Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Wikipedia.



a sculptural work or a small architectural form. Its purpose is to perpetuate the memory of the deceased on whose grave it is erected (in contrast to a tomb, in which the body of the deceased is enclosed, or to a cenotaph).

In Neolithic cultures, graves were marked by wooden pillars (menhirs). In ancient Greece, statues and stelae portraying the deceased were erected over the grave. In Europe during the early Middle Ages, with the spread of Christianity, the low-relief stelae characteristic of the period of the Great Migrations were replaced by crosses. Beginning in the 11th century the most common type of gravestone in Western Europe was an empty stone or bronze box, covered with a slab bearing a portrait of the deceased in the form of a relief, an engraving, or a statue; it was placed above the grave, usually inside a church. Stone slabs with carved ornaments were common in the medieval period in the Caucasus. Chinese gravestones—vertical slabs on which names rather than portraits were carved—gradually became freestanding memorial walls.

During the Renaissance, gravestones, as a rule, were replaced by sepulchers. During the 17th and 18th centuries, portraits on gravestones were often combined with symbols of the transience of life on earth and with allegorical figures; inscriptions acquired a more important role in the overall composition. From the late 18th century to the early 19th, gravestones were usually erected not in churches but in cemeteries, forming what might be considered gravestone museums.

Since the second half of the 19th century, the religious and didactic nature of gravestones has gradually diminished, and the only ornament on the grave has been a portrait of the deceased or a terse emblem, having a purely commemorative purpose.


Netunakhina, G. D. , and N. I. Udimova. Muzei gorodskoi skul’ptury: Kratkii putevoditel’. Leningrad, 1972.
s’Jacob, N. Idealism and Realism: A Study of Sepulchral Symbolism. Amsterdam, 1954.
Panofsky, E. Tomb Plastik. London, 1955.


References in periodicals archive ?
Another granite block with a death date of 1797 is actually the "earliest" gravestone in the cemetery, but it is a very obvious replacement stone.
Because only children's graves were targeted, nearby residents believe the gravestones were removed as part of a ritual to call on the dead spirits to pick lucky four-digit numbers for a the lottery game.
The Connecticut Gravestone Network is at work with the state library, state historic preservation office, and state archaeologist to document items at burial grounds there.
The Farber Gravestone Collection reflects the work of the late Daniel Farber of Worcester, Massachusetts, and his wife, Jessie Lie Farber, who photographed historic gravestones for more than 20 years.
Repair work on the damaged gravestones is currently being carried out by the council and is set to take several months to complete.
Now, the group is hoping to discover more about the mystery gravestone and possibly track down any ancestors that may still be in the area.
Pc Jayne Willetts said the family of the man whose gravestone it is have been left extremely distressed.
1) List three factors that might influence the amount of gravestone weathering over time.
In his latest column, our family historian Paul Wilkins considers the importance of locating the gravestones of your ancestors.
Keenor's nephew Graham yesterday announced he wants his famous uncle's gravestone to form the garden's centrepiece.
The cost of the work to David's gravestone has been donated by ex-Lewis's employee David Boydell.
If you came to Slaithwaite looking for a particular gravestone, you would probably take one look and go home because there are so many, so this will make it a lot easier for people to find details of their ancestors.