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Area reserved for the cathedral chapter in Vienna's central cemetery
Mourning hall of the Dresden Johannisfriedhof ( Paul Wallot , 1894)

A cemetery (also burial site or burial ground , dated churchyard , cemetery , Totenhof or Leichenhof ) is a place where the deceased , in most cases accompanied by a religious or secular rites , buried be. Systems from pre-Christian times are usually referred to as burial grounds or necropolis in archeology , but the term cemetery is also used for ancient systems.

Friedhof is originally derived from the Old High German "frithof", the name for the enclosed area around a church . The change in meaning to a "court of peace" took place with the fading of the etymological roots.

Features of the cemetery

Cemeteries fulfill important individual and collective functions that exist in many cultures. Above all, they are intended to enable the relatives of the deceased to commemorate the dead undisturbed in a room that is clearly separated from the living room. Thus they play an important role in religious practice and serve public interests.

Cultic functions

St. Vitus in Zellhof originally with burial rights, now with an abandoned cemetery

The cemetery or burial ground with its grave places as the final resting place of the deceased or as a traditional place for families is in many cultures a place of remembrance, contemplation and mourning . The relatives of the deceased take over the memory of the deceased. Depending on the culture, the grave sites are equipped, maintained or decayed and financed. In Germany, the burial site is financed from the state law regulated burial obligation .

Cemeteries are equipped with a dedicated infrastructure for burial and memorial rituals for the dead. Depending on the culture and religion are in cemeteries addition to the actual grave sites chapels , shrines and sanctuaries and dead Halls of the Dead available for laying out. Crematoriums and ossuaries are often found directly on or near the cemetery grounds.

In many religions, the cemetery is a sacred place. In Christianity it is traditionally consecrated by the responsible clergyman. This cultic significance of the cemetery has given rise to a multitude of taboos, moral duties and laws. The violation of the rules or the desecration is punishable by the respective community. In practically all cultures, disturbing the peace of the dead, desecrating corpses, desecrating and robbing graves is punishable by law. Such acts are criminally prosecuted under German law . External signs to protect the peace of the dead are access restrictions, enclosing walls, lockable entrances.

Social functions

Name steles on a communal grave with anonymous graves, Stuhr-Moordeich cemetery

In addition to their cultic and ritual function, cemeteries take on other tasks: In many societies they serve public hygiene , since burials in a publicly regulated framework and in designated locations prevent the spread of epidemics and the pollution of the groundwater . For this reason, the cemetery obligation has developed in Germany . Initially, hygienic standards were met by the regulation to bury people and their ashes only in cemeteries. For a long time an exception to this was the burial of urns at sea and special regulations in some federal states. There are increasing alternatives to burials in separately established areas.

Due to their culturally prominent role, not a few cemeteries are under monument protection and represent tourist attractions. This is due to their cultural-historical, architectural or landscape-architectural, often artistic value that has developed in the complex or individual grave sites. In addition, commemoration of selected deceased people plays a major role in society: some graves and some cemeteries have developed into real “places of pilgrimage”.

Recently, families are no longer so localized and the demand for maintenance-free graves is increasing. At the same time, there is a demand for new, non-ecclesiastical types of burial that reflect the lifestyle or worldview of the deceased. These are more special burials such as those on the vine, in the woods, in themed graves or as cemeteries opened in 2015 for the common (urn) burial of humans and animals in one grave.

For coffin or urn burial in communal graves, the term " anonymous burial " has recently become established. Often the name and the life dates of the deceased can be immortalized for a fee on a collective name plaque or on grave steles, so that in the strict sense it is not possible to speak of a "nameless burial". Only the individual grave remains unnamed. Due to the socio-economic development (increasing impoverishment, lower family ties, higher mobility) and the growing secularization of the population, this form of burial has become the predominant form of burial in some communities.

Artistic functions

Caspar David Friedrich : Kügelgen's grave , 1822

Cemeteries can be aesthetically pleasing through structures on them ( e.g. mausoleums ) or through the artistic design of graves or the complex as a whole. In 2010, cemeteries in Europe worth seeing, high artistic standards, were connected by the European Route of Cemetery Culture.

