Understanding Cemetery Symbols and Emblems

What do the symbols and emblems on gravestones mean?

HAVE you ever wondered about the symbols and emblems on headstones and monuments at the cemetery? If you grew up in a religious family, there was no doubt some symbols appeared frequently.

For me, it was the Celtic Cross, INRI, AMDG and the ChiRho. This is an interesting combination including Celtic, Latin and Ancient Greek. At the cemetery, you will find these and many more.

Cemetery Symbols & Emblems

The Maryborough Cemetery or at least the monumental part of it is quite old by Queensland standards. It was established in 1873, though there had been earlier cemeteries.

The first was at the site of the Old Maryborough Township near the intersection of Alice and Aldridge streets and later, at the site of the Elizabeth Park Rose Gardens. There were also various burials scattered throughout the district. 

If you wander through the monumental cemetery on Walker St, you will be in awe of the size, variety and beauty of the various headstones and monuments erected to honour the deceased.

It should be noted that the cemetery is divided into portions assigned to various faiths.

If you enter from Walker St, through the main gate you will note the abundance of Celtic Crosses on the left of the avenue. This is one of the Catholic portions of the cemetery.

To your right is an Anglican section. Crosses predominate throughout the cemetery, as one would expect, historically.  There are two quaintly named “Non-Christian” portions which are quite small.

Angels often indicate the deceased was a child

Amongst the larger and more spectacular monuments, several motifs stand out apart from the crosses.

Angels, of course, are common and of varying styles. Look out for the Archangels Michael, with a sword and Gabriel, with a horn or trumpet. Angels may be flying, symbolizing the departure of the soul, or crying in grief.

Cherubs are often used to indicate the deceased was a child.

At the Maryborough Cemetery in 2005, Andy Souvlis had a children’s memorial, with a single one-tonne marble angel as the centrepiece, built at the Maryborough Cemetery where he was buried next to his beloved wife Myra in 2010.

There are numerous cemetery monuments that feature an obelisk or stele. This is a square spire tapering towards the top with a distinctive pyramid shape at the point. They are quite ancient symbols of power and achievement.

Occasionally, the monument will be topped by a column which appears broken off. This is deliberate. The broken column, again, symbolizes a life cut short and is usually an indication that the deceased died quite young.

Many monuments topped by urns

As you continue to ramble amongst the graves, note the number of monuments topped by urns.

Maryborough Cemetery has quite a few of them. It is argued that the urn symbolizes immortality, but it is probable that the urn motif is a remembrance of an earlier time when cremation was more common than burial.

The word urn comes from the Latin “uro” which means “to burn”. The purpose of the urn was to hold the ashes, and which echo the Biblical reference in Genesis, to the dust we humans intrinsically are.

Many of the urns are draped with a cloth. This is the shroud, another ancient motif associated with death. From earliest times and across many faiths the body was wrapped in a cloth before interment.

Crypts and raised tombs

The cemetery in Maryborough also contains at least one crypt and several raised tombs.

Cemetery Symbols and EmblemsCemetery Symbols 003Cemetery Symbols and Emblems


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9 things to discover at Agnes Water

Agnes Water and Town of 1770 at the southern end of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef have come a long way since I first visited the Discovery Coast, long before the access roads were sealed.  

Back then, generally only Bundaberg and Gladstone locals who were looking for quiet fishing spots, and their relatives like us, braved the rough corrugated dirt roads. 

Since the roads were sealed, however, the area has really come of age and now attracts visitors from throughout Australia and overseas in great numbers. 

At first glance, Agnes Water and Town of 1770 still appear to be sleepy seaside villages but start exploring and you’ll find there are lots of things to do for people of all ages and interests including the Kent Barton gallery and Agnes Water Museum

Below are highlights from my recent stay in Agnes Water while on a short house-sitting stint.

For a full list of attractions and accommodation, visit

Agnes Water and Town of 1770

The stunning beach from Agnes Water to 1770, seen from the Discovery Trail lookout behind the museum.

Agnes Water and 1770

The monument that marks there spot where Lieutenant James Cook and his crew came ashore in 1770.

Agnes Water and Town of 1770

John Richards offers free liquor tasting sessions at the 1770 Distillery at Agnes Water.

agnes water and 1770

Kent Barton’s artworks are displayed among the landscaped gardens of ‘The Lovely Cottages’.

Agnes Water and 1770

Live music can be enjoyed at Discovery Coast Rotary Markets held at the 1770 SES Grounds.

Agnes Water and 1770

Visitors enjoy the natural beauty of the  Paperbark Forest and nearby national parks.

agnes water and 1770

Stand Up Paddling – anyone can do it, even your dog.

Agnes Water and 1770

Day’s end for surfers near Agnes Water.



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Rock around the croc at Cooktown Discovery Festival

Would you like to discover Cooktown’s history? 

When the 2017 Discovery Festival at Cooktown kicked off, even the wildlife put on a stunning show to welcome the deluge of visitors. 

Spotted on a bank of the Annan River just south of the town in Far North Queensland was Blackie, the five-metre male crocodile that rules the area.

Last time I visited Cooktown, locals said I’d catch of glimpse of Blackie but he was nowhere to be seen. He didn’t even offer a few bubbles of water to suggest his snout was just below the surface.

This week, however, he was there in full view where I could see him from the safety of a high bank on the opposite side of the river.

Rock around the croc at Cooktown

Blackie makes an appearance.

Organisers of this year’s Discovery Festival also went above the average watermark with a full weekend of festivities in celebration of James Cook’s landing in 1770.

Located at the mouth of the Endeavour River on the Cape York Peninsula, Cooktown is where James Cook beached his ship for repairs after sustaining serious damage on a nearby coral reef.  

In 1873, the town was settled as a supply port for the goldfields along the Palmer River. It was known as Cook’s Town until 1874.

Located about 330 kilometres north of Cairns, Cooktown today has a population of about 2500. Numbers swell radically every June for the annual Discovery Festival.

This year’s jam-packed program included activities and events for all ages starting with a Mayor’s Maroon Community Ball on Friday night. The 1RAR Army Band provided the music and again entertained crowds in Anzac Park on Saturday.

Fire dancers, fireworks, buskers, paintball, markets, street parade, helicopter flights, harbour cruises, dancing, workshops, competitions, tours and a wet t-shirt competition were just some of the other highlights.

The festival culminated on Sunday with a costumed re-enactment of James Cook’s historic landing in Bicentennial Park where still in place is the rock to which His Majesty’s Bark Endeavour was tied in 1770.

A huge crowd gathered to watch the impressive show that preceded a ceremonial firing of a full-size cannon by a lucky spectator who won the opportunity in a ticket draw.

Below is a glimpse of festival fun at Cooktown. To discover more about the town’s festival, visit



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