Gravestone symbols

•What can you learn from a tombstone?

•Early tombstones were often flat, either upright on a block or in ground, plain rectangles for with a rounded top.

•There might be a date of birth and/or the age at the time of death. There might be further information about relationships within the family.


Hands are another frequently seen symbols that can have different meanings depending on their position. Two hands in prayer symbolize devotion. One hand may symbolize the hand of God.

One hand with one finger pointing up symbolizing the reward of the righteous or confirmation of life after death is seen quite frequently.

Clasped hands are another popular symbol. If the cuffs match it is a handshake of farewell to earthly existence . If the cuffs are male and female it indicates hands clasped in death as in life or eternal devotion.


Angels symbolize rebirth or a messenger of God, a guardian. They may be flying, young or sorrowful looking. They are seen on children’s and adult’s graves including very old stones and modern ones.




The cross symbolizes salvation. The Christian cross has one cross bar while the Eastern Orthodox has three, two straight and one at an angle. Celtic crosses have multiple carvings. Crosses may be combined with other symbols as is the one in our cemetery.

Celtic crosses headstone


Usually an open Bible, is a symbol of wisdom and also can be book shape headstone or book shape Memorial Plaque



Trees and Plants

•Flowers symbolize the brevity of life and sorrow. Certain flowers symbolize emotions. Lilies are a symbol of resurrection or purity. Roses indicate condolence or sorrow. Poppies are symbolic of sleep and therefore death.

•An ivy vine symbolizes abiding memory and friendship.

•The laurel branch symbolizes victory or glory.

Tree trunks with their cut-off limbs symbolize being cut off in the prime of life. There are very realistic stones with added carved symbols.




•The lamb symbolizes innocence, meekness and sacrifice and is used on children’s tombstones.

•Birds symbolize the soul. A flying bird symbolizes the flight of the soul back to God.

•Some people include a statue or carving of a favorite pet or some other animal they care about.

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