Cemeteries have also been repeatedly used as the setting for literary and visual works of art. They are important scenes in folk tales and ghost stories from different cultures. Cemeteries became very popular as a literary reference world with the rise of the gothic novel and horror literature in England in the late 18th century. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's ballad The Dance of Death takes place in a cemetery. In German Romanticism , cemeteries were important in connection with the motif of longing for death . This idyllic view contradicts the common perception of the cemetery as a gruesome place. Paintings and drawings by Caspar David Friedrich and Carl Gustav Carus show cemeteries - such as churches, monastery ruins and barrows - mostly in melancholy solitude. In Wilhelm Müller's cycle Winterreise , the lyrical self deals with the longing for death in the poem Das Wirtshaus in a Friedhof.

In horror literature and, accordingly, in horror films , cemeteries are popular locations. The Gothic subculture often refers to cemeteries in its artistic products. Some supporters of Gothic culture use cemeteries for events or as an everyday, untabooed place to stay.

Ecological functions

Urban cemeteries, provided they are green, compensate for the dense environment and, in addition to parks and avenues, take on important climatic and ecological functions. In some cases they represent secondary biotopes that provide an important refuge for rare species . Some cemeteries take on partial functions of local recreation areas .

Planning, design and infrastructure

Watering can tree
Vending machine for grave lights
Decaying graves, here in a village cemetery in France
At the US National Cemetery in Arlington there are signs asking for "calm and respect".

Cemeteries, especially in village communities, are mostly cemeteries that have been in use for a long time. In cities or settlements with a larger catchment area, burial habits have been laid out and planned areas. Some of the newer areas are designed as a park cemetery from the outset . Municipal cemeteries are planned with the associated infrastructure before they go into operation. When planning the area of ​​the cemetery at the time of its creation, a long-term requirement plan was normally taken as a basis, which determines the size of the area. Many of the cemeteries were planned and established over 100 years ago. The development and design of the site took place under framework conditions when the aesthetics and landscape architecture followed different ideas. The facility includes the development via paths, the parceling and the division of the terrain according to various criteria, the planting as well as the construction and establishment of infrastructural components. In addition to the construction of a morgue, a party hall, administrative buildings, possibly a flower hall, this includes the supply of irrigation water to wells.

Small cemeteries are mostly not subdivided into different areas. In large cities in particular, there are departments for different religions, for different types of burial , for wealthy families or parcels of honorary and soldiers' graves. This structure is achieved through axes, a central part or subdivisions. The central axes or main avenues lead from the main entrance to the center of the site. Often times the main avenue is the preferred place for honorary graves or for specially equipped grave sites. Larger cemeteries, which are mostly located in large cities, often have vending machines for grave lights. However, as is usual with vending machines, these are somewhat more expensive than when buying in supermarkets or drugstores.

The cemetery administration keeps the infrastructure ready and in good condition. The seat of the administration is not necessarily on the cemetery grounds. The infrastructure of a cemetery includes:

  • Paths and their accessibility
  • Enclosure of the site
  • Funeral facilities
  • Installations for green and grave maintenance
    • Water connection
    • Disposal of green waste
    • Possibly a cemetery nursery

In addition, there is a more or less developed secondary infrastructure in the immediate vicinity of the cemetery , which is operated privately.

There are around 32,000 cemeteries in Germany.

historical development

Pre-Christian times

Megalithic rows in Carnac , France
The Valley of the Kings in Luxor , Egypt
Ancient cemetery in the Kerameikos district , Athens
Muslim cemetery at sunset in Marrakech , Morocco

Graves and places of worship are the oldest evidence of human civilization. Already in the early Stone Age people started to bury their dead in connection with different ideas about survival or simple ancestry. Before humans settled down, families used separate family burial grounds. When sedentary people lived together permanently, fixed locations were created where burials were held. Megalithic tombs , for example, have been preserved from the Neolithic .

With the emergence of the first high cultures, the proper funeral system developed. In ancient Egypt , where there was an outspoken cult of the dead , the pyramids and later the Valley of the Kings for pharaohs and necropolises ( Theban tombs ) for officials were built on the western side of the Nile, which is assigned to the other kingdom .

