Symbolism and meaning in gravestone Art.
Angel - messenger between God & man; guide. Angel (flying) - rebirth; guardian angel. Angel (trumpeting)
- call to the resurrection. Angel (weeping) - grief
Child sleeping - Victorian death motif
Death's head, winged - Mortality
Father Time - mortality, the grim reaper
Hand of God - pointing downward - mortality, sudden death; Pointing upward - the reward of the righteous;
confirmation of life after death.
Hands - devotion, prayer. Hands (shaking) - farewell to earthly existence. Hands (Blessing) - Jewish. Hands
(clasped) - in death as in life, the devotion of these two is not destroyed
Trumpeters - Heralds of the resurrection. Trumpet - day of judgment; resurrection. Bugles,; the military profession
Woman, weeping - Mourning; recalls myth of Niobe, whom the gods turned to stone as she wept for her slain children
Fugit hora - "hours are fleeting", "time flies"
H.I.S. - hic iacet sepultus; Here lies buried
IHS - Monogram or symbol representing the Greek contraction of "Jesus": sometimes regarded as an abbreviation
of the Latin phrase meaning "Jesus, Savior of Men"; or, in hoc salus There is safety in this.
INRI - often seen on a banner of latin cross: "Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum". Latin for Jesus of Nazareth,
King of the Jews (John 12:19)
laus Deo - "Praise be to God".
Memento Mori - "Remember death".
Tempus erat - "time is gone"; "time has run out".
XP - Chi Rho - first two Greek letters of the word "Christ".
RIP - Rest on Peace; requiescat in pace
FCL - Fraternity, Charity Loyalty, Daughters of Union Veterans ;Ladies of the Grand Army.
FLT, IOOF - Friendship, Love and Truth; Odd Fellow slogan sometimes with a three linked chain.
Alpha & Omega - first and last letters of the Greek alphabet symbolizing the beginning & end of all
things, see Revelation 22:13
Anchor - hope, life eternal; may signify seafaring profession. Ancient Christian symbol.
Arch - triumph, victory in death
Ark - church; salvation
Arrow or Dart - martyrdom, mortality. Arrow (quiver) - warlike
Banner - victory; triumph
Bells - call to worship. Call to judgement. Day of reckoning.
Bibles - Resurrection through the scripture; the clergy
Book - Bible; wisdom. Books, stacked - knowledge
Branch - Severed - mortality. A life cut short.
Candle - (snuffed) time, mortality; (flame) - life. Candlestick - Christ; devotion
Celtic cross - Circle on it symbolizes eternity. Spirals are ancient.
Chain (3 links) - Oddfellows lodge. 1819 and after.
Circle - eternity; or earth
Clouds - Divine abode.
Coats of Arms or Family Crests - Blazon; lineage, status
Coffins - Mortality. Arising from - Day of reckoning.
Column - Sorrow; broken life
Doors - Heavenly entrance
Crescent moon - Virgin
Cross - salvation. Cross (with crown at base) - salvation; christ redeemer. Cross (with rays of rising sun)
- glory. Cross (with winding sheet) - descent from cross.
Crown - reward of faithful, victory, triumph, glory; righteousness; resurrection. Crown on cross - Sovereignty
Cup - Eucharist. Jewish - The Levite Cup; Member of the Levite tribe.
Drapery - sorrow; mourning
Flame - eternity
Fleur de lis - Virgin; Trinity ; French
Pyramid - Symbolic of death. Ancient Egyptian.
Rock - Steadfastness of Christ; stability
Scales - Weighing of souls; justice
Scroll - Law; Scriptures
Scythe - Time, the divine harvest.
Shell - Pilgrimage: baptism of Christ; usually scallop. Ancient Christian and Jewish.
Ship - The Church. Ships' profiles - The seafaring profession
Skeletons - Mortality, Death
Skull - Death; sin. Skull, winged - Flight of the soul from mortal man. Skulls and crossbones - Mortality
Sphinx - lion represents strength and protection; used to guard entrances. Ancient Egyptian symbol.
Star - Christ birth story; heaven.. Star (five pointed) - Star of Bethlehem; star of Jacob; divine guidance
and protection. Star (five pointed pointing downward) - Order of the eastern star, wives of masons.. Star (six pointed) -
the Father, Creation, heavenly wisdom, Star of David
Sun - God or Son of God.. Sun (setting) - Death; rest.. Sun (rising) - Resurrection; renewed life . Suns, moons
and stars - Reward of the resurrection
Sword - Martyrdom; courage; warfare. Swords, crossed - High ranking military person
Three points, three leaves - Trinity , Trefoil
Torch - Inverted - Extinction of life; death; mourning; Upright - Immortality, liberty, upright life, the scholastic
world, the betrayal of Christ
Urn - soul; mortality. Urn (draped) - death, sorrow
Winged wheel - Holy spirit, wheel of fate.
Flower - Brevity of earthly existence. Broken - premature death. Bellflower - gratitude. Easter lily - modern
floweer symbolic of resurrection. Lily, lilies - resurrection, purity. Lotus - Egyptian water lily and ornament. Poppy - Symbolic
of sleep, therefore, death. Roses - Condolonce, sorrow; the brevity of earthly existence; Tudor Rose - English descent
Bouquets - condolences, grief
Buds - renewal of life
Fruit - Eternal plenty. Fruit and vine - Jesus Christ; the Christian church
Gourds - Coming and passing away of all earthly matters.
Ivy - Abiding memory, friendship, fidelity
Tree - Faith; life; the Tree of Life. Felled - Mortality. Trunk - Premature death. Laurel - victory, triumph,
glory. Willow - Grief; death (carried at Masonic funerals); earthly sorrow, Tree of human sadness, Nature's lament. Oak -
supernatural power and strength; eternity. Olive - peace; healing faith. Yew - Immortality. Cedar - strong faith; length of
days; success. Cypress - sorrow; death; eternal life, Roman symbol for mourning. Evergreens - Immortality
Palm - spiritual victory over death; martyrdom; reward of the righteous; peace; a plant whose leaves resemble
Pineapple - Hospitality
Pomegranate - Immortality; resurrection; unity; nourishment of the soul
Sheaves of wheat - Time, the divine harvest
Thistle - Scottish descent; the inevitability of death, remembrance
Vine - Christian church; Christ; wine, the symbolic blood of Jesus; the sacraments
Wreath - Victory in death, indestructible crown worn by triumphant Christian; eternity. Wreath worn by skull
- Victory of death over life
Birds - Souls; Flight of the soul back to God. Dove; peace; innocence; purity (7 doves = holy spirit); messenger
of God carrying soul to heaven
Butterflies - Resurrection; Christian metamorphosis, Jewish; wings of angels.
Bull - Taurobolium, Ancient Mithra/Tammuz baptism by blood.
Fish - Christ; plentifulness; early Christian community
Hart or Stag - The faithful thirsting for God
Lamb - Christ; Redeemer; meekness: sacrifice; child; innocence; most common 19th century child's marker. Lamb
with banner, resurrection
Eagle (winged) - St. John, the Evangelist
Lion (winged) - St. Mark the Evangelist
Man (winged) - St. Matthew the Evangelist
Ox (winged) - St. Luke the Evangelist
Ram - sacrifice
Sheep & goats - Christians and non-believers
Snake - sin; Satan; fall of man; death. Snake (looping 8 shape) - Eternity. Snake (tail in mouth) - Eternity;