Headstone Symbols: Christian Cross With Crown

The meaning of the symbols commonly found on cemetery gravestones and markers

Cross with Crown
A Christian or Latin cross within a crown is a common symbol found on cemetery tombstones, gravemarkers and monuments. Photo © Chris Raymond

Depending upon your perspective, a cemetery, church graveyard or memorial park can prove a location to avoid as long as humanly possible or a place of fascination and even enjoyment. For many in the latter camp, visiting the silent stone sentinels and mute metal markers found in a cemetery offers an opportunity to pay homage to the dead, trace their family history and genealogy, capture interesting photographs, or find moments of solitude and contemplation.

If you've visited a cemetery for any reason at some point, you might have wondered about a design you saw carved on an old tombstone and what it means. This article examines the meaning behind the headstone symbols commonly found in cemeteries, church graveyards and memorial parks and, specifically, what a Christian or Latin cross with a crown represents.

The Symbol

The image above shows the usual form of this common cemetery symbol. Typically, the Christian or Latin cross appears "inside" of the crown, with the latter either at the base of the cross (as seen in this photograph), hanging from one arm of the cross, or resting on both arms of the cross.

It is not uncommon to find the cross-and-crown symbol tilted on a headstone or gravemarker, with the cross angled at approximately 45 degrees to horizontal, and generally pointing to the right. In addition, sometimes the cross-and-crown symbol will itself appear within another shape, such as a circle or a Maltese cross, which is also known as an iron cross.

Finally, this symbol can appear as a two-dimensional (flat) representation on a headstone or gravemarker, or it can assume a more three-dimensional form through the technique of bas-relief (as seen above).

The Meaning

Though strongly associated with Christianity today, the basic cross symbol (+) predates this religion by thousands of years and appears in various forms across numerous cultures throughout history, including the Greeks, Celts and Russians.

Following the crucifixion of Jesus, however, Christians adopted the shape of this Roman instrument of punishment and death as their primary religious symbol.

Whether formed from laurel branches/leaves or precious metal, such as gold, a crown has also represented royalty, authority or victory throughout history and across cultures. According to the Bible, the Romans placed on the head of Jesus a crown of thorns in order to mock the belief that he was the "king of the Jews."

When the two objects appear together on a headstone or gravemarker as described above, this symbol can hold several meanings. Typically, the cross-with-crown symbolizes the victory of Jesus over death (the crown) and the sovereignty of the Lord in the Christian religion (the cross). A slightly different interpretation suggests that the cross represents the suffering Jesus endured on behalf of mankind, and that the crown symbolizes the "eternal reward" of everlasting life in heaven.

When this cross-with-crown symbol appears within a circle, it could also denote that the deceased belonged to the First Church of Christ, Scientist.

This is one of numerous approved emblems of belief available from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for use on the gravemarkers and headstones provided by the VA for the burial of military service personnel in state or national veterans cemeteries.

Finally, if the cross-with-crown symbol appears within a Maltese cross (or iron cross), this could mean that the deceased belonged to the York Rite of Free Masonry.

Other Cemetery Headstone Symbols:
Compass, Carpenter's Square and "G"
Death's Head
Finger Pointing Up
Handshake or Clasped Hands
"IHS" or IHC"
Laurel Wreath
Oak Leaves and Acorns
Open Book
Weeping Willow Tree

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How to Clean a Cemetery Tombstone or Marker
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Headstones Get a High-tech Makeover

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