In Asia Minor and Crete , and later in Ancient Greece , the dead were buried in places outside urban life. These could be grave fields or rock graves in artificial caves. Often a shrine or an entire temple district was built nearby to perform ritual acts in honor of the dead.

In the Roman Empire , the tombs were organized differently and depending on the spatial and local conditions. Rich citizens in particular let themselves be buried along arteries, where they had artistically carved and richly inscribed panels, steles or mausoleums erected. With the catacombs, the city ​​of Rome had an extensive, subterranean city of the dead in which the deceased were walled up in niches.


After Christianization , the burial was relocated to the consecrated area of ​​the church building and the enclosed churchyard. The extra-urban grave fields based on Germanic-Celtic tradition were rejected as pagan , as was cremation . With the translation of relics , the church buildings became sacred spaces. The faithful sought to be buried as close as possible to the bones or relics of their saints after their death . Their intercession was hoped for at the resurrection of the flesh at the Last Judgment . In the immediate vicinity of the sacred, the chance of redemption of the deceased appeared to be greatest. A burial in the chancel or in the church crypt below was considered the highest privilege and was mostly reserved for the family of the church founder , the church lord or church dignitaries. Only the wealthiest could afford a funeral within the church. The social differentiation continued in the churchyard in order to be buried as close as possible to the church.

Outside the village etters or the ramparts deceased found their place in unconsecrated ground when they excommunicated had been or criminal, or a dishonest stand had belonged: beggars , jugglers and actors and suicides had, for example, no place on consecrated cemeteries.

Around 1800 there was a tendency to bury the dead away from the village center for hygienic reasons. There was fear of Mephite vapors that would rise from the graves at night and pollute the air, and the often daily opening and closing of mass graves in times of epidemics in urban centers also resulted in considerable hygienic problems. Individual graves were a rare exception. Burial in consecrated mass graves was the rule, not least for reasons of space.

As a result of the overcrowding of the inner-city cemeteries caused by the population growth and due to the Reformation , which rejected the veneration of relics , cemeteries with churches or funeral chapels have been laid out since the 16th century (especially in Protestant rule ). Thus church cemeteries were created outside the municipalities, from around the middle of the 19th century the first modern central cemeteries (cemeteries on the outskirts of the city), including magnificent Campo Santo complexes .

The term churchyard is sometimes used in a confusing way. On German city maps (especially from the 19th and 20th centuries) the name Kirchhof is often found , although there is no church. These are cemeteries operated by a parish at a greater distance from the actual church building. "Kirchhof" was used synonymously for burial place or cemetery. This explains the exclusive name “Judenkirchhof”.


Particularly in times of increased mortality (as a result of epidemics , famine , wars) the cemeteries quickly reached their capacity limits, so that reburial of half-decomposed corpses and the constant opening of the graves caused persistent odor nuisance and health hazards. Plague cemeteries far outside the settlements should at least contain the worst danger. The construction of inner-city cemeteries was later abandoned: Central cemeteries outside the city walls, which were independent of the location of a church, were occasionally created as early as the Renaissance , increasingly from 1750 and throughout the course of the 19th century. In Prussia, in Part 2, Title 11, Section 184 of the General Land Law for the Prussian States of 1794 stipulated that no corpses were allowed to be buried within inhabited areas.

Evidence of the change in meaning from the churchyard to the cemetery as a place where the deceased can find peace is the fact that roads to the cemeteries have been named "Friedensstrasse" since the 1870s. In addition, there were simultaneous designations as Friedhofsstraße or Friedhofsweg.

During the course of the First World War, all belligerent nations were faced with the question of how to deal with the millions of bodies of soldiers who had fallen or died in hospitals. Not nearly as many soldiers died in the previous wars (see military cemetery , war memorial ). The transport of the dead to their respective homeland would have been a great effort and would have additionally increased the tiredness of war or the rejection of war. Many corpses were difficult to transport, incomplete or torn by shrapnel. Many of them were considerably decayed when they were rescued from the combat zone, some weeks after their death.

