Some tombs in the Metarie Cemetery in New Orleans, Louisiana, have a past, just as do their occupants! The polished red granite Morales Family Tomb was originally built for a former madam in 1911. The bronze statue of the woman at the door clutching a bouquet of roses was created by sculptor F. Bagdon ironically to represent the faithful “virgin.” The tomb, however, became such an attraction for curiosity seekers that the madam’s family had her body moved to a “undisclosed location” in an unmarked crypt in cemetery and sold the glorious tomb to the Morales family.
The tomb has two dominate symbols–the woman at the door and the two flames at top of the mausoleum. The flame atop each side of the tomb represents life. The flame illuminates the darkness representing enlightenment. It can symbolize zeal, liberty, and immortality.
The door as a motif in funerary art symbolizes mystery. The door is the pathway from the earthly realm to the next. The waiting virgin at the door seems to hesitate at the door. Her hand is close but doesn’t touch it; she is tentative. In Christianity, however, the door is usually viewed with hope, charity, and faith. The next life will be better.