December 5, 2019

Stories in Stone

 

 

Take a walk through a cemetery and you’ll see rows and rows of grave markers with the names of the deceased along with the usual listing of the dates of their birth and death. But if you look a little closer those grave markers tell a much greater story than first meets the eye. Symbols tell the story of the deceased’s life and of their hope for the afterlife.

Symbols have been a part of grave markers for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all used symbolism on their grave markers to honor or recognize the dead. That tradition carried on through the Middle Ages with the graves of the wealthy and noble most commonly adorned with elaborate, carved grave markers. It wasn’t until the 16th century that the grave of the common man began to be marked with a permanent grave marker. The first grave markers bore symbols of death such as skulls, skeletons, scythes and a spent hourglass. However, it wasn’t until the 19th century, particularly the Victorian Era, that symbolism on grave markers became elaborate and lavish.

 

 

The cemeteries in and around Delphos all were organized in the middle of the 19th century and display many of the symbols common to the Victorian era and beyond. Take a leisurely walk through a cemetery and you can find many of the following symbols:

Hand pointing up: hand pointing up to Heaven

Hand pointing down: the hand of God descending from Heaven

Dog: loyalty or watchfulness or honoring a favored pet

Angel: a guide to Heaven

Draped Cloth: mourning

Gate: passage from Earth to Heaven

Lamb: often found on the graves of children

Oak Leaf: longevity

Skull: death and mortality

Square and Compass: symbol of the Masons

Tree or Stump: a life cut short

Willow Tree: sadness or mourning

Woman holding anchor: represents hope

Dove: peace

A number of Fraternal or military insignias can be found in each cemetery, as well.

There are many, many more symbols or insignias that can be found on grave markers in a cemetery. To learn more, visit your local library or search online.

 

All photos of grave markers are from Delphos cemeteries unless noted.

 

To see some incredibly beautiful and very unique grave markers, visit this site: http://www.pinterest.com/Mysendoff/famous-unique-grave-stones/

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