The extensive secularization of Christian societies, which has progressed particularly in Europe since the 20th century, has changed the traditional forms of mourning. With the detachment of forms of mourning from religious communities, remembrance of the dead has increasingly shifted to the private sphere. This went hand in hand with a decline in the importance of public graves: the number of anonymous burials and cheaper forms of burial (such as cremations) have steadily increased as a result.

With the spread of the Internet, a large number of virtual cemeteries have emerged that are completely independent of a physical place of rest for the dead.

Design and views (gallery)

Forms and design

Grave of an unknown soldier of the Second World War at the Central Cemetery Villach , Austria

A cemetery is usually the final resting place for the deceased in a community or part of it. The cemetery is supported either by the municipality itself or by the local religious community, with the two institutions coinciding in some cultures. The cemetery can be subdivided into itself: in many cemeteries there are privileged areas due to their location and design that are reserved for dignitaries or wealthy families, just as there are areas for the graves of the poor . Members of certain social or professional groups can be accommodated in their own district: this is often the case for soldiers or clergy.

An alternative form is burial outside the area subject to piety in specially dedicated burial forests . Here the ashes of the deceased are buried in the root area of ​​individual, group or family trees. This type of burial does justice to the changed funeral wishes of many people for a maintenance-free, natural resting place outside the normal "mourning areas".

Rules of conduct and regulations in cemeteries in general and for individual grave fields in particular are laid down in the cemetery statutes. With these regulations, municipal or church parishes determine the binding norms for all users. These regulations are laid down in the legal framework (federal and state law) for the cemeteries and issued by the cemetery operator - in Germany always a corporation under public law - as legally binding local laws (statutes). Only legal persons under public law can be responsible for cemeteries. The establishment and maintenance of cemeteries is such an important task under public law that it cannot be left to a private institution. The operation, i.e. the management and maintenance of the cemetery, on the other hand, can be carried out privately on behalf of the carrier (usually by means of a work contract).

Honor and military cemeteries

At any given time in the 20th century, soldiers have committed their lives en masse. Cemeteries for fallen soldiers can be found worldwide as military cemeteries. These can reach considerable dimensions. The remains of at least 130,000 soldiers were found on the battlefield of Verdun . Because they could not be identified, most of them are not in individual graves, but in an ossuary . Military cemeteries often became a place of national identification and hero veneration . One example is the Arlington National Cemetery (USA), which is often colloquially known as "Heroes' Cemetery" and was established in 1864 during the Civil War .

Another special feature are cemeteries of honor, which are reserved for state leaders, monarchs, high-ranking politicians or other national identifiers. It was a special honor in the Soviet Union to receive the final resting place on the outer wall of the Moscow Kremlin .

Another form of special tombs are those of religiously revered personalities, such as martyrs. In general, like heroes' graves, they are the target of pilgrimages and penances in the form of visits as cemetery tourism . Artists' graves can also become particularly revered graves. The star and hero worship can be limited in time or region. National Socialism developed a special kind of such hero with the martyrdom cult .

Memorial sites for victims of war and tyranny

In the 20th century a special form of cemetery has developed that is closely related to a previously unprecedented, massive, systematic and often industrially organized destruction of life. First and foremost are the memorials that were erected in former concentration camps . In contrast to cemeteries with funeral services, a large number of murder victims were buried in mass graves or burned. The memory of the victim as an individual is hardly possible in such places. In addition to mourning, these memorials are primarily used for documentation and reminders, so they fulfill a high degree of social functions. The German Graves Act regulates the commemoration of the victims of war and tyranny in a special way.

Further examples are the facilities similar to concentration camps, such as camps in the former Soviet Union ( gulags ) or the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Villages destroyed in the course of war crimes, such as Lidice or Oradour-sur-Glane, have been declared a memorial as a whole. Oradour, which was rebuilt after the war, commemorates the victims collectively by means of the preserved village ruins as well as individually in the communal cemetery. Places of execution (such as the one in Berlin-Plötzensee ) and prisons also become memorials, regardless of whether the dead remained at the site. At the Jewish cemetery in Weißensee, relatives often set up a resting place in family graves for those missing in the crematoria of the concentration camps. The symbolic power of the last place is in the foreground of memory until the Last Judgment.

