The tree as a symbol of life; regeneration, regrowth and renewal also reflects human fruition or frailty. A common symbol on gravestones a tree can also represent man’s sin with reference to the Garden of Eden. It is also representative of knowledge, life, and time.
A sprouting tree represents a new beginning in the afterlife.
If a tree is felled it reflects death and mortality.
A severed or broken branch symbolizes a life cut short.
A tree trunk denotes the brevity of life, and the number of broken branches can indicate deceased family members buried at the site.
Sometimes the gravestone may be replaced with a ‘tree stone’ in the shape of a tree stump or log sculptured to resemble wood. This symbol is mostly used by the Woodsmen of the World Fraternity. When the trunk is leaning it represents mourning. Sometimes a tree stump will be shown with an ivy plant which often relates to a premature death but can also represent immortality.
Each species of tree has a symbolic meaning:
CEDAR TREE: Consecration; Length of days; Strong faith; Success
CYPRESS: Death; Eternal life; Hope; Mourning; Sorrow; Roman symbol for mourning
DOGWOOD: Christianity; Divine sacrifice; Resurrection; Triumph of eternal life
The sphinx is a mythical creature with the head of a human and the body of a lion, protector of the dead, it is historically connected to the pyramid, the ultimate in tombs.
There are two types of sphinx; most famously the Egyptian sphinx modeled after the Great Sphinx at Giza which represents a male. The head is dressed with a neme, the striped headcloth worn by pharaohs in ancient Egypt.
Occasionally a false beard is displayed. As beards were associated with the gods, Pharaohs wore false beards for ceremonies to express their importance and divine ranking.
In March 1865 Cambridge, Massachusetts, Dr. Jacob Bigelow proposed that the Mount Auburn Cemetery commission “a public monument in memory of the heroes who have fallen in the present war for the preservation of the Union.” When the trustees postponed making a decision he commissioned the Irish-born sculptor, Martin Milmore, to create a Sphinx to be cut from a single block of Hallowell granite, 15 feet long and about 8 feet high.
The Sphinx was chosen as it represented the strength of a lion and the beauty and benevolence of a woman. The inscription was composed by Dr. Bigelow “American Union Preserved; African Slavery Destroyed; By the Uprising of a Great People; By the Blood of Fallen Heroes.”
The Brunswig tomb in Metairie Cemetery, New Orleans, Louisiana was built to commemorate Lucien Napoleon Brunswig’s wife, Annie Mercer Brunswig and their son Lucien Mercer Brunswig (1882-1892) who died within a month of each other. His testament instructed his family to bury him inside the tomb with his wife and child. Brunswig is also interred with his two daughters, Henrietta Rosalie Brunswig (1879-1963), and Annie Brunswig Wellborn (1881-1982) and her husband.
In Greek tradition, the sphinx was in the form of a female who was often bare-breasted and is therefore associated with maternal love.
Many neo-Egyptian designs in modern cemeteries feature the Greek variety which is often portrayed with the wings of a bird.
Within the Hildburghausen Cemetery in Germany a winged Sphinx sits atop the headstone belonging to the 19th century Egyptologist, Doctor Friedrich Carl Ludwig Sickler.
A pyramid marks the Schoenhofen Tomb in the Graceland Cemetery, Chicago. The entry door with a snake coiled on the handle is flanked by a sphinx and an angel. It is the final resting place of Peter Schoenhofen, a Chicago brewer.
The Drake Mausoleum contains members of the family and extended relatives. Originally at Laurel Hill Cemetery it was moved to West Laurel Hill, Philadelphia where it is guarded by a winged Sphinx at each corner of the roof. Thomas Drake Martinez Cardeza and his mother Mrs. Charlotte Drake Martinez Cardeza were surviving passengers of the Titanic shipwreck in 1912. Charlotte was a rich philanthropist who donated millions of dollars to the poor.
Harold Lewis Bell Lasseter became famous in 1929 with a claim that he had discovered a vast, gold-bearing reef over fourteen miles long in the Outback of Central Australia. His claim led to a search expedition which left Alice Springs on 21st July 1930.
