A common and oft heard remark from Christians is that when they die they will go to Heaven and meet with St. Peter at the “Pearly Gates” when they enter the Kingdom. This is such a popular scenario that there are entire Web sites devoted to St. Peter-at-the-Pearly-Gates jokes!
In religious paintings, St. Peter is often shown with keys, referring to the Matthew 16:18-19: “And I say also unto thee, That thou are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
The term “Pearly Gates” also has its origin in a Biblical passage, Revelation 21:21: “And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate (sic) was one pearl; and the street of the city pure gold, and it were transparent glass.”
The Beaman Family gravestone, in the Lakewood Cemetery at Minneapolis, Minnesota, has an open gate, a common symbol found in American cemeteries. Often the gates have stars, a single, star, a dove, or a banner above the open gates.
What is different about this open gate motif on the Beaman Family Monument is that it is cast in bronze and built into the monument, not merely carved into the face of the gravestone. It is also different because passing through the open gates is a sail boat as if the smooth waters allowed the soul gentle and safe passage on the placid waters on the way to Heaven.
The open gates are central to the Last Judgment. The gates represent a passageway from one realm to the next. The gates are the portal for saved souls to make their passage from the Earthly realm to the Heavenly realm upon Christ’s return.