What do Angels mean in Cemeteries?

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NICOLA CARPENTER is a taphophile – that’s a person who is interested in cemeteries. Today she will begin a regular column for The Spooky Isles about all things cemetery and teach us there is more to memorials to the dead than lumping a bit of stone on top of a buried body.

Angel at Highgate Cemetery - what do Angels mean in Cemeteries

Chances are you cannot pass an old cemetery or churchyard without seeing and angel or two.

Cemetery angels have always captivated me since early childhood, there’s something haunting about their silent beauty that calls to me.  In fact it was an angel monument that started me down the road to Taphophilia.

What do Angels mean in Cemeteries?

Quietly watching over the other graves in  Bray Parish Cemetery, a small village not far from Windsor, is the impressive angel monument to Frederick Wolff May a steamship business manager and his wife Ida who died 1924 and 1948 respectively, that both tantalised and terrified me.

Angel pointing to the sky in Kensal Green Cemetery in London

A desire to find out more about the lives contained in death is what lead me to my passion today.

Angels or winged deities span most of today’s religions and have been used as monuments since before the Middle Ages.

They have even adorned the ancient tombs of  the pharaohs.

However, they experienced a boom in popularity during the Victorian era when burial places were more than just somewhere to rest in peace and slowly decay, they were places to showcase your vast wealth and social standing.
The bigger the angel to mourn at your graveside, the better.

But angels are more than simply decorative items or status symbols  to place over your tomb.  They are full of hidden meaning, whispers from the grave.

Angel at Kensal Green Cemetery

Angels are generally regarded as the messengers of God, a guide to help the soul of the dearly departed rise unto Heaven.
They can be the harbingers of death, ready to carry to soul into the afterlife, carriers of joyous news or protectors of small children while they sleep.

Cemetery angels are believed to guard the tomb and pray for the soul within.

  • An angel that points towards the sky is showing the way to eternal life.
  • An angel with it’s wings spread symbolises resurrection, where as an angel with it’s wings folded symbolises an end to life.
  • An angel draped mournfully across a tomb is expressing the family’s grief and an angel clinging desperately to a cross represents unwavering faith.

Even the objects in the angel’s hands hold significance.

A lily for purity, a rose for unfailing love, a wreath with is unbroken circle represents everlasting life ,an open scroll with curled ends the past, present and future, a closed scroll signifies that the record of life has finished  Small winged cherubs watch over the graves of babies and children to convey innocence.

So next time you visit a graveyard, take a look round and see if you can see what the dead are trying to say to you.

For more creepy topics from Berkshire’s NICOLA CARPENTER, you can read her blog here.


  1. Nicola, I am so thrilled to make your (albeit) on-line acquaintance. What a fascinating article [bookmarked! ;] I never knew before there was a term for individuals drawn to cemeteries, but I photograph cemeteries on all of my travels and feature cemetery angels in my book trailers. Sign me 'a devoted follower of your column' ~Emily Hill~.

    • Hi Emily. Thank you so much for your kind comments. I only discovered I was a Taphophile when I got online and discovered, to my joy, that there were others like me that loved cemeteries.


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