Elisabeth L. Roark wrote an article about cemetery angels titled, “Embodying Immortality: Angels in America’s Rural Garden Cemeteries, 1850—1900”, pages 56 – 111, 2007 edition of Markers, XXIV, in which she categorized the eight most commonly found types of graveyard angels—grouped by the task they performed: soul-bearing; praying; decorating and guarding; pointing; recording; trumpeting; sword-bearing (archangel Michael); and child angels.
Angels are popular images found in cemeteries in America and throughout the Christian world. The English word “angel,” is derived from the Greek word “aggelos” meaning messenger or herald. Angels can be found in cemeteries in all shapes and sizes and in many different mediums including carved stone bas-reliefs on gravestones, full sculptures, and even in glass.
The stained-glass window angel in a John Beals Brown Neo-classical mausoleum in the Green Lawn Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio, does not fit nicely into one of the eight categories of most-commonly found angels outlined in Roark’s article. She holds a crown in one hand—presumably to crown the deceased members buried in the tomb and a palm frond in the other–both symbols of victory over death.
The crown is a symbol of glory and reward and victory over death. The reward comes after life and the hard-fought battle on Earth against the wages of sin and the temptations of the flesh. The reward awaits in Heaven where the victor will receive a crown of victory. The crown also represents the sovereign authority of the Lord.
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.