Cemetery Art


Birds–eternal life, resurrection
Butterfly–short life
Deer- Hart (stag) - represented either faithfulness, thirsting for God
Dog–good master worthy of love
Dolphin - portrays resurrection
Dove–innocence, peace
Dragon - being defeated by St. George depicts triumph over sin
Eagle - courage and possibly a military career
Fish - indicates faith, Christianity
Horse - Death. White horses represent good, while black horses represent evil.
Hummingbird - Often found on infants' gravestones. Usually just decorative.
Lamb–innocence, usually a child’s grave
Lion–courage, eternal guarding
Owl - suggests wisdom
Ox - Patience, strength.
Peacock - symbolized the incorruptibility of flesh, resurrection, beauty of soul, immortality
Phoenix - symbolized the incorruptibility of flesh, resurrection, beauty of soul, immortality
Rabbit - Humility, gentleness, self-sacrifice.
Rooster–awakening, resurrection
Serpent- shown swallowing its own tail it represents Eternity.
Squirrel with a nut - religious meditation or spiritual striving.
Winged Lion - Represents Saint Mark, one of the four evangelists.
Winged Ox - Represents Saint Luke, one of the four evangelists.
Hands and Body
Arms outstretched - the plea for mercy
Eye of God/All-Seeing Eye - symbolizes the all-knowing and ever-present God. The eye within the triangle, surrounded by a circle and radiating rays of light is used to symbolize the holiness of the true God.
Eye - Usually found in a triangle or within a sunburst. This is a masonic symbol.
Hands, blessing – blessing for those left behind
Hands, clasped – farewells or the bond of marriage
Hand, pointing upward – pathway to heaven
Hands, praying – asking God for eternal life
Handshake - symbol on a tombstone usually signifies a welcome into the heavenly world.--symbol of matrimony on the grave marker of a married couple.
Hand writing - Writing names in the book of life. Can also be found on writers' graves.
Heart Pierced by Sword - Virgin Mary, Christ, repentance
Heart Wrapped in Thorns - Promise of heavenly assistance
Heart, Flaming - Religious fervor
Joined hearts–marriage
Skeleton - Life's brevity
Skull, skeleton - Mortality, death
Skull, crossed bones–death
Winged face - Effigy of the soul of the deceased
Winged skull - Flight of the soul from mortal man
Anchor, sextant, or cross staff – Mariner---Christians as a symbol of hope and steadfastness.
Axe, steel knife, or cleaver – Butcher
Bible – Minister
Bowl and razor – Barber
Compasses – Shipwright
Coulter (hoe), flail, Swingletree (rod for beating flax), Stalk of corn - Farmer
Crossed swords – Military, high rank
Crown, hammer, anvil – Blacksmith
Leather cutter’s knife, nippers, or awl – Shoemaker
Loom, shuttle, or stretchers – Weaver
Mortar and Pestle - Usually found on the gravestones of pharmacists, and sometimes doctors
Music - Usually found on the graves of musicians. The music can be from a song the musician wrote, or it could be the deceased person's favorite hymn.
Open book–teacher -- Can represent many different things, including the book of life, often represented as the Bible.
Palette and Brushes - Usually found on artists' gravestones.
Rake and spade – Gardener
Ship - Seafarer
Scales – Merchant
Wedge and level – Mason
Wheel – Wheelwright
Acacia - immortality of soul
Acanthus - heavenly garden
Bamboo - the emblem of Buddha, symbolic of devotion and truthfulness.
Broken flower - a life terminated, mortality.
Buttercup - cheerfulness.
Calla lily - symbolizes marriage or resurrection.
Century Plant - Represents immortality; everlasting life.
Cinquefoil - maternal affection, beloved daughter
Corn - Rebirth, fertility.
Crocus - youthful gladness
Daffodil - death of youth, desire, art, grace, beauty, deep regard.
