The seemingly plain light gray granite Cuneo family mausoleum is a stunning example of Neo-classical architecture. The pedimented porch is a key aspect of Neo-classical door design. The porch features polished granite Ionic columns. The entablature, the horizontal structure above the capitals, is plain as is the pediment.
The pedimented porch frames the elaborate bronze door. The arched window above the door is called a fanlight or a transom light. One each side of the fanlight is a wreath symbolizing memory and victory over death.
The door itself is imbued with symbolism from top to bottom. The top half of the door has crosses with passionflowers on the cross. The passionflower was so named by Spanish Christian missionaries because they identified parts of the flower with the passion of Jesus Christ.
- Then ten petals represent the ten faithful disciples. The two apostles who were not considered were St. Peter, the denier, and Judas Iscariot, the betrayer.
- The filaments that circle the center of the flower represent Christ’s crown of thorns.
- The curled filaments represent the whips used in flagellation of Christ.
- The white color was equated with Christ’s innocence.
- The styles symbolize the nails.
Behind the crossbars are rays of light. The bottom has crossed palm fronds. The palm frond is an ancient symbol of victory, dating back to Roman times when victors were presented with palm fronds. The palm fronds were also laid in the path of Jesus as He entered Jerusalem. So, for many Christians, the palm represents righteousness, resurrection, and martyrdom, symbolizing the spiritual victory over death associated with the Easter story.
In the panels just below the crosses are winged hourglasses surrounded by a laurel garland. The winged hourglass is a reminder in bronze that life is short, and that time is fleeting, every minute of every day brings one closer and closer to death. Again, the laurel wreath symbolizes victory over death. The laurel wreath dates 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.
The bottom panel of the bronze door are modernized version of the winged cherub’s heads, which have a fluid, almost art nouveau style. 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 have a childlike countenance of innocence. The iconography represents the flight of the soul from the body upward to Heaven and the hope of the resurrection.
Joseph Cuneo was born March 12, 1834, in Genoa, Italy, and died September 21, 1902— 68 years old. His wife, Mary, was born in 1849 and she passed away in 1909. The door to their tomb is flanked by statuary—the Madonna on the left of the entrance and Joseph holding baby Jesus on the right. Sitting on the pediment is an angel holding a trumpet and looking perfectly bored.