Carvings and Symbolism
Symbols and meanings
The meaning of a symbol is whatever two or more people agree it to be. Therefore there can be many interpretations of even the most popular grave symbols. The Victorians made great use of symbolism on gravestones and here we present some interpretations. When walking in the Cemetery Park, look out for these, and many more!
A symbol of reunion after death, clasped hands were a very popular design on Victorian graves. The person who died first (in this case the hand on the right) helps pull the other to the afterlife. In early examples, sexes were ambiguous but here you can clearly see the smaller female hand with frilly shirt (left), being held by the larger, cuff-linked male hand (right).
Flight of angels
In this carving, four flying angels are carrying a body to the afterlife. The ‘sleeping’ mortal’s head is between the two angels’ heads on the right.
A broken bud or stem represents premature death, usually of a younger person. In this example you can clearly see the severed bud. These flowers are also upturned to represent life extinct.
Urn with drape
These carved urns usually have a drape half covering them through which the spirit can escape. The drape represents mourning and the soul.
Broken columns are another representation of life cut short.
This one has a wreath around it. Wreaths have no beginning and no end, which represents eternal life.
Crown with sunburst
The crown represents victory over death and the sunburst is an ancient pagan symbol, here meaning life everlasting.
This carving contains several images. The lamb usually represents a child and innocence. In addition to the grieving widow, the willow also represents sorrow. There is also an anchor on the tomb.
The three tiers represent faith, hope and charity, the three theological virtues. There is usually a Christian cross above the three tiers.
Upside down bird
An upturned image on a monument symbolises death. You can often see upturned torches still flaming symbolising eternal life. Peace, messenger of God, this bird represents eternal life of the ‘winged soul’. These birds were usually doves.