The obelisk is a common monument found within cemeteries, its definition coming from the Greek word ‘obeliskos’ meaning a pointed object. The tall tapering structure consists of a base, a shaft with four inscription panels, and a pyramid shaped capital.
Originating from Egyptian culture, it pointed to the sun and was a symbol of the connection to the afterlife. It became popular in the Victorian era when Christians adopted the monument to represent the flight of the soul to Heaven. It has become a symbol to represent the connection between earth and heaven; eternal life; and rebirth.
Obelisks are most often found on family plots where each panel records details of a family member’s life, or on the graves of notable persons.
An obelisk can also be used as a sundial where the end of the shadow can determine compass directions.
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.