When we see a winged figure in a cemetery, we instantly recognize it as an angel–a messenger of God. However, Christian art did not depict angels with wings until the fourth century. Before then, angels were represented in several different forms–sometimes in human form, but also represented as a dove, or even just as a hand reaching down to Earth from the Heavens. Beginning with the reign of Constantine, angels began being depicted with wings, as we portray them today.
This angel carved out of white marble, has an open book resting on his knee and a quill in his hand. The angel is clearly poised to write in the book. Here the angel is registering the name of the deceased into the Book of Life. In Judaism and Christianity, the names of the righteous were recorded in the Book of Life; they were assured entry into Heaven.
The Book is referenced many times in the Bible (King James Version), including Revelations, Chapter 20,
Verse 12: “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God: and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”
Verse 13: “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.”
Verse 14: “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.”
Verse 15: “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”