Memorials & Monuments
Gravestone Iconology
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"Death for
Beginners"
by
Karen Jones
The
Memorial
Source

(TFS Memorial
& Gift Shop)












Flowers, Gifts,
Baskets
Grave
Symbols
Religious
Symbols
Organization
Icons
Military
Symbols
.
Marker Iconology
Religious Icons
Religious Symbols
Icons Related to Occupation or Civic Organizations
Organizational Icons
Grave Symbols
Willow or the Weeping Willow,
represents sorrow, mourning, and
lamentation. Often with an urn.
Hands- The are often
displayed in a variety of
ways, such as praying.
They are associated with
"farewell".
Menorah- One of the
traditional symbols on a
Jewish grave stone.
Caduceus- Often on the
markers of doctors or others
in the health care field. Not
to be confused with the Rod
of Asclepius, which is one
snake around the staff.

In Roman iconography it
was often depicted being
carried in the left hand of
Mercury, the messenger of
the gods, guide of the dead.
Star of David- Found on
Jewish tomb stones. The six
pointed star or "Mogen
David" has only been used
since the late 1800's.
Icons & Symbols on Military Graves
Military Symbols
U.S. Korean War
Veteran-
Grave Decoration
for Veterans of the Korean
War
Lamb- the lamb of God,
symbolizing purity and
innocence. Most often found
on the marker of a child.
Also references Jesus as "the
lamb of God".
Organization Symbol-
Alpha and Omega
Palm- Rejoicing and Victory
over death and  preparing the
way for Christ.
Unit Designation- It is not
uncommon for military
members to put the military
unit on their grave stone.
Christian Cross- Cross for
Christians with a government
issued tomb stone.
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Hands- (Clasping) Represent
grasping at the final goodbye,
especially for married couples
when one is left behind.
Tree- (Stump) Often for a
life cut short or ending
suddenly.
Hourglass- Symbolizes how
quickly time flies, mortality.
Sometimes you will find
them with wings.
Skulls- (Winged) Represents
soaring into the afterlife.
Popular especially in the
17th & 18th centuries
Roses- Triumph,
pride and love.  
Rose blooms
symbolize the age
of a woman at
death. A snapped
rose or rose bud
symbolizes an
early end.
Doves- Symbolize peace,
love and purity. Also the
resurrection and the holy
spirit. It is often found on
the marker of women who
died young or a child. It is
sometimes shown ascending
to heaven. Lying dead
represents a sudden ending.
Torch- Represents
immortality, truth, wisdom,
purification. A soul still
burning in the afterlife. Also
found inverted meaning a life
extinguished.
Gates- Symbolizes the soul
entering the  gateway into
heaven.
Urns- (Draped)
Symbolizes immortality,
pentinence, return of
the body to dust. The
separation of life and
death with the shroud
offering protection for
the deceased. Common
in Victorian grave
markers.
Wheat- Symbolizes old
age, a fruitful, long life
harvested by the reaper.
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Books- Represents the
bible, the book of life or
love of books. An open
book often shows an open
heart to God.
.
Lotus- Represents
resurrection, purity, and
sleep. Spiritual revelation.
Bugles- Represent the
resurrection or military
Bibles- Symbolize
knowledge. Often times
members of the clergy
Lions- Personify courage,
strength, and bravery. The
symbol of St. Mark.
Balls or Orbs- Represent
faith
Arrows- Symbolize
mortality
Lilies- Represent purity
and innocence. Sometimes
chastity.
Laurel- Symbolizes
triumph, victory, and fame.
Angels- Represent
resurrection, rebirth,
wisdom, protection,
judgement, and mercy
Anchors- Personify hope.
Sometimes Naval or
maritime service. An early
Christian symbol.
Memento Mori-
Symbolized by the carved
inscription "Remember
Death" in Latin. Mortality
reminder.
Celtic Cross- Symbolizes
eternity and faith, often
Irish heritage
Cannons- Represent
military service, often
times artillery members.
Butterflies- Symbolize an
early death.
Mistletoe- Represents
immortality.
Naked Figure- personifies
truth, innocence, and
purity.
Myrtle- Represents peace
and undying love.
Chain (3 links)-
Represents faith, and the
Trinity. Also the emblem
for IOOF.
Morning Glories-
Represent the beginning of
life.
Obelisks- Symbolize
rebirth, the connection
between heaven and earth.
They are four sided
columns with a pyramid
on top, sometimes a cross.
Cherubs- Symbolize
innocence, often the grave
of a child.
Chairs- Represent an
early death, often that of a
child especially small
chairs.
Oak Leaves & Acorns-
Symbolize maturity and
old age.
Columns (broken)-
Represent the head of the
family, grief or early death.
Olive Branches-
Represent peace,  
forgiveness, and humanity.
Coffins- Symbolize
mortality and mourning.
Columns- Personify a
noble life.
Pansies- Symbolize
remembrance, and
meditation.
Corn- Represents old age.
Owls- Symbolize solitude
and wisdom. Sometimes
impending death.
Compass & Square-
Symbolize judgement and
uprightness. Usually
members of the Masons
Crowns- Represent glory
of life after death.
Sometimes used by
members of the Masons
Crosses- Represent the
resurrection and the
Christian faith.
Poppies- Represent
eternal sleep and
remembrance.
Pyramids- Personify
eternal life, resurrection,
and spiritual enlightenment.
Swords (sheathed)-
Represent temperance and
military service.
Chalices & Cups-
Symbolize the sacrament.
Rings, (broken)-
Represent a broken family.
Dolphins- Symbolize
Salvation and the
resurrection. Bearer of
souls to the water across
heaven.
Winged Faces- Symbolize
the soul in flight. Often an
effigy of the deceased.
Stars- Represent divine
guidance.
Eyes- Symbolize humility.
Sometimes members of
the Masons.
Eagles- Represent faith,
courage, generosity, and
contemplation. Often times
members of the military
Thistle- Symbolizes
sorrow and defiance.
Often Scottish heritage.
Fingers (pointing up)-
Represent the pathway to
heaven.
Female Figures-
Personify grief and sorrow.
Swords- Symbolize
military service. Often
times for members of
infantry.
Flying Birds- Symbolize
rebirth.
Fish- Represent the gospel
symbol, faith, life, and
spiritual nourishment.
Sometimes military
members.
Wreaths- Represent
victory.
Guns- Symbolize military
service.
Garland- Symbolized
victory over death.
Triangles- Symbolize the
holy trinity.
Harps- Represent hope,
sometimes have broken
strings.
Ivy- Represents eternal
life, friendship and fidelity.
Swords (crossed)-
Symbolize, life lost in
battle.
Hats- Represent Civil War
Veterans.
DAR- Represent
Daughters of the American
Revolution.
GAR- Represent the
Grand Army of the
Republic. Veterans of the
Civil War.
Bugles- Represent the
resurrection or military
Anchors- Personify hope.
Sometimes Naval or maritime
service.
Cannons- Represent military
service, often times artillery
members.
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Chain (3 links)- Represents
faith, and the Trinity. The
emblem for IOOF.
Compass & Square-
Symbolize judgement and
uprightness. Usually members
of the Masons
Shields- Represent military
service.
Skulls- (Crossed bones)
Symbolize mortality,
penitence.
Swords (inverted)-
Represents victory,
relinquishing of power.
Also military service.
Rifles- Represent military
service.
Helmets- Symbolize,
strength and protection.
Military service.
Tree- (trunk) Shortness of
life. Branches may indicate
buried family members.
Often woodsmen.