Her Soul Takes Flight with an Angel

St. Francis Catholic Cemetery, Phoenix, Arizona

Elisabeth L. Roark wrote an article about angels titled, “Embodying Immortality: Angels in America’s Rural Garden Cemeteries, 1850—1900”, pages 56 – 111, 2007 edition of Markers, XXIV, in which she wrote Catholics had embraced the concept of angels but Protestants were slow to. That changed in the second half of the 19th Century. She explains that there was an “invasion” of angels in rural garden cemeteries, which were for the most part Protestant graveyards. Roark explains in the article that Protestants accepted the concept of angels because they not only expressed a message of consolation but were also utilitarian—these angels performed tasks.

According the article, angels come onto the scene in rural garden cemeteries in a big way starting in 1850 and then throughout the rest of the century. Though angels come in many variations and forms, in her study of 14 rural cemeteries from each region of America, Roark found that the majority of angels fall into the following eight categories:

  1. Soul-bearing Angels
  2. Praying Angels
  3. Angels who decorate and watch over the grave
  4. Pointing angels
  5. Recording angels
  6. Trumpet angels
  7. Michael the archangel
  8. Child angels

In this example, a soul-bearing angel holding a woman by her side both with flowing gowns is carved into the white-marble .  In this category of angels, the angels are depicted carrying the soul to Heaven. In most of the examples the author found, the angels were carved in bas-relief because of the complexity of carving them in the round.  This intricately carved monument depicts the soul as a young woman.

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