A gate engraved on a gravestone represents a Heavenly entrance, the passage from Earth to Heaven and the afterlife.
When the gates are open, it symbolizes the soul entering heaven.
An arch is a symbol of triumph and victory in death. It also represents being joined with a partner in Heaven.
The engravings below resemble church windows. Although there is no recorded symbolism for windows it is most likely intended to denote an entrance to heaven or a passageway to eternal life.
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.
The image of hands in some form is very common on gravestones and they are most often shown praying, pointing, clasping or blessing.
Clasped hands shown in a handshake identify the deceased meeting his maker and is a symbolic of a welcome into Heaven. The hands are often seen with the word Farewell inscribed above or below the hands: farewell to earthly existence with the hope of meeting in eternity.
The depiction of a man holding a woman’s hand (identified by a frilly cuff) indicates marriage or a close bond between individuals, and represents unity and affection even after death. The person who died first holds the other’s hand, guiding the spouse to heaven.
Most of the hands illustrate the right hand in a grasp with fingers overlapping the other hand while the left hand is open.
When the handshake is enclosed within a wreath of flowers it denotes heavenly joy and bliss.
Praying hands are a symbol of devotion, a pious person in life or prayer for eternal life
Hands holding a book are an embodiment of Faith
A hand holding a chain with a broken link symbolizes the death of a family member.
A hand holding a heart is a symbol used by the fraternal organizations I.O.O.F (Independent Order of Odd Fellows) and Masons. It symbolizes charity and is common on 19th century memorials.
A hand holding a palm leaf is the hand of God reaching down from a cloud to lay a flower on a grave
Hands making the “Live long and prosper” sign (hands touching at thumbs and sometimes forefingers joined) represents members of the priestly tribe of Aaron. It is a benediction or blessing.
This image represents the hand of God bringing a soul unto himself.