No maps showing the location of the reef were ever found, and the tale of the reef and its discoverer has become the most famous lost mine legend in Australia, and remains a “holy grail” among Australian prospectors. His daughter claims that he found the reef (after the expedition gave up) only to discover that it was in an area considered sacred by the blacks.
ADELAIDE, Friday.—A body, believed to be that of the prospector, Lance(sic) Harold Bell Lasseter, who died while searching for a fabulous reef of gold near the Petermann Ranges in the Northern Territory in 1931,has been recovered from a grave. The find was made by the Australian Television Enterprises Ltd. unit, led by producer Lee Robinson, several days ago. A local bushman, Mr. Bob Buck, who is believed to be now in Adelaide, claimed that in 1931 he went out to search for Lasseter’s body, which had been buried in a shallow grave by aborigines. He disinterred the body, removed the upper denture and reburied the body in a proper grave with a post and railing fence and returned to Alice Springs, where a death certificate for Lasseter was issued. A native boy named Mick, acted as guide to the television party. Mick said that as a boy of 14 he was with a group of natives which led a starving white man for 40 miles towards Nindevale Station. However, he died and the natives buried him in an oval-shaped grave, doubled up in the native fashion. Mick led the party to a dry creek bed and pointed to a spot where he said Lasseter had been buried. The spot which Mick pointed out was dug up and four charred posts were found. The next day a skeleton of a man with a missing upper denture was found, a little deeper. A doctor from Alice Springs examined the skeleton at the grave and declared it to be that of a white man about 5ft. 4in. tall and of similar build to Lasseter. Canberra Times (ACT), 21 December 1957.
The date of his death was established as January 30th 1931. His grave was located on December 14th 1957 by an expedition led by Lowell Thomas and Lee Robinson. Lasseter’s daughter stated that ‘…he died alone of dysentery and sandy blight in a lonely cave in the Peterman Ranges. The blacks came and put his body in a tree wrapped in bark as they do with their own for a certain period.’ A memorial is located in Pioneer Cemetery, Alice Springs, NT.
In the historic cemetery known as Greyfriar’s Kirkyard in Edinburgh is the tomb of the Mylne family who were architects and master masons to the Kings of Scotland. Enclosed with an iron fence the memorial is attached to the east wall of a tenement building on Candlemaker Row. The tomb contains the remains of John Mylne, Robert Mylne, William Mylne and Thomas Mylne.
The pediment at the top of the memorial hosts two cherubs flanking the heraldic shield of the Mylne family identified by a knight’s armoured helmet, and a shield containing a Patonce cross with three 5 point stars.
Directly beneath the shield is a grotesque representing a dragon. Additional examples of Memento Mori are present in winged effigies, skulls, an hourglass and crossed torches.
The main inscription written in Latin is displayed in Drapery held in the mouth of a ram: “John Mylne, who, at the expiry of fifty-five years of this frail life, sleeps softly here, sixth Master-Mason to the King of the family of Mylne, of remarkable skill in the building art, frequently Deacon-Convener of the Trades of Edinburgh, the circumspect and faithful representative of the metropolis on several occasions in the public Parliament of the Kingdom; a man adorned with gifts of mind above his condition in life, of a remarkably handsome person, upright, sagacious, pious, universally respected.
Robert, his brother’s son, emulous of his virtues, as well as his successor in office, has, out of gratitude, erected this monument, such as it is, to his uncle. He died 24th Dec. 1667, in the fifty-sixth year of his age.
John Mylne’s character is described in a smaller shield: Great artisan, grave senator, John Mylne,
Renown’d for learning, prudence, parts, and skill,
Who in his life Vitruvius’ art had shown,
Adorning others’ monuments: his own
Can have no other beauty, than his name,
His memory and everlasting fame.
Rare man he was, who could unite, in one,
Highest and lowest occupation;
To sit with statesmen, councillour to kings,
To work, with tradesmen, in mechanick things;
Majestick man, for person, witt, and grace;
This generation cannot fill his place.
Two Corinthian columns are inscribed with dedication.
