Stones Of Faith - Pennsylvania Germans and their Gravestones

A look at flowers and their genealogy, history, folk art and archeology, with German language translations.



Pennsylvania and American German Gravestone Guide

Flowers - The Popular Symbol

1793 Lancaster GravestoneAs a flower quickly dies,
So our life from us flies.
Learn to sing that you may be
Singer, church, and melody.
(Music Notebook cover by the "Music Book artist" Bucks County, 1813)38

A Flower is the Wisdom which was eternally with God.
It arose in Christ's humanity.
Its vitality drives death away.
It is like ripe grapes which are a joy to my sick heart.
When by faith I adopt it, no one can take it from me, now or in Eternity.
(Schwenkfelder Hymnal published by Christopher Sauer in 1762, 115 th hymn, verse 11)39

Nennt mich eine Blume,
Gott zum Preis und Ruhne;
Aber bin sich auch bestellt,
Dass ihm mein Geruch gefallt?
1764 Northampton Gravestone Am I called a flower,
To God's praise and fame;
But am I so arranged
That my smell pleases him?
("Weyrauchs-Hugel", hymns by Conrad Beissel, published by Christopher Sauer in 1739)40

Lydia Fisher is my name,
Heaven is my station,
Lampeter is my dwelling-place
Christ is my salvation.
1848 Bucks GravestoneThe roses are red
The leaves are green;
The days are past
Which I have seen,
When I am dead
And in my grave,
And all my bones are rotten,
When this you see, remember me,
Lest I am dule forgotten.
This work of mine my friends may have
when I am in my silent grave.
(Child's Sampler)41

1790s Berks Gravestone Flowers were the most popular symbols used on Pennsylvania German gravestones, either as the major or as a secondary motif. In looking at the statistics page, if you combine the percentage of stones with flowers with those bearing a lily or a rose, you'll find roughly half the stones in this collection had some sort of flower as part of its symbol set.1760s Lancaster Gravestone Flowers, as a group, were used heavily throughout the bible as a metaphor for man's brief lifespan and as a symbol of Christ (the lily and the rose being the flowers most often used to symbolize Christ). The German hymnals and poetry of the 1600 and 1700s, both in America and Europe, used this floral symbolism profusely.

1803 Lehigh GravestoneBeing both predominately farmers and avid gardeners, the Pennsylvania Germans enjoyed decorating the objects in their lives with pictures of1779 Fraktur @John Bieber flowers and they appear on the textiles, pottery, furniture and decorated documents such as birth and marriage certificates. Prior to 1820, their gravestone flower representations ranged from simple line drawings carved into fieldstone, 1772 Northampton Gravestoneto elaborate baroque creations carved by skilled stonemasons, and usually fell into four categories - lily-tulips, roses, unidentifiable, or compass star-flower. 1826 Bucks GravestoneA popular way of portraying flowers was the compass flower. Because a circle encompassing a rayed figure was also used to denote a star, it is often difficult to determine if the symbol shown was a flower or a star.

1865 Berks GravestoneAfter 1820, as the Pennsylvania Germans began to adopt the funerary symbols used by the general public of the day, the portrayal of flowers became realistic, three dimensional, and primarily centered around the theme of mourning or shortness of life. The lily-tulip and geometric roses fell out of favor.

Biblical References: (See Lily-Tulips and the Rose of Sharon for their Biblical references)
Job 14, 1-2

1780s Lancaster GravestoneMan that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.

Psalm 103, 14-16

For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. 1790s Berks GravestoneAs for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.

James 1, 10-12

But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. 1801 Berks GravestoneFor the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

Romans 6, 4-6

Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead 1799 Lancaster Gravestoneby the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.

1 Peter 1, 23-25

1777 Lancaster GravestoneBeing born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.
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Copyright 1985-2005 Sandra J. Hardy. All rights reserved.

Those more interested in the genealogy, history, folk art and archeology of the PA Germans flowers motif and German language translations, see the Links Page.