Daisy - innocence of child
Fern - sincerity, sorrow
Figs, Pineapples - Prosperity, eternal life
Fleur-de-lis - flame, passion, ardor, mother
Flower - Frailty of life.
Forget-me-not - remembrance
Ivy - memory, immortality, friendship, fidelity, faithfulness, undying affection, eternal life.
Grapes - represent Christ
Grapes and Leaves - Christian faith.
Hawthorn - hope, merriness, springtime
Holly - foresight
Honeysuckle - bonds of love, generosity and devoted affection
Lalla - beauty, marriage
Laurel Leaves - Special achievement, distinction, success, triumph
Lily - majesty, innocence, purity, and resurrection. Often associated with the Virgin Mary and resurrection. Often used on women's graves. The use of lilies at funerals symbolizes the restored innocence of the soul at death.
Lotus Symbolizes creation and rebirth. Often seen on gravestones and mausoleums with an Egyptian architecture style.
Morning glory - resurrection, mourning, youth, farewell, brevity of life, departure, mortality
Mystic rose - Mother
Moss - merit
Mulberry - I will not survive you
Passion flower - the elements of the passion of Christ: the lacy crown—the crown of thorns; the five stamens—the five wounds; the 10 petals—the 10 faithful Apostles
Pineapple - hospitality, good host
Pansy - symbolizes remembrance and humility.
Poppy - peace, rest, sleep, eternal sleep, consolation
Rose - love, beauty, hope, unfailing love, associated with the Virgin Mary, the "rose without thorns“. Red rose symbolizes martyrdom while a white rose symbolizes purity and virginity.
A bud symbolizes - normally a child 12 or under
Partial bloom - normally a teenager
Full bloom - normally in early/mid twenties. The deceased died in the prime of life
Rosebud, broken - life cut short
Rosebuds, joining - strong bond between two people, a husband and wife who died at the same time, parent and child.
Rosebuds, several on same branch - secrecy
Rosette - the Lord, messianic hope, promise, love.
Wreath of Rose - Beauty and virtue rewarded
Shamrock - Ireland as country of origin
Thistle - earthly sorrow, Christ's crown of thorns, Scotland as country of origin.
Vine - The sacraments, God's blood, God
Wheat - resurrection, bread and wine (Christian), fertility
Bushel - body of Christ
sheaves - The divine harvest, Often represents the aged.
Wreath or Garland - (Laurel) victory of the redemption, saintliness, glory, victory in death
Angels–spirituality and tomb guarding
Angel, flying or trumpeting–rebirth, resurrection
Cherub–angelic innocence
Crown–glory of life after death
Cross–faith (There are many different types of crosses, and each may mean something different.)
Heart (sacred)–suffering of Christ
Star of David–Judaism
Harp, lyre - Praise to the God.
Holy books (1)–Christianity
Rod or Staff - Comfort for the bereaved
Tree stands for life.
Tree Sprouting stands for life everlasting.
Tree Trunk stands for the brevity of life.
Stones shaped liked Tree Stumps usually signify that the deceased was a member of The Woodmen of the World
Cypress tree - designates hope
Dead leaves - sadness, melancholy
Dogwood - Christianity, divine sacrifice, triumph of eternal life, resurrection.
Fallen Tree - Mortality, Death.
Oak tree - hospitality, stability, strength, honor, eternity, endurance, liberty. Often seen on military tombs.
Olive branch - Mostly depicted in the mouth of a dove, symbolizes peace - that the soul has departed in the peace of God.
Palm - spiritual victory, success, eternal peace,
Pine - fertility, regeneration, fidelity
Weeping Willow Tree - Perpetual Mourning; Grief.
Willows - Earthly Sorrow
Yew tree - sadness, eternal life
3 Books - Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants
3 Rings - the Odd fellows, friendship, love and truth
Apple - Apples represent salvation, sometimes sin.
Arch - Victory of life; or victory in death.
