and admirers rent it out or just stop by to leave flower boas, whiskey bottles and LOTS of sharpied-on messages.
  • The bell of the Edmund Fitzgerald was incorporated into a shrine to its dead. On the day of the dedication, it was rung 30 times—once for each of the 29 crewmembers, and the 30th for all the others who had lost their lives on the Great Lakes.


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