Field Guide

Arrows, Lances, Swords

Projectiles such as arrows, lances, swords, and bladed instruments like the ax and the scythe can be grouped under the heading "weapons of death". Seen on the panel of a tombstone, they represent a person's association with the military. Individually these weapons have their own symbolism and attributions. St. Sebastian is often depicted with arrows in him; because he is said to have survived, he became one of the patron saints of victims of the plague. By extension, the arrow is a symbol of the plague. Because it was used to pierce the body of Christ, the lance is a symbol of the Passion. It is also an attribute of St. Thomas because one killed him. The archangel Michael is almost always portrayed with a sword, which is an attribute of a number of saints because so many were beheaded by one.

Taken from Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography written and photographed by Douglas Keister, published by Gibbs Smith, Salt Lake City, 2004. This book is a must for every cemetery enthusiast!!!