The left column commemorates Robert Mylne: Sacred to the Memorie of Robert Mylne of Balfargie, Master Mason to severall Kings of Scotland; and Survieor to this Citie, who, duringe ane active life of honest fame, Builded amonge manie extensive warks Mylne’s Court, Mylne’s Square, and the Abbie of Halie rud house, Leaving by ane Worthie Wife, Eight Sonnes and Six Daughters, All Placed in the World with Credit to himself, and consecrated this Monument, To the Honour of his Ancestrie. Died Decr. 10th, 1710; aged 77.”
The column on the right: To the Memory of Thomas Mylne Eldest son of William Mylne a Deacon of the Masons in Edinburgh Who Died 5th March1763 To the Memory of William Mylne Master Mason Eldest son of Robert Mylne of Balfargie Who Died 9th March 1728.
A cartouche at the base of the stone is inscribed: Reader, John Mylne, who maketh the fourth John,
and, by descent, from father unto son,
Sixth master mason to a royal race
Of seven successive Kings, sleeps in this place.
On Monday November 22, 1915, the Con T. Kennedy Circus Carnival having completed a successful engagement during ‘Harvest Festival’ week at the Atlanta Exposition in Columbus departed the area on a traveling circus train with 28 cars. A Central of Georgia passenger train headed to Macon was also departing Columbus, and instructions were sent to the engineer to wait at Muscogee Junction.
Failure to comply with this order resulted in both trains colliding head-on at 30 miles an hour near a bend at Bull Creek, six and a half miles east of Columbus. The engines of both trains were demolished but did not derail. Other cars telescoped resulting in a catastrophic fire. Although passengers on the Central of Georgia were unharmed, a total of 24 people died on the train carrying the circus crew.
Fred S. Kempf and his wife Blanche who operated a sideshow miniature mechanical city called Kempf’s Model City were trapped inside their sleeping compartment. They managed to pass their young daughter through a window to friends who were working to extricate them. Tragically the unfortunate parents burned to death, and four year old Hazel was left an orphan. “I saw those poor fellows pinned in their sleeping wagons and they could not get out,” reported many at the site.
In addition to the loss of human life, two carloads of animals were burned alive.
A funeral cortege travelled from the First Baptist Church to Riverdale Cemetery where the dead were interred. A memorial headstone in the form of a circus tent was erected by the circus community to commemorate the event.
Erected by the / Con T. Kennedy Shows / In memory of their comrades / Who lost their lives / In a railroad wreck near Columbus GA / Nov 22 1915.
We’ll not forget thee, we who stay / To work a little longer here, / Thy name, thy faith, thy love shall be / On memory’s tablet, bright and clear, / And when o’er-wearied by the toil of life, / Our heavy limbs shall be, / We’ll come, and one by one lie down / Upon dear Mother-earth with thee.
This historic Church of Scotland is located on the High Street in Dalkeith, Midlothian, Scotland. It is believed that a chapel dedicated to St. Nicholas has existed there since the early 12th Century.
In 1406, Sir James Douglas built and founded a Collegiate Church in the same location. The church and graveyard were located in the centre of town on the north side of the High Street ensuring that no individual living within the parish of Dalkeith was required to walk further than three miles to worship.
The ruined apse and chancel (areas containing the altar and the choir) contained two recumbent stone effigies marking the burial locations of Sir James Douglas, 1st Earl of Morton, and his wife Joanna, daughter of King James I.
Considered monuments of idolatry by the Reformation, the apse was abandoned and sealed from the rest of the church by a wall in 1592. Some parts of the building were allowed to fall into decay following the Reformation and eventually the roof collapsed. The old section of the church remains without a roof.
In 1650 Oliver Cromwell and his troops crossed the border into Scotland with the intention of capturing the city of Edinburgh and set up headquarters in the parish church. Soldiers broke open the poor box, set fire to furniture and used the space to stable their horses. The sacristy (a room where vestments and other things of worship are kept) was used as a prison.
In the early 18th century, the sacristy which had continued to be used as a jail became a burial vault for the Buccleuch family (Scottish peerage and local landowners).
The church was greatly altered in 1854, and the walls of the original church were embedded within the present building. A fire which destroyed the steeple in 1885 caused two 300 years old bells to crash to the ground.
