Religious Ornamentation on Gravestones

It has always been a common practice for religious ornamentation to be added to gravestones and although it is not as common nowadays as in Victorian times, the practice is far from being a thing of the past.

Older graves of people who held strong religious beliefs are often symbolised by carvings of the Virgin Mary or Jesus Christ. Bibles would be used too, but usually these were reserved for those who had held pastoral positions or taught in Sunday schools.

Eucharists, representing the body and blood of Christ, are often to be seen on the headstones of priests and nuns. It is also common to see rosaries on the headstones of devout Catholics. Strong faith is represented too by hands clasped in prayer and a woman holding the cross.

In modern times, Christianity is more likely to be represented by angels who guide the soul to heaven. If the angel is blowing a trumpet, it is signifies the Resurrection and call to the Day of Judgement. Doves are another common religious ornamentation in modern times. These birds are the messengers of God and symbols of the Holy Spirit, which can also be reflected by winged wheels.

The popularity of angels and doves today doesn’t mean other religious figures are disappearing altogether and saints, crosses, The Sacred Heart and Our Lady  can still be found on newer headstones.

angel praying gravestone

There are also more subtle ways that headstone ornaments show the ending of this life and passage to heaven, which was often shown by arches in older times. Gates is one way that this is represented but chariots are another way of demonstrating the journey to everlasting life. Heaven itself is represented by angels in clouds.

Children’s graves are often decorated with cherubs, while an angel weeping is also a common way of showing an untimely death. Rose buds are often white in colour for virginity and purity. Birds in flight, denoting winged souls, are often seen on the graves of children and show the divine mission and eternal life.

Non Christian religious symbols include the Megan Dawid on Jewish gravestones and a crescent with moon for headstones of those of the Islamic faith. Buddhist memorials are often decorated with Shih Tzus, which literally translate as ‘lion dog.’

At Sarsfield Memorials we provide a wide range of religious ornamentation for gravestones and examples of what we offer can be viewed here. Please contact us and we will be happy to discuss your requirements.