IN MEMORIAM Funerary Symbols and Their Meanings
Freedman cemetery, waterford Cross:  Rare prior to the civil war Affirmation of christian or orthodox faith Redemption or ...
Cross - variations:  Cross and crown  – promise of the kingdom of heaven. alternately, symbol of righteousness Cross and m...
Falmouth cemetery, stafford county Hungar’s episcopal church, franktown, va Angels/cherubs: Messengers or attendants of go...
The next life Clasped hands  -- a spouse or loved one Helping the deceased to enter heaven position of hands and type of c...
Jewish Funerary Symbols Star of David  – usually placed on a man’s headstone menorah  – usually placed on a woman’s headst...
Personal icons Provide a glimpse into the profession Or interests of the deceased Riverview cemetery, richmond   Oakwood C...
Hollywood cemetery, Richmond (all) Although many traditional symbols are No longer used, this sort of personal  Iconograph...
Fraternal/social Freemasons  -- compass, carpenter’s level,  Square, all-seeing eye, pyramid, Sun  symbol, five- and six-p...
Fraternal/social Membership may be indicated by the  Presence of a metal plaque, either  Affixed to the monument or placed...
Children Lamb : purity, innocence (associated with the  agnus Dei  or lamb of god) Dove : purity, also messenger of god Sc...
Children Angels  in this instance symbolize the direct intervention of  Heaven, through prayer and supplication or by actu...
Hollywood Cemetery   Falmouth   Cemetery, stafford county Fredericksburg Masonic   Cemetery Hollywood Cemetery Infant and ...
Arlington National Cemetery Military Monuments provided by the armed forces are uniform in size, color, and  Style and are...
mourning Truncated tree or broken column : life cut tragically short Inverted torch or flame : the “flame of life” snuffed...
Mourning Broken flowers : the tragedy of a life ended.  broken branch with a small bud : the loss Of a child  as the loss ...
Mourning Funerary figures depicting Grief or mourning are almost Universally female St. John’s Church cemetery Fredericksb...
Plants  Many of the plants used for funerary purposes have  Held sacred or symbolic importance for thousands of  years, an...
Flowers Lily : purity, chastity, innocence Lily of the valley : purity, rebirth, new life Calla : marriage, fidelity Rose ...
Memento mori Latin phrase meaning “remember that You must die” – very popular from the Civil war through the end of the  V...
Memento mori Perhaps the most recognizable memento mori is the human skull, often with  Crossed thighbones --- a stark rem...
Fredericksburg Masonic Cemetery Falmouth Cemetery, Stafford county Memento mori Hourglass (with wings):   Tempus fugit,  L...
Thank you And thanks to edward gorey for the fab drawing
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Cemetery Iconography

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Copyright 2010 Joanna Wilson Green, Department of Historic Resources.

