Cemetery Iconography and Symbolism

For ages and ages, societies have used symbolism and iconography to decorate the final resting places of ancestors.  American gravestones have inherited ideas from Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Jews, Christians and other cultures.  With the arrival of fraternal organizations such as Freemasons, Rosicrucians, Order of Eagles, Templars, Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythais, Woodmen of the World and many more, additional secret icons and symbols of these groups appear on headstones, tombs and mausoleums.  There is no end to the beauty and craftsmanship of these memorials.  Numerous books have been written covering thousands of symbols from the commonplace (cross, angel) to the obscure (dragonfly, dice).  What follows are what we consider the symbols and icons that one is most likely to discover on a walk through a cemetery.

All Seeing Eye — God

Alpha and Omega — Beginning and End

Anchor - Glenwood

Anchor — Hope

Angel — Guardian/Messenger of God

Book - GlenwoodBook — Holy Bible

Broken Column — Life cut short

Calla Lilly - Glenwood

Cally Lily — Majestic beauty, marriage

Cherubim - GlenwoodCherubim — Guardians of children’s graves

Clasped Hands — Farewell, Bond of Marriage

Closed Book - Glenwood

Closed Book — Completed Life

Cross -GlenwoodCross — Emblem of faith, Resurrection

Cross & Crown -GlenwoodCrown & Cross — Sovereignty of God

Crown — Victory over death, Leadership

Doors or Gates — Entrance to Heaven

Dove — Holy Ghost, Soul, Purity, Peace

Dove with Olive Branch — Soul on way to Heaven

Draped Column -GlenwoodDraped Urn or Column — Veil between Earth and Heaven

Fern — Sincerity, Humility, Frankness

Festooned Garland - Forest Park LawndaleFestooned Garland — Victory over Death

Flame - Forest Park Lawndale

Flame — Soul Departing

Freemason - GlenwoodFreemasons — G within a compass

Griffin - Holy CrossGriffin — Dual nature of Christ

Hand Pointing Down — Hand of God

Hand Pointing to HeavenHand Pointing Up — Soul has risen to Heaven

Harp -HollywoodHarp — Source of Divine Music

Heart -Forest Park LawndleHeart — Deep felt emotions

Lamb — Innocence, Baby, Child

Lily of Valley — Innocence, Purity

Morning Glory — Resurrection

Oak Leaves — Strength, Endurance, Eternity

Odd Fellows Organization — Three link chain

Olive Branch — Peace

Our Lady of Guadalupe -HollywoodOur Lady of Guadalupe — Patron Saint of Mexico

Palm Frond - Forest Park LawndalePalm frond — Victory

Praying Hands -GlenwoodPraying Hands — Asking for Eternal Life

RoseRose — Martyrdom

Skull — Death

Weeping Willow - GlenwoodWeeping Willow — Sorrow

Wheat — Divine Harvest, Time

Woodmen of the World - HollywoodWoodmen of the World — Dum Tacet Clamat — “Though Silent, He Speaks”

Wreath - GlenwoodWreath — Victory in Death





One thought on “Cemetery Iconography and Symbolism

  1. Pingback: Anchored in Death | Words on Stone

Leave a Reply