Gravestone Symbolism

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Gravestones have been used for centuries to mark the dead, prehistoric would use rocks and sticks but over the years this developed into elaborate and showy memorials for those who could afford them. With the ability to carve stone brought the use of all manner of symbols for the dead and it is quite fascinating looking into the meanings.

Whilst gravestones these days tend to be simple semi circular topped, rounded, pointed arched, gabled or square with the inscription of choice, it was in the 18th century that Gravestones were really elaborate and were often decorated with symbolic reminders of death such as cherubs, skulls, heavenly crowns or picks and shovels for the grave. Forms of simple decoration on Gravestones look like it is making a comeback with special emblems and themes used being familiar across many faiths. But what do these symbols mean?

Some of the more obvious symbols like the Dove (Purity, love and the holy spirit), Heart (Devotion), Horseshoe (Protection against evil) and Star of David (The God) are widely known by most. However, the more obscure might not be as well understood, a shell means birth and resurrection, Peacock means eternal life, Hourglass represents time and its swift flight, a Lamp means immortality and a triangle means Truth, Equality and Trinity. If you see a Lamb it will symbolize Innocence, this symbol is often used when the young pass away, and the same can be said for a Broken Column, which symbolizes early death. Symbols relating to relationships can be a hand, meaning a relation or partnership, an Arch, rejoined with a partner in Heaven or my favourite, the Ivy which means faithfulness, memory, and undying friendship.

Next time you visit a cemetery, you may notice the symbols on each Grave Stone a bit more and appreciate the meaning of why they are on the grave, it can be very humbling.

Posted on March 24th 2010 in Uncategorized

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