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Cemetery Iconography

  1. 1. IN MEMORIAM Funerary Symbols and Their Meanings
  2. 2. Freedman cemetery, waterford Cross: Rare prior to the civil war Affirmation of christian or orthodox faith Redemption or salvation through christ Cultural symbol (celtic cross, greek cross, Eastern cross, etc.) Eastern orthodox cross Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond Celtic cross, cross of iona Oakwood cemetery, Martinsville Latin cross Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond Greek or coptic cross Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond
  3. 3. Cross - variations: Cross and crown – promise of the kingdom of heaven. alternately, symbol of righteousness Cross and mourning figure – literally, leaning on one’s faith for support in a time of grief Cross and vines or other plants – “living cross”, symbol of the christian faith in life after death Chi-Rho – Greek Abbreviation for “christos” (the letter “ CHI” resembles a greek cross on point) Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond Oakwood Cemetery, MArtinsville Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond Oakwood Cemetery
  4. 4. Falmouth cemetery, stafford county Hungar’s episcopal church, franktown, va Angels/cherubs: Messengers or attendants of god Guardianship, prayer, divine intervention Cherubs can symbolize spiritual resurrection also considered an evolution of the much starker skull and bones icon common in the 17 th and early 18 th centuries Blandford cemetery, petersburg Norman cemetery, stafford county Oakwood Cemetery, Martinsville Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond
  5. 5. The next life Clasped hands -- a spouse or loved one Helping the deceased to enter heaven position of hands and type of cuffs and jewelry important Gates -- The deceased has reached and Been admitted to heaven Finger pointing up -- confirmation that the Deceased has risen to heaven Blandford cemetery, petersburg All others Hollywood Cemetery
  6. 6. Jewish Funerary Symbols Star of David – usually placed on a man’s headstone menorah – usually placed on a woman’s headstone Hands – indicative of kohanim (cohanim) or aaronite, a person Claiming direct descent from Aaron, brother of moses. Kohanim hold an honored status in the jewish community, and are required to offer a priestly blessing during the Central prayer of the jewish service. the hands are meant To evoke this blessing. Nun and pay -- The two hebrew letters, found beneath or to Each side of a symbol, stand for po nikbar (masc.) or po nitman (Fem), “here Lies”. hollywood All Images from the Jewish burial Ground, Oakwood Cemetery, Richmond
  7. 7. Personal icons Provide a glimpse into the profession Or interests of the deceased Riverview cemetery, richmond Oakwood Cemetery, Martinsville Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond
  8. 8. Hollywood cemetery, Richmond (all) Although many traditional symbols are No longer used, this sort of personal Iconography appears to be a permanent Part of the modern funerary landscape
  9. 9. Fraternal/social Freemasons -- compass, carpenter’s level, Square, all-seeing eye, pyramid, Sun symbol, five- and six-pointed star Oddfellows -- three linked rings, axe Woodmen of the world -- hewn stump or Woodpile, axe, carpenter’s mallet, dum tacit clamat (“though silent, He speaks”) Sons of temperance -- triangle with the Words “love, Purity, Fidelity” Stars on women’s monuments may indicate Membership in the Order of the Eastern Star, the women’s auxiliary of the Free- mason’s organization. Oakwood Cemetery, Martinsville Oakwood Cemetery, Martinsville All others Hollywood Cemetery
  10. 10. Fraternal/social Membership may be indicated by the Presence of a metal plaque, either Affixed to the monument or placed Separately. Organizations include the united Daughters of the confederacy, Sons of confederate veterans, Sons of the American Revolution, And the american Legion. Oakwood Cemetery, Martinsville All others Hollywood cemetery
  11. 11. Children Lamb : purity, innocence (associated with the agnus Dei or lamb of god) Dove : purity, also messenger of god Scales : a soul in balance Flower bud : a life ended before it began Broken chain : A family parted All Hollywood Cemetery
  12. 12. Children Angels in this instance symbolize the direct intervention of Heaven, through prayer and supplication or by actually carrying The soul away. In the victorian period angels were generally believed to be female, And so most funerary depictions have feminine faces and forms. In contrast, the archangels were decidedly male and were portrayed as such, but are unlikely to be found on children’s headstones. Cherubim were generally neuter. Victorians often preferred to depict children as asleep Or resting. Hollywood cemetery Mt. Calvary Cemetery, Richmond Oakwood cemetery, martinsville Hollywood cemetery
  13. 13. Hollywood Cemetery Falmouth Cemetery, stafford county Fredericksburg Masonic Cemetery Hollywood Cemetery Infant and child gravesites
  14. 14. Arlington National Cemetery Military Monuments provided by the armed forces are uniform in size, color, and Style and are set in ordered ranks, reflective of the order and precision Valued by the american military. Civil war monuments display one of two symbols depending upon whether The deceased fought for the union or the confederacy. Post-civil war monuments may include simple religious iconography. Stones purchased by family may contain symbols of the deceased’s service Rank or posting, or may indicate a family connection to the military. Oakwood Cemetery, Martinsville Hollywood Cemetery Hollywood Cemetery
  15. 15. mourning Truncated tree or broken column : life cut tragically short Inverted torch or flame : the “flame of life” snuffed out Oakwood Cemetery, Martinsville Hollywood Cemetery
  16. 16. Mourning Broken flowers : the tragedy of a life ended. broken branch with a small bud : the loss Of a child as the loss of potential beauty open blooms on the same branch symbolize The grieving parents or family broken branch with a mature blossom : an Adult life “ cut short in full bloom” Masonic cemetery, fredericksburg Hollywood Cemetery Oakwood Cemetery, Martinsville
  17. 17. Mourning Funerary figures depicting Grief or mourning are almost Universally female St. John’s Church cemetery Fredericksburg All others Hollywood Cemetery
  18. 18. Plants Many of the plants used for funerary purposes have Held sacred or symbolic importance for thousands of years, and hold Similar meanings today. oak leaves/acorns : virtue, endurance, strength Laurel : mourning, remembrance, acclaim, victory Fern : humility, sincerity, rebirth Ivy : death, eternal life, affection Willow : mourning, mortality Olive : family, spiritual victory, peace Palm Leaf : Resurrection Oakwood Cemetery, Martinsville All others Hollywood Cemetery
  19. 19. Flowers Lily : purity, chastity, innocence Lily of the valley : purity, rebirth, new life Calla : marriage, fidelity Rose : motherhood, love, grief Pomegranate : resurrection Thistle : earthly sorrow, remembrance Dogwood : Sorrow, repentance All Hollywood cemetery
  20. 20. Memento mori Latin phrase meaning “remember that You must die” – very popular from the Civil war through the end of the Victorian period. The weeping willow is a common form, Often pictured with other symbols Of death and mourning, including Urns, shattered columns, and broken Flowers. Falmouth cemetery, stafford county Fredericksburg masonic cemetery Hollywood cemetery Fredericksburg masonic cemetery Blandford cemetery, petersburg
  21. 21. Memento mori Perhaps the most recognizable memento mori is the human skull, often with Crossed thighbones --- a stark reminder of the reality of death and Decomposition. the use of such symbolism originated in Europe during the plague- beset middle ages, and was brought to America by early settlers. their acceptance of the harshness of life is reflected in this matter-of-fact icon. During the 19 th century, The human skull motif evolved into gentler images as society’s view of death and dying became romanticized. Aquia church cemetery, stafford Aquia church cemetery, stafford Historic jamestown
  22. 22. Fredericksburg Masonic Cemetery Falmouth Cemetery, Stafford county Memento mori Hourglass (with wings): Tempus fugit, Literally “time flies” Hourglass (without wings ): finality, Also the cyclical nature of life, death And rebirth Coffins, caskets, sexton’s hardware: The physical reality of death and Burial. Urn: representative of the remains. May Be draped with cloth or with a garland. Hollywood Cemetery
  23. 23. Thank you And thanks to edward gorey for the fab drawing

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