Christian Headstone Symbols & Meanings


One of the most common style of headstone customers request is the religious style.  For hundreds of years Christian memorials have featured a vast array of iconography to depict Jesus and his sacrifice, the deceased persons’ faith and their connection with God.

There are almost endless ways to personalize a religious monument, from bible verses that hold special meaning to icons that add meaning and beauty to the loved one’s headstone.

Of course the Cross is a symbol synonymous with Christianity and Christian headstones, but there are many more symbols that can help to create a truly special, personal memorial.

Here are ideas of icons that have been used in the past, of which you can incorporate into your design and their associated meanings:

Anchor – Early Christians used the anchor as a symbol to disguise the cross.  It has also held meaning among Christians of hope.
Angels – Symbolic messengers between God and man.  Angels can add particular beauty to headstones.
Book – An icon used to refer to prayer, the bible and is often featured on evangelist monuments.
Botonee Cross – A variation of the cross with three lobed ends, shaped like a trefoil, represents the trinity.
Butterfly – Can represent rebirth, Resurrection – often used on children’s memorials.
Celtic Cross – The circle around the crosspiece symbolizes eternity. Its origin can be traced to the Celtic cultures of the British Isles.
Circle – Sometimes accompanies the cross to represent eternity.
Clasped hands – Can represent unity with God.
Dove – A traditional Christian symbol for love and peace. Often associated with hope, purity and ressurection. In (Genesis 8:11) – Noah released a bird from the Ark when he thought the flood may be subsiding. The dove returned carrying an olive branch, showing it had found land. So the dove can also be seen as a symbol of hope.
Eastern Cross – Used in Orthodox (Russian/ Greek) Christian Religions, this cross’ upper horizontal shoulder represents the inscription over the head of Jesus on the actual cross of the crucifiction. The lower slanting shoulder represents the footrest of the crucified Jesus.
Fluery Cross – A popular flowered cross representing a lily in bloom at the ends. The three petals of the lilies also represent the Holy Trinity.  Also known as the Floriated Cross, Fleuree Cross, Flory Cross.
Hand pointing up/down – Up can refer to the ascent to heaven, down refers to God descending from heaven.
Lambs – Representing the ‘lamb of god’, Christ as both suffering and triumphant.  Lambs can also symbolize gentleness, innocence, and purity.
Latin Cross – Perhaps the simplest and one of the oldest Christian symbols and the most commonly used on headstones.
Olive Branch – Sometimes depicted in the mouth of a dove, the olive branch symbolizes peace and that the soul has departed into the peace of God.  An olive leaf also features in the story of Noah in Genesis 8:11: “The dove came to him toward evening, and behold, in her beak was a freshly picked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the water was abated from the earth.”
Passion flower – Called “Espina de Cristo” (Christ’s thorns) by Spanish Christian missionaries who first discovered it in South America, each part of the flower holds symbolic meaning in recognition of the crucifixion story – the passion of the Christ.
Pelican – Symbols of pelicans were adopted by early Christians as a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice to humanity.
Ram – Was often a sacrificial animal in Roman times and has over the years been used to represent Christ’s sacrifice.
Star – Stars are sometimes used to symbolize eternity, immortality and divine guidance
Stepped Cross – A cross resting on a base with three steps or blocks.  Sometimes called a Cavalry cross. It signifies faith, hope and charity (or love).
Sunflower – Often featured on Catholic headstones, there are always two They represent Christianity in Catholicism.


This is not a complete list of course, but covers many of the symbols regularly found on Christian headstones that you might consider in your own design, or that of a loved one.  To discuss personalizing a headstone in New London county, CT speak to Buzzi Memorials: 860-599-5909