Historic Churchyards

  • Lochrutton Parish Church
  • Mouswald Parish Church
  • Penpont Parish Church
  • Ruthwell Parish Church

Carved EmblemsCarved Emblems

The meanings of symbols

The symbols carved in stone provide some of the best examples of folk art in Dumfries and Galloway. Richly decorated stones are often very attractive and combine emblems with different meanings. The first being symbols that represent mortality / immortality / biblical references, the second type representing the occupation and status of the people commemorated.

Many headstones include a collection of emblems which may vary in style and sophistication even within the same churchyard.

Mortality

Skulls

Also known as death heads, they are often shown in profile and frequently shown with bones.

Bones

Often shown crossed they also appear in a variety of combinations.

Skeleton

Usually lying down they feature varying anatomical details.

Hourglass

Sometimes lying on their sides or with wings.

Coffin

Usually appearing with other symbols.

Sexton’s tools

Usually a pick and spade often crossed.

Corpse and deathbed

Dead humans are rarely depicted in coffins but deathbed scenes are more common.

Ribbon

Sometimes the symbols are tied together with a ribbon.

Immortality and biblical

Winged spirits

The most common symbol found, they are usually found on the top of a stone.

Adam and Eve

Rare carvings of Adam and Eve with an apple tree and snake.

Resurrection scenes

Bodies rising to heaven clad only in loin cloths

Open book

Depicting a bible.

Flaming torches

Representing eternal life.

Trades

Hammer men

All trades which require a hammer such as jewlers and cobblers often use the hammer and crown symbol.

Blacksmith

An anvil or farrier with a horseshoe and pincers.

Tailor

Showing pressing iron and shears

Gardener

Rake, hoe and spade

Gamekeeper

Gun, powder flask, fishing rod, gamebird and dog.

Merchant

The number 4 is often used to symbolise trading with the four corners of the world and often has crosses added to the arms but sometimes a ship is used to represent overseas trade.

Weaver

Usually depicted with a weavers shuttle.

Heraldry

Heraldic shields show connections to a noble family but are sometimes used as a way of representing status by including trade symbols within a shield.

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