Drummer's Gravesite Care
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Greensboro, MD 21639
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Common Monument Symbols

Common Symbols Found in 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th Century Burial Grounds and Monuments



A
Anchor - Christian symbol of hope, strong faith, steadfastness
Angels - Symbolic messengers between God and man
Alpha and Omega - The first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, symbolizing Jesus Christ, the beginning and the ending
Arrows - Darts, of death, mortality

B
Bible - Religious faith
Birds - The soul, flight of the soul
Bones/Crossed Bones - Death, mortality, finality
Book - An open book usually represents the Bible, faith: several books in a pile used most often to denote knowledge, academic life
Broken branch, Tree, Column, or Cross - A life cut short; death; mourning
Butterfly - Resurrection; rebirth; natural cycle of birth and death

C
Candle - Human life, spiritual life, time; the candle flame is often seen as the breath of life and when snuffed, the act of dying, death
Chalice - Christ
Chi Rho/Chrisma - XP, the first two letters of the Greek word XPICTOC, meaning Christ
Circle - Ne beginning, neo end; eternity; resurrection
Clock - Passage of time, mortality
Clouds - Divine abode; with hand emerging from clouds, the hand of God
Coffin - Symbol of death, mortality, finality
Compass and Square - Fraternal emblem of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons
Cross - Religious faith; resurrection
Cross with Crown - Sovereignty of the Lord; triumph over death; Christian faith; used in emblems of several fraternal orders
Crown - Triumph over death; the crown of immortality is the reward of faithful Christians; righteousness, resurrection

D
Death’s Head or Skull - Death, mortality
Dove - Holy Spirit, soul at peace
Drapery/Pall - Mourning; death; sorrow

E
Eagle - Christian symbol of resurrection; winged eagle = St. John the Evangelist (winged man = St. Matthew; winged lion = St. Mark; winged ox = St. Luke)
Egg/Dart - Symbolic of life (egg) and death (dart); rebirth; resurrection
Exedra - A seat or bench, often used as a memorial

F
Father Time - Personification of death, mortality; the grim reaper
Finger Pointing - “Gone home,” “until we meet again” (in heaven), “with Jesus,” “Jesus calls” “heavenly sleep,” - departed, no longer on earth
Flame - Life, breath
Flowers - Life, love, reward, cycle of life/death
Flyfot or Swastika - An ancient form of the cross; life, good fortune
Frieze Panel - Sculpted or carved band of decoration, usually between the tympanum and the inscription tablet on 18th century gravestones
Fruit - Eternal plenty

G
Gates - Portals to the Promised Land; entry into the kingdom of heaven
Geometric Designs - Pinwheels, rosettes, or concentric circles disks were often used as artistic space fillers, often with little apparent symbolic intent
Gourd - Like the pomegranate, a symbol of life, renewal; with its many seeds gathered in a protective skin, the pomegranate is also sometimes compared to Christ’s church
Grapes, Grapevines - Christ, the spiritual sustenance of the church; the promise of abundance in the life

H
Handclasp - Parting, farewell; friendship/brotherhood; fraternal bond
Harp/Lyre - Heavenly music; music; the arts in general
Heart - Life; love
Horn/Trumpet - The voice of god; call to the Last Judgment
Hourglass - Death, the end of time on earth (and when
Hourglass Turned Over - Symbol of rebirth, the new beginning, resurrection
Hourglass Winged - Message on man’s fleeting time on earth, the uncertainty of our mortal future; also a symbol of temperance

I
IHC - From IHCOYC, the Greek word Jesus
IHS - The Latin derivation of the Greek monogram IHC; the Latin letters stand for Jesus Hominum Salvator, Jesus the Savior of Men
INRI - Latin, “lesus Nazarenus Rex Ludaeorum” or “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”
Ivy - Friendship; love; constancy/undying affection; immortality; remembrance

L
Lamb - Innocence of a child; a Lamb of God; when combined with a lion, the lamb is a symbol of Judaism
Lily - Purity, innocence, love, the Archangel Gabriel is often depicted holding a lily; marriage
Lily of the Valley - The Advent of Christ; reawakening; purity and humility
Lotus/Water Lily - Source of life; birth/rebirth

M
Moon - Rebirth, afterlife; sun, moon and stars are seen together as heavenly bodies
Morning Glory - Symbolic of youth, bonds of love; associated with the death of a child

O
Oak - Strength, steadfastness, honor; strong faith; often seen on the grave markers of men

P
Pall - Cloth draped or cover carried over the coffin
Palm - Spiritual victory; heavenly reward; eternal peace
Passion Flower (depicted with three nail-like stamen) - Christ; death and redemption through Christ
Peacock - Resurrection
Pelican - Sacrifice, redemption through Christ
Pick, Shovel, Spade, Coffin, Pall - Symbols of death, burial, and man’s mortality
Pomegranate - Renewal; symbol of Christian church
Poppy - Death; eternal sleep
Portal, Arch, Doorway - Transition from one place to another, entry to another world, heaven
Pulpit - On gravestones of ministers, preachers

Q
Quatrefoil - Most common on Gothic architecture and may symbolize the Four Evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John

R
Rising/Setting Sun - Death, resurrection
Rose - Love that transcends death, reverence toward the dead
Rooster - Ushers in the new day; victory over darkness, rebirth, resurrection; repentance

S
Scroll - Decorative way of presenting inscription or Bible reference
Scythe - Used to cut down or reap; tool of the grim reaper, death
Shell - A journey, particularly a pilgrim’s journey (St. James); Christian’s faith
Skeleton - Symbol of death, reminder that all must die
Skull - Symbol of death, mortality
Snake - The snake is often associated with death, but a snake with its tail in its mouth (uroborus) is a symbol of eternity
Star - Divine guidance; birth/death
Star of David - Jewish symbol of divine protection
Sun - Life, life cycle; sun; moon and stars are seen tighter as heavenly bodies
Sward - Military involvement; also as part of coat of arms

T
Tipped Basket – End of life
Thistle – Emblem of Scotland, Scottish heritage
Torch – Life Torch
Turned Down - Represents the extinguishing of life, death
Tree, Tree Benches – Life
Tree Truck – A life that has been cut off
Trefoil – Symbol of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) surrounded by the Circle of Eternity
Tulip – Life

U
Urn - Classical symbol associated with death; draped urn is traditional symbol of sorrow, morning

V
Vine - Symbolic of Christian faith, the Church; Christ and his followers (“I am the vine; ye are the branches...”)

W
Wheat - Productivity, bounty, gathered wheat represents harvesting and is seen most often on the grave markers of productive, mature men of faith
Weeping Willow - Morning, grief, sorrow
Wreath - Victory, honor, eternal love
Winged Sun Disk - Egyptian symbol of divine protection; blessing

Source: The Association for Gravestone Studies


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