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Cemetery Symbols: What does Draped Cloth Mean on a Grave?

FREE Cemetery Symbols Guide:

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Faux cloth draped on a headstone. (photo by Tui Snider)
Faux cloth draped on a headstone. (photo by Tui Snider)

What does draped cloth signify on a headstone?

You know how some folks say a person “saw curtains” as a euphemism for death? Those curtains refer to the veil that separates the living from the dead.

In the first photo on this post, the draped cloth simply refers to the person passing from this world to the next. On the next photo, however, the book represents the pages of the deceased person’s life. The cloth falling upon the right side indicates death’s interruption of their life’s work.

Partially draped book. (photo by Tui Snider)
Partially draped book. (photo by Tui Snider)

Field guide to cemetery symbolism:

I am currently creating a field guide to cemetery symbolism. Each Tuesday, I am sharing a small snippet from my upcoming book. It’s my goal to create a handy-dandy pocket guide for taphophiles, genealogists, ghost hunters, and anyone else interested in the historic graveyard symbols that have become forgotten over the years.

What symbols are you curious about?

Let me know in the comments if there is a certain symbol that you are curious about. Also, if you would like to know when the cemetery symbolism guide is available for purchase, scroll down and sign up for my newsletter! I look forward to hearing from you!

FREE Cemetery Symbols Guide:

Would you like a FREE guide to historic cemetery symbolism? If so, click the image below:

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Tui Snider having fun on a Texas road trip!
Tui Snider having fun on a Texas road trip!

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Published inCemeteries & SymbolismHistoric CemeteriesTravel Photo Essays


  1. Nicole Demery Nicole Demery

    Hello. I love to visit older cemeteries. I find several draped headstones in Shreveport, LA.

    • I would love to explore the historic cemeteries in Shreveport! Alas, I’ve only ever glimpsed them as we drove through. Maybe on my next road trip. Thanks for stopping by! :)

  2. Nanne Miller Nanne Miller

    What does purple cloth left on a grave mean?

  3. Patrick Patrick

    -What does a piece of red cloth left on a gravy mean?

    • Tui Snider Tui Snider

      Hi, Patrick! Hmmm… Must admit that I don’t know the answer to that, offhand. I will have to do some research and see what I can find. Can you give me any more details. Where did you see this red cloth? Was it on an older grave or a modern one? You’ve made me quite curious! Thanks for commenting. ~Tui

  4. Your series about cemetery symbols are fascinating. I learned so much. I especially like this one about the draped cloth.

  5. Cooper Yancey Cooper Yancey

    What does J.P. mean on a brick in front of a headstone? Is that a Freemason thing?

    • Tui Snider Tui Snider

      I’m not quite sure, Cooper! Is the “JP” on a brick that is flush to the ground? In that case, it might be a footstone, indicating a nickname. I’m not aware of “JP” being connected to the Freemasons, but… I’m still learning! Thanks for your comment. ~Tui :D

  6. It’s too bad that European cemeteries reuse their graves. Almost all the tombstones in our local cemetery are 30 years old or younger. I miss the old symbolism.

    • Tui Snider Tui Snider

      Hi, Ann!

      So, you are in Germany, I take it?

      I had heard of cemeteries reusing graves in Italy, but had not researched the practice, and didn’t realize it was so widespread in Europe. I guess America is so spacious and “only” a few hundred years old, so we haven’t run into the issue of overcrowding as much. Like you, I really enjoy the old symbolism. Thank you so much for dropping by! :D

  7. Fascinating facts, Tui. I love old cemeteries but have never seen a draped cloth. I’ll watch for it now that I know its meaning.

    • Tui Snider Tui Snider

      Hi JP! I bet you’ll start noticing it a bunch now. It’s a common motif in historic cemeteries around Texas, anyway. Thank you for dropping by! :D

  8. I had no idea there were so many symbols for a gravestone. Maybe I haven’t been in enough really old ones because I think today people aren’t as concerned with buying fancy headstones.

    • Tui Snider Tui Snider

      Yeah, I try to avoid modern graveyards. They aren’t anywhere near as interesting as the historic country cemeteries I find! In addition to what you mention, many modern cemeteries forbid anything other than headstones that are flush with the ground. They want the groundskeeper to be able to mow right on over everything!

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