Sonja Kmec 2020

University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg

A comparative analysis of burials in natural settings in France, Germany and Luxembourg

Contrary to the British case, burial legislation in France, Luxembourg and most German federal states does not allow for body interment outside the confines of a cemetery or churchyard. Cremated remains are, however, allowed to be buried or dispersed in a so-called natural environment according to new legal dispositions. High cremation rates alone do not provide a sufficient explanation for these changes, as the East German (GDR) example shows but urns remained at the cemeteries (Schulz, 2013). Exploring Tony Walter’s differentiation between Catholic and Protestant sensibilities in shaping funerary practices (2020: 180), this paper will examine the geographical distribution of newly created ‘forest cemeteries’ in Germany with regard to historical religious backgrounds. What other cultural and economic factors may influence their introduction in certain areas? At the level of the small state of Luxembourg, the influence of local decision-makers and their networks is evident. The paper will show how ‘forest cemeteries’ were introduced and adapted in a culturally Catholic setting in the framework of Napoleonic burial legislation (Kmec ,2019). The findings will be compared to recent changes in burial legislation of secular France with regards to the scattering of ashes in ‘the middle of nature’.


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