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Historic Cemeteries: What do Anchors Symbolize?

April A to Z Challenge 2020: It’s that time of year! Every April, bloggers around the world make posts for each letter of the alphabet. It’s a lot of fun and a great way to make friend online. Here’s my post for today:

[The following is an adapted from my book, Understanding Cemetery Symbols. I hope you enjoy it! Also, full disclosure: that’s an Amazon affiliate link. If you buy stuff after clicking it, I make a few pennies at no additional cost to you.]

Anchor shaped headstone (c) Tui Snider

What do Anchors Symbolize in Cemeteries?

While anchors sometimes appear on the graves of sailors, you may be surprised to learn that this is the exception, not the rule!

I saw the headstone in the photo above in Old Biloxi City Cemetery in Biloxi, Mississippi. This is a seaside town, so it makes sense that this anchor-shaped headstone belongs to the captain of a ship.

Another clue is that this fellow died in 1976, so it’s a fairly modern stone. Modern headstones tend to use imagery quite literally, while older headstones use imagery in a symbolic manner.

Anchors are an Ancient Christian Symbol

More often than not, when seen on an older headstone, the anchor is a Christian symbol representing faith set in strong foundations.

Anchors are an ancient Christian symbol (c) Tui Snider

Anchors were a Secret Symbol

In fact, during the Roman persecution of Christians, the anchor served as a secret symbol, a covert referral to the cross.

A Woman Holding an Anchor Stands for Hope

This is why anchors represent hope in troubled times. When you see a woman with an anchor beside her, such as the figure below, it stands for hope.

A female figure with an anchor stands for hope. (c) Tui Snider

Learn more at my Historic Cemetery Podcast & Facebook Page:

Do you have questions about symbols you’ve seen on headstones? Drop by Exploring Historic Cemeteries on Facebook and let me know! And tune in to my 30-minute historic cemetery podcast on the first Tuesday of each month: Tombstone Tuesday with Tui Snider.

READ MY BOOK: If you enjoy historic cemeteries and want to learn more, check out my book: Understanding Cemetery Symbols. It’s available on Amazon in paperback and ebook form.

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  1. Donnie Gillis Donnie Gillis

    Darn, I thought maybe the anchor symbolized the person died due to being overweight. Donnie is 0 for 1.

    • Haha! Good one, Donnie Boy! And thanks for dropping by my blog. :)

  2. I’ve usually seen anchors used to represent hope, but I could see them being used for faith as well Happy A to Z!

    • I was especially surprised to learn how anchors were used as secret symbols for early Christians. We always seem to hear about the fish being used this way, but the anchor predates it!

  3. Happy first day of Blogging A to Z! I live near a large garden cemetery and during this time of isolation it’s become the place to go for a peaceful walk outside the house. I’ll be looking for symbolism when I’m out there, now.

    • Happy A to Z to you, too, Liam! How lucky you are to live near a garden cemetery. Where do you live? There are some lovely burial grounds near me, but I can’t walk directly to any, alas. I have to take a car. I’ll be sharing lots more symbols with you as the month progresses! Thanks for dropping by! :)

  4. Anchored in Faith… But how an you start with an Anchor… you still have the rest of the alphabet to go. Oh well… Anchors Away! Can’t ait for the rest of your B to Z posts.

    • Haha! I always love your punny comments! I’m excited to see all your posts this year. :D

  5. Fascinating! I didn’t know any of this.
    Well, I know very little of the history of cemeteries, but I imagine there is all kind of symbols and history there.
    I’ll be back for more :-)

    The Old Shelter – Living the Twenties

    • Yes! Historic cemeteries and the symbolism to be found there is a never-ending topic of research for me. Thanks for dropping by! I’ll go see what you’ve cooked up for A to Z now. :D

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