Symbolism

The practice of marking graves has been around for thousands of years, with stones and boulders being placed on graves to protect the remains of the deceased from wild animals and also, as the superstitious believed, to prevent the dead from rising.

Graves were normally situated around the family home but eventually the idea of a cemetery evolved with the Church recognising burial as a valuable source of income. By the 19th century, due to the increase in the population and the first cholera epidemic, public health issues were brought to the forefront and overcrowded churchyards became a menace. Overcrowding was such that in some cases corpses were buried only two feet below the surface. Cemetery building increased but these were privately owned and financed by shareholders and there was increased public dissatisfaction. A second cholera epidemic in the late 1840's forced the government to act and in the 1850's a series of burial acts were passed which eventually established a system of public cemeteries.

Along with the development of the public cemetery, the Victorian era saw the birth of elaborate memorials and gravestones carved with symbolic images, some of a religious nature and some personal to the deceased. The images were easily understood in an age when literacy was limited. To the family historian, the inscription and symbolism contained on the gravestone is invaluable to their research, building up a more detailed picture of their ancestor, as well as an expression of love and remembrance.

The craftsmanship and attention to detail of the stonemason is impressive and inspired MGCTP team member, Spatts, to collect a series of photographic examples of these symbolic images which we have interpreted in this gallery.

Quote from Bible

Quote from Bible

Illustration of Quote

Draped Urn

Draped Urn

Mourning, Older Person, Life Extinguished

Wings

Wings

Soul in Flight

Coffin, Palm Leaf

Coffin, Palm Leaf

Mortality, Victory of Death, Resurrection

Wheat

Wheat

Honest, Long & Productive Life

Bible Scene

Bible Scene

John C4, V1-26

Angel

Angel

Guide to Heaven, Messenger

Eagle

Eagle

St John then Evangelist, Fierceness

Broken Lily

Broken Lily

Innocence, Untimely Death

Tree & Urn

Tree & Urn

Life, Mortality

Square & Compass

Square & Compass

Masonic Symbol, Freemason

Ivy

Ivy

Friendship

Rose & Flowers

Rose & Flowers

Earthly existence, Death, Resurrection, Purity

Morning Glory

Morning Glory

Resurrection, Beauty, Youth & Love

Scroll

Scroll

Scriptures, or the Law

Rose

Rose

Earthly existence, Beauty

Anchor

Anchor

Hope, Life Eternal, Mariner

Daisy

Daisy

Innocence, often on grave of child

Broken Flower

Broken Flower

Premature Death, Younger Person

Easter Lily

Easter Lily

Resurrection, Purity, Innocence

Grapevine

Grapevine

Symbolic blood of Christ

IHS Monogram

IHS Monogram

Latin, Jesus Saviour of Life

Dove Descending

Dove Descending

Holy Ghost

Harp broken String

Harp broken String

Representing a of break in mortal life

Lily of the Valley

Lily of the Valley

Purity, Innocence, Virginity

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