The Sarcophagus



1893 – 1959



1875 – 1955



1869 – 1943



1871 — 1929

The large sarcophagus of the Sanger family in the Calvary Cemetery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is a massive limestone tomb embellished with winged cherub heads, their eyes closed.

The sarcophagus is an ancient burial monument designed to look like a coffin.  Most often they are set on a platform or a base.  The tomb is often embellished with ornamentation and nearly always has feet, though this one does not.  But the “coffin” is empty–just an empty symbol of the receptacle.

The word, sarcophagus, is derived from two ancient Greek words, sarx, which meant flesh and phagein meaning to eat.  The two words together, sarkophagus, meant flesh eating.  The term came from the limestone used by the ancient Greeks to bury the dead which was thought to decompose the flesh of the deceased.

The winged cherub was a symbol that became popular in the 18th Century.  Winged cherubs replaced the stark and morbid flying death’s heads from our Puritan forefathers.  The cherubs on the Sanger family have their eyes closed as though they are sleeping.  The iconography represents the flight of the soul from the body upward to Heaven and the hope of the resurrection. In this motif the wings give flight not only to the soul but to time.

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