Field Guide


The most common letters seen on tombstones in cartoons are RIP. Even school children are familiar with this abbreviation, and it may be their first experience with cemeteries. RIP is an abbreviation for the Latin words Requiescat In Pace, which translates nicely to the English words "Rest In Peace".1

The phrase was not found on tombstones before the eighth century. It became ubiquitous on the tombs of Christians in the 18th century, and for High Church Anglicans, Methodists, as well as Roman Catholics in particular, it was a prayerful request that their soul should find peace in the afterlife. When the phrase became conventional, the absence of a reference to the soul led people to suppose that it was the physical body that was enjoined to lie peacefully in the grave. This is associated with the Christian doctrine of the particular judgment; that is, that the soul is parted from the body upon death, but that the soul and body will be reunited on Judgment Day.2

1 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 preservationist!!!

2 Taken from Rest in peace at Wikipedia.