The church was restored once more in the 1930s, and in 1979 the church was renamed St. Nicholas Buccleuch.
In 2005, the 21st Earl of Morton unveiled the newly-repaired Morton Monument. The 16th century figures had been carefully restored and looked magnificent. Morton said at the ceremony: “I think this has been a great achievement for all the people concerned in putting this together. It is a great achievement for the people of Dalkeith.”
The Alms Collection House, adjacent to the main gate, is thought to be the only building of its kind: built specifically for the purpose of collecting alms.
There are many memorials around the world commemorating those killed by Hitler and his Nazi party during the Holocaust (Holocaustis a word of Greek origin meaning sacrifice by fire.) Most of these memorials recognize mass graves or those killed en masse.
The following gravestones identify individual families who were killed at the whim of a madman during an era in human history which is shameful and abhorrent.
Memorial to the Stroch family.
Early on the morning of March 9, 1942, the transportation of Mielec’s Jews commenced. That morning, all the remaining Jews were marched at gun point out to the aircraft hangers at Cyranka. The elderly, sick and certain prominent people in the community, including the rabbi, were shot. For the next three days, while Mielec’s Jews were deported by train, those remaining at Cyranka were marched around the compound. Any that appeared weak, sick or injured were shot. Those killed during the transportation were buried in a mass grave near the aircraft factory. (from Mielec Through The Holocaust by Howard Recht).
Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris, France
For My Dikerman family Exterminated in Auschwitz-Birkenau Moise aged 53, maria aged 52, Abel aged 30 and Regine aged 29
Note: Prisoners being held at Auschwitz were used to build the Birkenau camp crematoriums. In 1942, Auschwitz-Birkenau was a killing center.
Sighetu Marmatiei, Romania
Remembering the Kallos family In Auschwitz 28 May 1944 He was martyred for being a Jew Kallos Dezsone Parent Szalpeter Roza 1884 Kallos Jolan 1909 Her husband Lebovits Bela Kallos Jeno 1911 Kallos Helen 1913 They have memories to be remembered
Note: In November 1944 the gas chambers were being dismantled.
Germany and Europe
In 1993 German artist Gunter Demnig had a simple and effective idea to honour those who were persecuted and murdered during the Holocaust. After locating the former residence of a Nazi victim, and with permission of local authorities, he installed a small commemorative cobblestone topped with a brass plaque in front of the residence. The title of each plaque Hier wohnte (Here lived) records the individual’s name, date of birth and death, and fate. The premise is ‘One victim, one stone’. The project which began in Germany can now be found throughout Europe.
A few fateful words which are found on the brass plaques.
Verhaftet : arrested
Enthauptet : beheaded
Tot : dead
Ermordet : murdered
Uberlebt : survived.
Here Lived Fredy Hirsch Circa 1919 Deported 6.9.1943 Auschwitz Flight into death (this phrase is used in cases of suicide) 8.3.1944
Note: Auschwitz was located in South Western Poland
Here lived Ida Arsenberg Maiden name Benjamin Circa 1870 Deported 1942 Murdered On the 18.9.1942 in Theresienstadt
Note: Theresienstadt was a Czechoslovakian camp/ghetto.
Anyone who did not fit Hitler’s model of the perfect Aryan race was routinely arrested, tortured, and eradicated. Those at risk were:
the mentally ill and physically challenged who were viewed as useless to society were euthanized in gas chambers.
homosexuals were segregated to prevent the spread of homosexuality, and were identified in the camps by pink cloth triangles. Nazis interested in finding a ‘cure’ for homosexuality conducted medical experiments on those prisoners.
Jehovah’s Witnesses whose beliefs did not allow the bearing of arms refused to swear allegiance to the Nazi state. Identified with a purple triangular patch they were considered enemies of the state.
Gypsies were considered racially inferior on a level with the Jews.
Jews were considered racially inferior and a threat to German community. The persecution began in 1938. They were identified within the camps by a yellow star on a white band worn on the right sleeve.
Children were routinely killed on arrival at the camps unless they were considered useful to the medical doctors. Twins were subjected to cruel medical experiments.