It is easy to assume that the symbol of a ship on a gravestone identifies the deceased as a sailor, or that he was involved in the seafaring profession, and indeed this is true in many cases. Yet, this symbol can also be found on the graves of people who died at sea.
The ship may also represent Noah’s Ark, a ship guided by the Lord, that weathered the storm against overwhelming odds.
As an ancient Christian symbol the ship was used during times when Christians needed to disguise the cross in the form of the ship’s mast.
A ship is the symbol of a posthumous voyage where the world of the dead lies across a water barrier. Sailing into the wind, the ship safely carries the soul into the afterlife.
A full rigged sailing ship with sails open to the wind signifies, ‘Homeward Bound’, carrying the souls of the dead to Heaven.
Here we lie in a horizontal position
Like a ship laid up
Stripped of her sails and rigging.
Lo! Lost remembrance drops a pious tear
And holy friendship stands a mourner here.
Home is the sailor
Home from the sea.
When soon or late we reach that coast
O’er life’s rough ocean driven
May we rejoice no wonder or lost
Our family in heaven 1876
When the shore is won at last
Who will count the billows past.
Where tempests cease and surges swell no more.