The Cross - the ultimate emblem of Christianity. Tradition has it that the shape of the Celtic cross was formed by St Patrick putting the Latin cross over the circle, which was the sign of the moon goddess thus showing the triumph of Christianity over paganism.
IHS - the initial letters in Greek for the name of Jesus. In Latin - Jesus Hominum Salvator – Jesus Saviour of Men. There are also other meanings.
XP - the initial letters in Greek for Christ
Dove - shown with a twig in its mouth, it represents the dove sent out by Noah to see if the waves had receded. When it came back it was taken as a sign of forgiveness by God
Book - usually the bible but sometimes it is over the grave of a writer or teacher
Hand - hands shaking are a sign of friendship; hand pointing upwards to God Angels - are used to convey many messages such as grief, the resurrection, the judgement and many other subjects
Anchor - the cross or a sign of hope
Chalice - a clergyman
Snake - the Devil but sometimes a medical person
Lamb - the Lamb of God, Christ's sacrifice for mankind or purity and innocence
Broken column- a life cut short or that all things, even great civilizations, come to an end
Obelisk – associations with Egyptian culture, showing culture and wealth of the deceased
Trees – the yew is associated with the tree of life and with eternity; the weeping willow with forgiveness
Did you know why Yew trees are planted in Churchyards?
Some Yew trees were actually there before the church was built as the preacher often preached under a Yew tree if the village could not afford a church.
In 1307 King Edward 1st ordered Yew trees to be planted in churchyards to offer some protection to the buildings. Traditionally a church has only two Yew trees – one on the gateway to the main door and the second on the path to the minor door.
Yews are poisonous so by planting them in the churchyards cattle that were not allowed to graze on hallowed ground were safe from eating Yew.
Yew was the traditional wood used for making long bows – planting in churchyards ensured availability in times of need.
Yew branches on touching the ground take root and sprout again – this became the symbol of death, rebirth and therefore immortality.