Father Time and the Weeping Virgin

Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, Kentucky

In this funerary sculpture, a winged Father Time is depicted here as an old man, with a long beard and a large pair of wings. Father Time is standing with one of the tools of his trade that makes him instantly recognizable–a scythe. The scythe, a tool that was once used in the harvest, symbolizes the Divine harvest.  Just as wheat is cut down by the scythe during the harvest, so are souls by Father Time.

Father Time is standing behind a “weeping virgin”. Father Time is delicately untangling the Virgin’s hair. The act of untangling represents that with perserverance all things can be accomplished. She is holding either an urn, a symbol of death, or a weeping jar that was used to collect the tears of those who were mourning.  The urn is resting on a book which most likely represents 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…Verse 15: “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

They both stand before a broken column, the symbol of a life cut short.

The bas-relief below is slightly different, though, much of the symbolism is the same.  Again Father Time is holding a scythe, but also has an hourglass at his feet–a recurring icon reminding the living that time marches on and as the sands of time pass by all come closer to death.  In other words, life is short. The weeping woman is holding in one hand a sprig of acacia, which represents the immortality of the soul, and in the other a rolled scroll, symbolic of life and time.

Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio

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