Requiescat in pace

History of the phrase Rest in Peace

RIP Notice on Gate, Cowra Cemetery New South Wales Australia
Philip Quirk/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Requiescat in pace is a Latin blessing with Roman Catholic ties that means “may he begin to rest in peace". This blessing is translated to ‘rest in peace’, a short saying or expression that wishes eternal rest and peace to an individual who has passed away. The expression typically appears on gravestones, and is often abbreviated as R.I.P. or simply RIP. The initial idea behind the phrase revolved around the souls of the dead remaining un-tormented in the afterlife.

History

The phrase Requiescat in pace began to be found on tombstones around the eighth century, and it was commonplace on Christian tombs by the eighteenth century. The phrase was especially prominent with the Roman Catholics. It was seen as a request that the soul of a deceased individual would find peace in the afterlife. Roman Catholics believed in, and placed much emphasis on the soul, and life after death, and thus the request was for peace in the afterlife.

The phrase continued to spread and gain popularity, eventually becoming a common convention. The lack of any explicit reference to the soul in the short phrase caused people to believe that it was the physical body that was wished to enjoy eternal peace and rest in a grave. The phrase can be used to mean either aspect in modern culture.

Other Variations

Several other variations of the phrase exist. Included among them is "Requiescat in pace et in amore," meaning "May she rest in peace and love", and “In pace requiescat et in amore”.

Religion

The phrase ‘dormit in pace’, which translates to ‘he sleeps in peace’, was found in early Christian catacombs and signified that the individual passed away in the peace of the church, united in Christ. Thus, they would then sleep in peace for eternity. The phrase ‘Rest in Peace’ continues to be engraved on the headstones of several different Christian denominations, including the Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, and the Anglican Church.

The phrase is also open to other religions interpretations. Certain sects of Catholics believe that the term Rest in Peace is actually meant to signify the day of Resurrection. In this interpretation, humans literally rest in their graves until they summoned upward out of it by the return of Jesus.

Via Job 14:12-15:

12So man lies down and does not rise.
Until the heavens are no longer,
He will not awake nor be aroused out of his sleep.

13“Oh that You would hide me in Sheol,
That You would conceal me until Your wrath returns to You,
That You would set a limit for me and remember me!
14“If a man dies, will he live again?
All the days of my struggle I will wait
Until my change comes.
15“You will call, and I will answer You;

The short phrase has also been found inscribed on Hebrew gravestones in the graveyard of Bet Shearim. The phrase clearly permeated religious lines. In this situation, it is meant to speak of a person who has died because he or she could not bear the evil around him. The phrase continues to be used in traditional Jewish ceremonies.