May 13, 2021

Victorian Cemetery Symbolism

Victorian Cemetery Symbolism

What do you think of when you hear the word cemetery? Spooky? Do you think history and art museum? If you haven’t, you should! This episode explores some common symbols found in Victorian era cemeteries in the US.   Trigger Warning: Grief,...


What do you think of when you hear the word cemetery? Spooky? Do you think history and art museum? If you haven’t, you should! This episode explores some common symbols found in Victorian era cemeteries in the US.  

Trigger Warning: Grief, loss, child loss  

Some examples of the symbolism covered: 

  • Broken columns symbolize the end of life, usually one cut short 
  • Snapped flowers and buds symbolize a life cut short, usually a young one 
  • Empty shoes, beds, and chairs symbolize the absence of a loved one 
  • Lambs symbolize innocence and youth  
  • Doves symbolize purity, peace, and the Holy Ghost 
  • Wheat is found on the tombstones of those who lived long lives 
  • Clasped hands symbolize marriage. A hand pointing up shows where the person has gone (Heaven) 
  • The virtue Hope, is shown with an anchor, a symbol of a good voyage 
  • An inverted torch symbolizes the flame of life burning on the other side  
  • Ivy is associated with immortality and fidelity  
  • Drapes and veils represent the passage from Earth to Heaven  

Visit the Resources section of my web site to download a PDF with my photography of these symbols.  

The following artists are mentioned in this episode: 

  • Empty chair paintings – Amy Markham 
  • Inverted torch necklace – Arcana Obscura  
  • Hands pointing up clay imprints – Grey Squirrel Studio