Monument symbolism

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, tombstones tended to threaten or moralize. Below are three monuments from Kingston NY showing the evolution of imagery from death's-head to angel in those centuries.


skull with wings

angel head with wings

In the nineteenth century, especially the Victorian era, tombstones emphasized rebirth, salvation, eternal life, and connection to the living mourners. Here are a few examples from the rich variety of mortuary art in Bayside Cemetery.


ANGELS, weeping, watching, or praying = the deceased is tended in heaven

CLASPED HANDS = we say goodbye at death

FINGER POINTING UP = the loved one is in heaven above; look there for her.

BOOK = the deceased was a teacher or minister. Possibly also the Bible, which offers answers.

BROKEN COLUMN = the deceased was cut down in his or her prime.

WHEAT SHEAF = the deceased has been gathered in, as a harvest, to the next world.

LAMB = the deceased was an innocent, usually a child.

MOURNING FEMALE = the personification of sorrow and grief.

CHERUB = the deceased is in the company of angels

DRAPED URN OR COLUMN = the deceased is now immortal, yet still we mourn.

WEEPING WILLOW = all nature shares in our sorrow

OBELISK = the deceased has gone from earth to be reborn in heaven.

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