Tag Archives: gravestones

Sword Symbolism

The Sword is symbolic of courage; justice; martyrdom; military or warfare.


Rest my son in thy far off grave.
You died for your country like a hero brave.

In the days when the sword was a principle weapon of battle they were often regarded as magical objects with supernatural properties. Warrior tombs feature swords as a mark of the dead’s profession or as a sign that the deceased was cut down in battle. A broken sword represents a life cut short.

Crossed swords commemorate a high ranking military person; or a life lost in battle. They are often seen on the gravestones of veterans, especially officers.

Windsor - Sword side of monument

  • An inverted sword is symbolic of death in battle; a relinquishment of power; or victory.
  • A sword within its sheath represents temperance.
  • Archangels sometimes carry swords as a symbol of God’s Judgement in the life to come.
  • A superstition predicts death if a sword falls from its scabbard.
  • An oath made on a sword was as binding as one made on a Bible.

Dust To Dust

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. Genesis 3:19

These images show nature absorbing our bodies back into the earth, slowly eradicating the markers that record our existence.


Lord, plant my feel on higher ground.IMG_0036

While they lie in peaceful sleep
Their memory we will always keep.


Time passes, memories last.

Loss and Grief

Death and grief are felt in the same way throughout the world regardless of religion or race. We are unified only in birth and death.

The statuary in cemeteries is matched only by the words on stone. This verse is from All Saints Churchyard in Newtown Lindford, England:
Weep not
Dear Friends, but be content
For I to you was only lent.
In love I lived; in peace I died.
You asked my life but God denied.
Farewell, dear friends, and cease to weep.
In Christ I dwell; in Christ I sleep.


In Canada, many cemeteries are owned and maintained by local government while others are owned by private corporations. In the case of privately owned or non profit corporations, the municipality may take over the care and maintenance of the abandoned property if it is deemed unsafe.

Bronte Pioneer Cemetery 1986

The term abandoned cemetery is universally accepted, yet the criteria differs within countries, provinces and states. If a cemetery has not been maintained for a period (number of years varies) an ordinance may be enacted to declare it abandoned.

newington moss newington toll

In North America, if cemetery land is purchased, the interred bodies must be removed and reburied elsewhere. A land transfer is required; the next of kin of the deceased must be contacted; there must be an orderly removal of remains and reburial in an appropriate location including all gravestones, tombs and other markers which must be re-erected.

trash pile open crypt

Section 60 of the Canadian Cemeteries Act states that once a cemetery has been declared abandoned and is registered as such with the appropriate land registry, the municipality becomes the owner of the property and is responsible for the ongoing maintenance of the grounds and its assets.

Roslin Milton_Evergreen_hfstones Kilbride_Rainwater Kilbride_Linn



If asked to name the color of death and mourning, Europeans will choose black; whereas Asians and many other races will pick white.

Black signifies darkness and the absence of light. However, you will often find white tombstones in European cemeteries.

This black headstone is in memory of a deaf woman. Visitors to the cemetery leave pennies on her stone
This black headstone is in memory of a deaf woman. Visitors to the cemetery leave pennies on her stone

At the Mollendal graveyard in Bergen, Norway, a private company was hired by the municipality to maintain the cemetery. In 2013, a notice pinned to hundreds of headstones informed families of the deceased that maintenance fees were due. (The Norwegian municipal government covers the costs of maintenance and rental for 25 years, thereafter it falls upon the families to pay the annual fee.) After 6 months, the headstone was then covered with a locked black plastic bag with a further notice identifying that the stone will be removed unless payment is made for the upkeep of the grave. Failure to make payment results in removal of the headstone and the interred in order to reuse the plot.


White recalls the color of the bones and the paleness of the corpse.
But here in this graveyard that is still no man’s land
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand
To man’s blind indifference to his fellow man
To a whole generation that was butchered and damned.

White doves also appear as motifs in the European sepulchral arts.


Catholics and High-Church Anglicans recognize purple as the color of mourning. Priests wear purple or violet robes at funeral masses for the dead, recalling Christ’s passion, crucifixion, and resurrection.

Chinese tombstones often appear before the deceased has passed. Red lettering shows that the person named is still alive. When the person dies, the stone cutter repaints the letters in white.

Milton_Evergreen_Luu (jap)