Religious and ethnic peculiarities

The sepulchral culture is most strongly developed in those religions that give the peace of the dead a special place, because they believe in a resurrection and afterlife. The monotheistic religions in particular are similar in this creed, which has its origins in the Old Testament. Nevertheless, there are differences between the burial regulations that are manifested in the design of the cemeteries.

Muslim field in the main cemetery in Karlsruhe

Islamic cemetery

In Islam , the burial of the dead is prescribed in the direction of Mecca, so that all grave sites in Islamic cemeteries are aligned in the same way. Often these are built of stone, partly bricked or covered with tiles. Often there are steles or stones at the head and foot end. Coffins are not common, the dead are only wrapped in white cloths and placed directly in the ground. In addition, the burial place is fixed until Judgment Day, so that it is neither re-occupied nor reburied.

Jewish Cemetery

In Jewish cemeteries , the tomb is also the eternal resting place until the Last Judgment. Neither the tombstones are removed, nor may the space ever be re-allocated or otherwise disrupted. If there is a shortage of space, the cemetery has to be expanded, where this was not possible. In the past, people made do with the whole area being filled with earth and thus the new graves being located above the old ones. The existing tombs were placed on the new surface, but if possible at the old location above the associated grave. This creates a high density of graves and tombstones, and the routing can become confusing. In the case of very old cemeteries that have been filled up several times, the current surface is sometimes several meters above the level of the surrounding area.

In the Jewish tradition, tending to the grave essentially consists of keeping the vegetation low. The cut-back plants may not be used - for example as fodder - because they are considered the property of the dead. Instead of flowers, small stones are placed on the tomb as a symbol of remembrance.

Christian cemetery

Chapel in the moonlight , painting by Fritz von Wille , 1912

In western countries with a Christian character, a special cemetery culture has developed, which is determined by very diverse aesthetic frameworks. Specific traditions have often developed in different cultural areas. Within Christian regions, cemeteries differ considerably in their furnishings.

  • In Central and Eastern Europe, the cemeteries often appear like parks and have a high proportion of greenery. The grave parcels, if they are not covered with a grave slab, are often cultivated as beds and have a varied horticultural character. The cemetery area is usually bordered with a fence or a wall, a high cross erected in a visible place has been common from ancient times, which marks the cemetery as a Christian site.
  • In Northern European and Anglo-American countries, lawns are preferred, on which there are only ground-level slabs or upright stones. The individual grave site is rarely fenced. There is a lot of trees, mostly only for the visual separation of the site or its individual areas.
  • In France, Southern Europe and Latin America, cemeteries are mostly kept without vegetation or have only a few trees, in the Mediterranean area mainly cypress avenues. The grave sites are made of stone or covered with a slab, some are fenced and filled with gravel or gravel. Artificial plants, ceramic objects and panels often replace the vegetation.
  • In the Spanish-Portuguese region in particular, there are walls with several floors in which the dead are embedded in compartments and walled in. As columbaria , this type of burial is becoming increasingly important for urn burials in Central Europe . The same tradition can be found in southern Italy .

In the Mediterranean region, the “house of the dead” is often preferred to be built in front of the house.

Eastern religions

Shintoism in particular attaches importance to the memory of the deceased comparable to that of Western religions. This can be seen in the layout of the cemeteries. The corpse is considered unclean. Shinto cemeteries often only contain mock graves .

In Hinduism there are no cemeteries. The belief principle of continuous rebirth contradicts the construction of burial places. The ashes of the dead are scattered in a river. The flowing water is a strong symbol for the process and change in life and for the return. The commemoration of the dead takes place in private at the shrine of the deceased.

In Hindu mythology, it is particularly desirable to die and be burned in Varanasi , the city of Shivas on the Ganges , and thus to break out of the constant cycle of rebirth ( reincarnation ) and the resulting eternal suffering of becoming and passing away ( samsara ) to reach.

