The Mighty Lion


Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois

Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois





The tombstone of Columbus Cummings, Chicago millionaire rail road magnate, and his wife, Sarah, in the Graceland Cemetery at Chicago features a draped sarcophagus.  The grand unpolished gray granite monument features three symbols: the lion head, the acanthus, and the laurel wreath.

The lion has long been a symbol of bravery, strength, and majesty. In popular culture, the lion is known for its power and is called King of the Jungle and King of the Beasts.

The acanthus

The acanthus leaf on a grave was actually the inspiration for the creation of the Corinthian column capital!  Here, thousands of years later, the acanthus leaf is again found decorating a tomb.  In funerary art, the acanthus represents the difficult journey from life to eternal life.

The laurel wreath

The laurel wreath dates back to Roman times when soldiers wore them as triumphal signs of glory. The laurel was also believed to wash away the soldier’s guilt from injuring or killing any of his opponents. In funerary art the laurel wreath is often seen as a symbol of victory over death.


The lion

The lion is often used as a royal emblem, found eight times in the Royal Arms for the Queen of England alone!

The lion in funerary art symbolizes the power of God. It is often depicted flanking the entrance of a tomb to guard against evil spirits to the passageway to the next realm. It also represents the courage of the souls the lions guard. There is also a connection of the lion to the Resurrection. It was once believed that lion cubs were born dead but would come to life after three days when the cubs were breathed upon by a male lion. The three days is significant because it is the number of days Jesus was in the tomb before he was resurrected.

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2 Responses to The Mighty Lion

  1. John Schuurman says:

    Particularly interesting is the shroud (symbolizing the great equalizer of death) see Isaiah 25:6-8, pulled back on Cummings monument so that the viewer can still appreciate the grandeur and power of the one lying moldering below.

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