There are many differing explanations and interpretations about the carvings,
ornamentation and symbols on gravestones.
Symbolism - albeit perhaps not always representing the ‘text-book’ meaning
continues to be used although perhaps simply because it is aesthetically pleasing.
The following list of Funerary Symbols, interspersed with photographs
illustrate the creativity of the stonemason over the years, turning and adapting
basic design elements into ‘works of art’.
Angel (Flying or Trumpeting) – Resurrection/Re-birth
Angel (Weeping) – Grief/ mourning
Anvil - Martyrdom.
Arch - Triumph, Victory in/over Death.
Arrow - Mortality.
Banner - Victory, Triumph.
Bells - Call to Worship.
Bird – Eternal Life
Bird (Flying) – Resurrection
Bones (Crossed) – Mortality
Books (Open) – Holy Book/The Bible
Book (Closed) – Holy Book/The Bible. A Life Completed/The Story Told.
Bouquets/Flowers – Condolences, Grief and Sorrow
Broken Ring/Circle – Broken Family Circle
Butterfly – Short Life/Early Death
Cherub (or Winged Soul) – Angelic
Clock - Mortality
Coffin – Mortality
Columns or Doors – Entrance to Heaven
Column (Broken) – Life Cut Short/Loss of Head of Family
Corn – Old Age
Cross – Faith/Salvation/Resurrection
Cross with Sun Rays - Glory.
Cross with Winding Sheet - Descent from the Cross.
Crown – Glory, Victory
Cup or Chalice – The Sacraments/Holy Communion
Dove – Peace/Purity
Dove – Flying (usually upside down) with Olive Branch – Offerance of Resurrection
Drapes/Drapery – Sorrow/Mourning
Flame - Eternity
Flowers – Frailty/Fragility of Life/Beauty
Fruit – Eternal Plenty
God/Eye of God - Omnipresence of God
God/Eye of God – (In Triangle) The Holy Trinity
Grim Reaper – Death Personified
Hands (Index Finger pointing upwards) – Pathway to Heaven
Hands (Clasped) – Unity/Affection. (Or in Prayer)
Heart - Love
Hourglass - Passage of Time, Shortness of Life
Hourglass (Flying) – Speed of Passing Time
IHC – Greek word for Jesus (IHCOYC)
IHS – Latin – Jesus of
, King of the Jews (Iesus Nazarenus Rex Ludaeorum) Nazareth
Ivy - Attachment, Affection, Friendship, Eternal Life
Lamb - Innocence
Laurel Wreath - Victory in Death
Lily of the Valley – Innocence/Purity/Renewal
Morning Glory – Resurrection/Beginning of Life
Moon - Resurrection
Oak (Leaves or Acorns) – Strength/Endurance/Virtue
Palm Branch – Victory/Rejoicing
Pelican - Sacrifice
Poppy – Sleep/Eternal Sleep
Scales – Justice/Weighing of Souls
Seashell – Resurrection/Eternal Life
Scythe - Divine Harvest/Death
Ship – Seafaring
Skeleton – Mortality/Death.
Skull – Mortality/Death
Skull (Winged) - Flight of the Soul
Square & Compasses – Masonic Connection
Thistle – Remembrance/Scottish Connection
Torch – Life/Truth
Torch (Inverted) –Extinction of Life
Tree – Life/Life Everlasting
Urn (With or Without Drapes/Drapery) - Mourning
Vessel with Flame - Eternal Spirit
The following ...... Sorrow