Alpha (A) and Omega (Ω) are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. These letters are often reproduced on gravestones, and when displayed separately Alpha is depicted on the left and Omega on the right.
Frequently the letters are combined to create a recognized Christian symbol derived from the book of Revelation in which they are mentioned in separate verses.
1:8: “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
22:13: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”
They are commonly used in conjunction with a cross, a crown or the Chi-Rho (a monogram of chi (Χ) and rho (Ρ) which are the first two letters of the Greek word Khristos.
On a side note, there is a cemetery in Henderson, Vance County, North Carolina, USA which bears the name Alpha Omega Cemetery.
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.
If you go looking for a bell in the cemetery the easiest discovery will be a gravestone engraved with the surname Bell. However, if you are looking for the symbol of a bell unrelated to the surname it will be a long search. A bell is one of the rarest symbols found on headstones and quite simply represents mourning.
The Dead Bell in the Middle Ages was believed to frighten away evil spirits.
When someone died the bell ringer passed through the streets of villages, towns or cities ringing the bell slowly and repeatedly while announcing the name of the recently deceased person and details of the funeral. The solemn ringing of the bell led mourners from the home of the deceased to the church where the funeral was held.
In 16th century Britain land for burial was sparse. Coffins were dug up and bones taken to the bone-house so that the grave could be reused. Upon opening the coffins, it was noticed that several had scratch marks on the inside. The realization that people were being buried whilst still alive led to the practice of tying a string on the wrist of the corpse which was attached to a bell above ground while a sentry sat in the cemetery overnight.
A little grave humour: Harold, the Oakdale gravedigger, upon hearing a bell, went to go see if it was children pretending to be spirits. Sometimes it was also the wind. This time it wasn’t either. A voice from below begged, pleaded to be unburied. “You Sarah O’Bannon?” Yes! the voice assured. “You were born on September 17, 1827?” “Yes!” “The gravestone here says you died on February 19?” “No I’m alive, it was a mistake! Dig me up, set me free!” “Sorry about this, ma’am,” Harold said, stepping on the bell to silence it and plugging up the copper tube with dirt. “But this is August. Whatever you is down there, you ain’t alive no more, and you ain’t comin’ up.”
The Bell of Hope was a gift from London’s St. Mary-le-Bow, which is the sister church to St. Paul’s Chapel in Manhattan. Installed in the churchyard of St. Paul’s Chapel in September 2002, the Bell of Hope is rung at a ceremony every year on September 11th. It has also been rung after the bombings in Madrid, 2004; London, 2005; Mumbai, 2008; Moscow, 2010; and the Boston Marathon, 2013; and for the shootings at Virginia Tech, 2007 and in Norway, 2011.
The bell is inscribed: “To the Greater Glory of God And in Recognition of The Enduring Links Between The City of London And The City of New York” “Forged in adversity—11.September.2001”
The La Cambe German Cemetery in Normandy, France where there are 21,222 burials with 207 belonging to unknown soldiers. A peace garden with 1,200 maple-trees is adjacent to the cemetery.
Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering There is a crack in everything That’s how the light gets in
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 memorial stone marks the grave of Frederick Peter Vergon (1829-1919). Located in Oak Grove Cemetery, Delaware, Ohio, it is ten feet tall and ten feet wide and is carved from Indiana limestone. Due to the intricacy and detail of the carving it is believed to have taken several years to create.
Within the leaves of the majestic Chestnut tree are birds, a bird nest containing eggs, an owl, lizards, and a frog located in the roots. Unfortunately, vandals have damaged many of the small sculptures.
Vergon was born in France in 1829. His parents emigrated to the USA and settled in Delaware County, Ohio, where his father purchased farm land which became Greenwood Farm. From a ravine, Frederick made Greenwood Lake which he stocked with bass. He created an amusement park surrounded by imported deciduous and evergreen trees. His interest in horticulture expanded into a vineyard and a 50 acre apple orchard.
One of the earliest gravestones I have seen can be found in the Copps Hill Burying Ground in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. It’s interesting to note that in order to keep within the design boundaries of this elaborate gravestone, the text has been scrunched together.
In the surname WALTERS, the letters L, T, E have been overlapped using the downward stroke of L to create T and E. The same process has been used in the word THIS where the downward stroke of T is shared by the letter H.
The inscription on the gravestone uses Old English text and translates as: Here Lies Buried The Body Of Captain Sampson Walters Aged 53 Years Departed This Life August The 13th 1693
Above the winged effigy is the Latin phrase ‘Hodie Mihi Cras Tibi Sic Transit Gloria Mundi’ which translates as My Turn Today, Yours Tomorrow. And Thus Passes Away The Glory Of The World.
On a side note, this phrase is used in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander historical novel series when Claire visits the tombstone of Lady Sarah Fraser at Beauly Priory.