Arrow - Denotes mortality
Artillery - Artillery, such as cannons, on a gravestone usually represents military service
Beehive - Often used by the Freemasons. It symbolizes faith, education, and domestic virtues
Bell - Often symbolizes a church bell, and therefore religion.
Blowing a trumpets - Representing the day of judgment, and call to the Resurrection
Books stacked - Educated- scholarly
Broken column – Loss of family head or someone who died young or in the prime of life, before
reaching old age.
Broken Chain Link - Symbolizes a loss in the family.
Broken Wheel - Symbolizes the end of life; a break in the circle or wheel of life.
Broken ring – Severed family circle
Candle being snuffed – Loss of life
Cannon - Military service
Coffin – Mortality
Clock Mortality, death; the passage of time.
Closed book- Completed life
Clouds - Awakening to resurrection
Columns, with archway - Heavenly entrance
Cross and Anchor - Christian symbol referring to Christ as "hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sincere and steadfast" (Hebrews 6:19).
Crown and Cross - Symbolizes both victory and Christianity. Also, this symbol sometimes denotes a member of the York Rite Masons.
Doors and gates - Passage into the afterlife. Heavenly entrance
Drapery over anything - Sorrow, mourning
Eagle, Double-headed A Masonic symbol, symbolizing a 32nd degree Mason.
Figure with dart – Mortality
Flame, light, lamp, torch, candle – Immortality of the spirit, resurrection
Grapes - Blood of Christ.
Grim reaper – Death personified
Hammer - A hammer symbolizes the power of creation. It can also represent the person's profession.
Harp - A harp symbolizes praise to God. They are often carved with a broken string, representing a break in mortal life.
Horns – Resurrection
Horseshoe - Protection against evil
Hourglass – Time has run out
Hourglass, Flying - Time flies
Inverted torch - Extinction of life, death.
Keys - Cemetery keys stand for spiritual knowledge or, if held in the hands of an angel or saint, the means to enter heaven.
Knot - A tied knot symbolizes marriage and unity.
Menorah - A menorah, which is a candelabra with seven branches, is a Jewish symbol. It usually marks the grave of a righteous woman.
Moon - Rebirth. A crescent moon and star symbol like the one pictured here is also a symbol of Islam.
Obelisk - is a tall, narrow, four-sided, tapering monument which ends in a pyramid-like shape at the top. Symbol for the Egyptian god, Re, who held the power to recreate, hence, God, lord over all, creator.
Open book- Book of life
Plow - A plow symbolizes the harvest; the reaping of life.
Rifle - Usually found on the graves of military members and hunter
Rosary - Almost always found on Catholic gravestones. Symbolizes devotion to Mary and constant prayer for the deceased person.
Scallop - A symbol of birth and resurrection, a traditional symbol of the Puritans.
Scarab - An Egyptian symbol of spontaneous creation. Also symbolizes the renewal of life.
Shell - Baptism or rebirth.
Shoes - Empty shoes symbolize the loss of a child. Usually one shoe is overturned.
Scroll - Symbol of life and time.
Scythe – Death cuts us down
Sickle - death as the "last harvest"
Sleeping Child - A sleeping child is a Victorian symbol for death.
Spade, crossed spade and shovel – Death
Star - Stars stand for the spirit, in their triumph against the odds of oblivion. Five pointed stars represent the spirit rising to heaven.
Stars and Stripes Around Eagle -- Eternal vigilance and liberty. Often seen on military markers.
Sphere- Soul waiting for resurrection
Sun - A sun symbolizes the soul rising to heaven.
Sword - Swords represent martyrdom. Crossed swords are often seen on the gravestones of veterans, especially officers.
Trumpeters – Harbingers of the resurrection
Urn with Flame - Undying remembrance
Soldier on Horse - A figure is seen on top a horse in memorial, there are the three meanings:
1. Two or more feet raised - death in battle.
2. One leg raised fully off the ground - death from wounds suffered in battle.
3. Standing square or at rest - death of natural causes.