Cemetery Iconography

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Copyright 2010 Joanna Wilson Green, Department of Historic Resources.

Text of Cemetery Iconography

  • 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 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 Cross - variations:Cross and crown promise of the kingdom of heaven. alternately, symbol of righteousness Cross and mourning figure literally, leaning on ones 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 Falmouth cemetery, stafford county Hungars 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 iconcommon in the 17 thand early 18 th centuries Blandford cemetery, petersburg Norman cemetery, stafford county Oakwood Cemetery, Martinsville Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond 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 andBeen admitted to heaven Finger pointing up-- confirmation that the Deceased has risen to heaven Blandford cemetery, petersburg All others Hollywood Cemetery Jewish Funerary Symbols Star of David usually placed on a mans headstone menorah usually placed on a womans headstone Hands indicative of kohanim (cohanim) or aaronite, a personClaiming 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. Nunandpay--The two hebrew letters, found beneath or toEach side of a symbol, stand forpo nikbar(masc.) orpo nitman (Fem), here Lies. hollywood All Images from the Jewish burial Ground, Oakwood Cemetery, Richmond Personal icons Provide a glimpse into the profession Or interests of the deceased Riverview cemetery, richmond Oakwood Cemetery, MartinsvilleHollywood Cemetery, Richmond Hollywood cemetery, Richmond (all) Although many traditional symbols are No longer used, this sort of personalIconography appears to be a permanent Part of the modern funerary landscape Fraternal/social Freemasons-- compass, carpenters level,Square, all-seeing eye, pyramid, Sunsymbol, five- and six-pointed star Oddfellows-- three linked rings, axe Woodmen of the world-- hewn stump orWoodpile, axe, carpenters mallet,dum tacit clamat(though silent,He speaks) Sons of temperance-- triangle with theWords love, Purity, Fidelity Starson womens monuments may indicate Membership in the Order of the Eastern Star, the womens auxiliary of the Free- masons organization. Oakwood Cemetery, Martinsville Oakwood Cemetery, Martinsville All others Hollywood Cemetery Fraternal/social Membership may be indicated by thePresence of a metal plaque, eitherAffixed to the monument or placed Separately.Organizations include the unitedDaughters of the confederacy, Sons of confederate veterans,Sons of the American Revolution,And the american Legion. Oakwood Cemetery, Martinsville All others Hollywood cemetery Children Lamb : purity, innocence (associated with theagnus Deior 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 Children Angelsin this instance symbolize the direct intervention ofHeaven, through prayer and supplication or by actually carryingThe 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 andwere portrayed as such, but are unlikely to be found onchildrens headstones. Cherubim were generally neuter. Victorians often preferred to depict children as asleep Or resting. Hollywoodcemetery Mt. Calvary Cemetery, Richmond Oakwood cemetery, martinsville Hollywood cemetery Hollywood Cemetery Falmouth Cemetery, stafford county Fredericksburg Masonic Cemetery Hollywood Cemetery Infant and child gravesites Arlington National Cemetery Military Monuments provided by the armed forces are uniform in size, color, andStyle 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 deceaseds service Rank or posting, or may indicate a family connection to the military.Oakwood Cemetery, Martinsville Hollywood Cemetery Hollywood Cemetery 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 Mourning Broken flowers : the tragedy of a life ended.broken branch with a small bud : the loss Of a childas 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 Mourning Funerary figures depicting Grief or mourning are almost Universally female St. Johns Church cemetery Fredericksburg All others Hollywood Cemetery PlantsMany of the plants used for funerary purposes haveHeld sacred or symbolic importance for thousands ofyears, 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 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 Memento mori Latin phrase meaning remember that You must die very popular from the Civil war through the end of theVictorian period.The weeping willow is a common form,Often pictured with other symbols Of death and mourning, includingUrns, shattered columns, and broken Flowers. Falmouth cemetery, stafford county Fredericksburg masonic cemetery Hollywood cemetery Fredericksburg masonic cemetery Blandford cemetery, petersburg Memento mori Perhaps the most recognizable memento mori is the human skull, often withCrossed thighbones --- a stark reminder of the reality of death andDecomposition.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 thismatter-of-fact icon.During the 19 thcentury, The human skull motif evolved into gentler images associetys view of death and dying became romanticized. Aquia church cemetery, stafford Aquia church cemetery, stafford Historic jamestown 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, sextons hardware: The physical reality of death and Burial. Urn:representative of the remains. May Be draped with cloth or with a garland. Hollywood Cemetery Thank you And thanks to edward gorey for the fab drawing