Families chose the tomb type and style to be constructed and also the symbols they wanted to adorn the tomb or be inscribed
on the enclosure tablet. An enclosure tablet is found on the front of the
tomb and lists the names of the people buried inside. Families had
many different symbols to choose from and many combined one or more types to express their feelings for the family members buried
who were buried.
this early Christian symbol of hope has
been found as funerary symbolism in the art of the catacombs.
The "Cross and Anchor" - another early Christian
symbol referring to Christ as "hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both
sincere and steadfast"
Angel - these "messengers of god" are very popular
funerary imagery, often depicted escorting the deceased to heaven or mourning
Broken column - symbolizes life cut short.
Broken flower - A flower, broken off at the stem,
symbolizes a life terminated at a very young age, giving way to a term
still used today. . . "nipped in the bud."
Clasped hands - a symbol originating centuries
ago, the clasped hands symbolize unity and affection even after death.
Column - universally associated with commemoration.
The column was used most often as a war memorial.
Cross - symbolizes faith and resurrection and considered
the perfect symbol of Christ's sacrifice in the Christian religion. Common
variations include the Latin cross, the Greek cross, the Celtic cross,
and the Russian or Eastern cross. Popular for tombstone markers. Crosses
can be found on tombs in ironworks, and freestanding and relief ornamentation.
Crown - immortality.
Flowers - flowers symbolize human life and beauty,
but also have individual associations. Daisy: innocence. Lily: symbolizes
purity. Often associated with the Virgin Mary and resurrection. A calla
lily particularly symbolizes marriage and the lily of the valley is associated
with purity and humility.
- because the oak was looked upon as the tree
from which the cross was made, it became a symbol of Christ.
Palm - originally a symbol of military victory,
it was adapted into christianity as a symbol of Christ's victory of death.
Often seen as an attribute of martyrdom and eternal peace.
Pansy - symbolizes remembrance and humility.
Rose - associated with the Virgin Mary, the "rose
without thorns." A red rose symbolizes martyrdom and a white rose symbolizes
God/Eye of God - symbolizes the omnipresence of
God. The eye of God enclosed in a triangle represents the Trinity.
Hands - a hand with the index finger pointing upwards
symbolizes the hope of heaven. Hands holding a chain with a broken link
symbolizes the death of a family member. The hand of God plucking a link
of the chain represents God bringing a soul unto himself. A hand holding
a heart is a symbol of the Lodge of Odd fellows.
Heart - traditionally a symbol of love, courage
and intelligence, the flaming heart signifies extreme ardor. The heart
encircled with thorns symbolizes the suffering of Christ. A heart pierced
by a sword symbolizes the Virgin Mary, harkening to Simeon's prophecy to
Mary at the birth of Christ, "Yea, a sword shall pierce through thine own
the attribute of death and Father Time,
the hourglass symbolizes the passage of time and the shortness of life.
this symbolizes Christ in his sacrificial
role and personifies innocence, gentleness and humility.
Mourning figure - typical early 20th century funerary
Obelisk - 19th century Egyptian revival decoration
universally associated with commemoration.
originally the torch was a Greek symbol
of life and truth, but the inverted torch in funerary art symbolizes death.
originating as a repository for the ashes
of the dead in ancient times, the urn has evolved into a popular symbol
Vessel with flame - represents the eternal flame
or the eternal spirit of man.
Weeping willow -
a symbol of sorrow and mourning.
originating as an ancient symbol of victory,
it was adopted into the Christian religion as a symbol of the victory of
the redemption. It is now a common memorial symbol.