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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.

death's-head

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.