SKULLS

A frequent feature on gravestones, the skull is a symbol of death, mortality, penitence, and sin. It appears in several formats.

SKULL & CROSSED BONES
Symbolic of crucifixion, death, and mortality.
The fear which this ancient symbol of death inspires led pirates to adopt it as an emblem upon their black flags and chemists to use it to denote poison. The combination when it appears on tombstones means, “He  is dead.”

Greyfriars Cemetery, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland
Greyfriars Cemetery, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland

See yonder flower that scents the air
How sweet it blooms
How swift it fades!
Just such is man in youth how fair
How chang’d his form when death invades!
Yet fades the flower to bloom again
And we shall rise with Christ to reign.

St. Nicholas, Dalkeith, Midlothian, Scotland
St. Nicholas, Dalkeith, Midlothian, Scotland

As measured notes of set music we pass in fast or slow marches to the grave.

St. Nicholas, Dalkeith, Midlothian, Scotland
St. Nicholas, Dalkeith, Midlothian, Scotland

Gently this spot in solemn silence tread
Let none disturb the relics of these dead
Their souls have waft themselves to God on high
But here all round this stone their bodies lie.

Greyfriars Cemetery, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland
Greyfriars Cemetery, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland

In my Father’s house are many mansions.

It is interesting to note that this skull is accompanied with only one bone. Curious and puzzling.

Athelstaneford Parish Churchyard, East Lothian,  Scotland
Athelstaneford Parish Churchyard, East Lothian, Scotland

Lo!  Lost remembrance drops a pious tear
And holy friendship stands a mourner here.

This sculptured panel contains only the crossbones, and they are intersected with workman’s tools; a pick, a shovel, and a spade.

Greyfriars Cemetery, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland
Greyfriars Cemetery, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland

Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord
They rest from their labours and their works do follow them.

The skull represented here also displays crossed arrows and an hourglass, both of which symbolize mortality.

Lasswade Cemetery, Lasswade, Midlothian, Scotland
Lasswade Cemetery, Lasswade, Midlothian, Scotland

I am the Resurrection and the Life
He that believeth in me though he were dead yet shall he live.

The badly eroded stone displays a dove flying above a skull and represents the resurrection of the soul.

Campbellville
Campbellville Burying Ground, Campbellville, ON, Canada

SKULL, WINGED
A winged skull symbolizes the ascension into heaven, and the flight of the soul from mortal man.
Sometimes called death’s heads or winged death, it represents the fleeting nature of life and impending death. It was once a common motif on New England tombstones.

80% of the carvings on gravestones in Copps Hill Cemetery, Boston, bear the winged skull symbol.

Copps Hill, Boston, MA, USA
Copps Hill, Boston, MA, USA

Skull lyes

No flat ring marble rules the traveler here
The spot is sacred to affections dear
He was in life what artful men pretend
Companion, parent, neighbour, Christian, friend. 1802

Burial Hill, Plymouth, MA
Burial Hill, Plymouth, MA

Hail sweet repose not shall we rest
No more with sickness be distressed
Here from all sorrows find release
Our souls shall dwell in endless peace. 1789

King's Chapel Burying Ground, Boston, MA
King’s Chapel Burying Ground, Boston, MA

No longer was my  life
No longer was my breath
God called me home in early life
Because he thought it best. 1805

King's Chapel Burying Ground, Boston, MA
King’s Chapel Burying Ground, Boston, MA

Though far from home in distant land
My flesh returns to dust
In hopes to rise when Jesus calls
And dwell among the just. 1808

Old Burial Ground, Brewster, MA
Old Burial Ground, Brewster, MA

Life’s painful toils are over
Its pilgrimage is ended
And to a  purer happier shore
Her spirit hath ascended. 1808

 

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3 thoughts on “SKULLS”

  1. I’ve been hunting on the internet for information on that tombstone from Athelstaneford. I did learn that hour glasses that are laid on there side mean it’s someone who died young. Wonder if the single bone is something like that. The reason I’m looking for information is that the skull seems to be wearing spectacles. Have you ever run into anything like that before? The other blog is Jo’s Journal. http://tinyurl.com/pzxpgg6

    1. This sculpture does not represent spectacles although it certainly looks like eyeglasses. Not many Stone Masons had seen a skull and the image was created by running their fingers along the contours of their own skull. The ‘leg of the glasses’ is most likely the bone running from the eye socket to the ear.

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