Why a tombstone?

At the Funeral Arts


Your specialist in funeral monuments for the whole of Switzerland

What is the point of making a tombstone and what is it made of?

A tomb stone is a stone funerary monument. It typically includes the name of the person buried, their dates of birth and death, as well as sometimes a personal message or prayer called an epitaph. When it is placed upright at the head of a tomb, we will speak more precisely of a stele.

A funerary slab , also called Tumular slab , is a plaque, most often of stone and placed above a tomb, in particular in the paving of a church or on a wall, and generally bearing an epitaph or an engraved effigy.

The story of the tombstone

The gravestone, in its most literal form, has been around for thousands of years. Some archaeological sites show that Neanderthals were buried in pits deep in caves.

In those days, tombstones were used to protect the body of the deceased from wild animals. This practice lasts for many years and placing stones above the tomb has become a kind of tradition that has not always been upheld.

Moreover, the superstitious believed that by doing so, they were preventing the dead from coming back to life.

Gravestones: The different appellations

The different names of tombstones

Before being definitely called tombstones, they first went through several names.

However, the name still referred to the gravestone.

For example, at one point, we were talking about funeral monuments. But there are also names that are far removed from the expression, such as "commemorative markers" or "company tombstones" or even "deep double markers" and "tombstones for two".


Gravestones have always been of great importance. Even though the various goals pursued by man in Neanderthal times and today are quite different, the meaning of tombstones is still important.

Headstones today are the best way to honor the missing person by evoking his or her life or status in society on the stele.

However, the tradition has evolved a lot according to the countries and the generations which follow one another. It concerns in particular the form of the tomb, which is more or more dictated by the different customs practiced by the inhabitants.

Among the Japanese, for example, the tradition is that the tombstone is built after the marriage of two people. When one of them dies, it is the other who paints the initials of the deceased in red on the stele.

The concept of the cemetery

At first, the graves were located near the family home. In those days, the materials used were mostly rough stones or wooden markers. The stelae only mentioned the names of the people, the age and year of their death. When the church recognized the burial, it was inscribed in the funeral rite.

Graves and cemeteries have gradually become common practice, whether in or outside the funeral rites of churches. Gravestone monuments were generally square and slender, made of sandstone or slate.

Composition of a tombstone

Gravestone diagram 1.sole, 2.base, 3.stele, 4.tomb

The funerary monument is made up of several pieces intended to be assembled to form a whole, tomb 1 :

  • Sole: also called "pass", it is the horizontal part which forms the base of the monument.
  • Basement: also called "concrete block", it constitutes the base of the funeral monument. Square or rounded, it can be fitted with a prie-dieu or a planter.
  • Stele: vertical element of varied shape (ogee, parchment, heart, tulip, triangular) intended to receive the epitaph and the ornament (lithography, sculpture in low relief, molten glass), directly planted in the ground or enhanced by a basement.
  • Tomb: horizontal element covering all or part of the burial. Of shape (flat with slopes, in gendarme's hat, overflowing) and of variable dimensions, it can receive the same ornaments as the stele and opens on the vault.

The funerary engraving adorns the tomb or the stele. Usually in 5 types of colors (white, gold, black, Van Dick brown, silver), it allows the name and surname of the deceased to be entered, as well as their date of birth and death.

Recoating is the renovation by the funeral marble maker of an engraving on a gravestone which tends to fade.