Famous cemeteries

The Père Lachaise in Paris is one of the most famous cemeteries in the world.
Jewish cemetery in Łódź

Quite a few cemeteries (here a list) have become world-famous attractions due to their design, history, importance or the prominence of their buried people. The Père Lachaise in Paris, the Vienna Central Cemetery or the largest cemetery in Europe in terms of area in Hamburg-Ohlsdorf attract many visitors all year round. The Paris cemetery authorities have already placed security guards on the Père Lachaise, as vandalism and disturbance of the peace had increased around the grave of the former “Doors” singer Jim Morrison . Often touristic tours to remarkable tombs are offered in large cemeteries . Every design of tombs can be the subject of art historical considerations. There are regular pilgrimages to individual resting places, especially of idols from politics, society or pop culture.

The Łódź Jewish Cemetery is the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe (opened in 1882, today 160,000 to 180,000 preserved tombs). Around 43,000 victims of the Nazi concentration camp Ghetto Litzmannstadt are buried in part of the cemetery (initially as mass graves). The Brookwood Cemetery for residents of London was created due to a lack of space in Brookwood (Surrey), 48 km south of the capital, known under the name "London Necropolis" (city of the dead, cf. Necropolis). Brookwood was the largest cemetery in the world for many years. A total of over 240,000 people were buried there, 6,000 of them in the two military cemeteries there. In 1854, a railway line was built especially for this cemetery and the funeral trips of the mourners, and the London Necropolis station was built right next to Waterloo station.

The Mont Auburn Cemetery was established near Boston in 1831 . Curved paths were laid out during construction. The relatives were able to decorate their burial sites with plants and memorials according to their own ideas. The public interest aroused and the press of the time reported that similar systems were being built in other American cities. From this a movement developed, the "rural cemetery movement". The term cemetery (bedroom) for cemetery, which is common in English today, is derived from this.

Organization and administration

The administration and operation of cemeteries are regulated by law and are therefore organized under public law in the majority of cases . The framework conditions differ according to the country or region, supporting institutions and local conditions. The regulation by the public hand goes back to the end of the Thirty Years War, when the churches were obliged for the first time by states to open the gates of their cemeteries for deceased of other denominations.

legal framework

In cemetery law, rights, obligations and prohibitions are regulated by cemetery statutes. These are generally drawn up by the cemetery owner and published and monitored by the cemetery administration. Cemetery statutes in force at the cemetery and funeral right align, which in Germany state law is. The legal framework conditions are locally designed and specified. In particular, cemetery statutes regulate the opening times, rules of conduct, commercial activities, rights of use and rest periods for grave sites, reburial, burial and funeral ceremonies . A coffin is only mandatory in Bavaria, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt. In addition to the statutes, there is the cemetery fee schedule, which specifies fees for services provided by the cemetery administration.


According to the funeral laws of the federal states, cemeteries can only be owned by legal entities under public law .

At least in Germany these are the local authorities . As a "matter of the local community", the funeral system falls under the jurisdiction of the municipalities ( Article 28, Paragraph 2 of the Basic Law).

Religious communities can be recognized as religious societies under public law in Germany . These are z. B. the Christian churches and the Israelite religious communities . Since Islam is traditionally not organized and structured in the same way as the Christian churches or the Jewish community, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat is so far the only Muslim religious society under public law in Germany.

In most cases, the cemetery is borne by the municipality. In addition, there are sponsors in the form of foundations and associations, especially for culturally significant cemeteries with predominantly monumental character.

Municipal cemeteries are usually run as municipal government operations ; in contrast to business- oriented operations , they do not have their own legal personality and their own budget, but they have sovereign powers. The cemetery administration is responsible for the operation. This can be located in different areas of the local government , such as the public order office, the building office or the green space office. In some cases, it is part of local municipal enterprises , such as when the cemetery administration in the custody of the Stadtwerke was hived off.

Church-owned cemeteries are mainly equipped with their own household and are encouraged to support themselves. Like communal cemeteries, they have income in the form of cemetery fees. In addition to the church cemeteries of the Protestant and Catholic communities, the Jewish cemeteries are subject to special requirements. In particular, in accordance with the halacha, there is no limited rest period there .

In Islam, too, the dead enjoy an eternal right to rest. However, since the Muslim communities are usually not organized under public law and cannot operate their own cemeteries, many Muslims have themselves transferred to their home countries after their death. Individual municipalities grant their Muslim residents an eternal right of rest in municipal cemeteries.

The Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge ( Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge) is established as the bearer of military cemeteries in Germany and the Black Cross in Austria . These associations carry out their economic activities through membership fees, donations and public subsidies.

The evacuation of a field is announced.


Empty graves department

Cemetery owners are in a position to run cemeteries economically. Various difficulties can arise here.

One problem arises from the shift from burial in the ground to urn burials: less and less cemetery space is required; In many places there are coherent "cemetery overhang areas", ie areas on which the grave sites have expired and from which no income in the form of usage fees is incurred for the cemetery owner. However, these areas must still be cared for by the wearer in order to avoid a neglected appearance; a use for other purposes, for example as a building area, is problematic for reasons of piety.

Soil conditions and environmental risks

The environmental protection laws also apply to cemeteries. The operators have to pay attention to the corresponding requirements, especially with regard to the entry of pollutants into the groundwater . The modern way of life can cause exposure to heavy metals. Amalgam from dental fillings or pacemakers can be a cause. Risks from antibiotics can hardly arise, since the corpses would have to be very heavily polluted in order to affect the groundwater.

Decay is largely determined by the soil conditions. It runs fastest in dry, well-ventilated soils. It is slowed down by low temperatures and humidity. Wax corpses arise in impermeable soils and when the groundwater level is high , which greatly hampers the decomposition of the corpses or comes to a complete standstill. In many areas of Germany there are clearly problematic soils for burial according to today's practice, since the decomposition process takes more time than the usual duration of the rest period .


  • On islands, rivers or mountain passes, there are cemeteries of the homeless or nameless , where unknown victims of accidents were buried. Such a cemetery was consecrated on Neuwerk as early as 1319.
  • The animal cemetery is a facility for the burial of animals.
  • Figuratively special scrap yards as are Junkyard , Boneyard , bells cemetery or ship cemetery designated or confusing accumulation of numbers in accounting as a number Cemetery .
  • Sham cemetery is the name of a garden that has been deliberately designed to resemble a cemetery.
  • A church park is the name given to a former churchyard that has been rededicated and turned into a park.


sorted alphabetically by author

  • Thorsten Benkel, Matthias Meitzler: Allow me to lie down. Unusual tombstones. A journey through today's cemeteries. Kiwi, Cologne 2014, ISBN 978-3-462-04608-3 .
  • Thorsten Benkel, Matthias Meitzler: Symbols and farewell gestures . Social elements of the funeral culture. Publishing house Dr. Kovac, Hamburg 2013, ISBN 978-3-8300-6177-9 .
  • Thorsten Benkel: The administration of death. Approaches to a Sociology of the Cemetery. 2nd edition, Logos-Verlag, Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-8325-3126-3 .
  • Bund Heimat und Umwelt in Deutschland (Ed.): Historic cemeteries in Germany. Bonn 2007, ISBN 978-3-925374-77-7 .
  • Norbert Fischer : From the churchyard to the crematorium. A social history of the cemeteries in Germany since the 18th century . Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 1996 online
  • Daniela Friebel, Stefan Günther, Jörg Leidig: A world history under every gravestone . Landesdenkmalamt Berlin , Berlin 2010, catalog of the German National Library .
  • Barbara Happe, Christoph Engels: Friedhof I (in Christianity) . In: Reallexikon zur Deutschen Kunstgeschichte , Vol. X (2012), Col. 902–961.
  • Horst Günter Lange: Cremation and its influence on cemetery planning illustrated using the example of the Hamburg cemetery in Ohlsdorf . In: Die Gartenkunst  8 (1/1996), pp. 108–118.
  • Uwe Schneider: Comments on the “cemetery reform movement”. The garden art discussion about the modern cemetery design before the First World War . In: Die Gartenkunst 12 (2/2000), pp. 326–362.
  • Reiner Sörries: Friedhof II (in Judaism) . In: Reallexikon zur Deutschen Kunstgeschichte , Vol. X (2012), Col. 961–980.
  • Reiner Sörries: Rest gently. Cultural history of the cemetery. Licensed edition, 2nd edition. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2011, ISBN 978-3-534-24450-8 .
  • Thomas Struchholz: Cemetery - a place with a future. Cemetery planning in practice. A textbook. Specialized publisher of the German funeral industry, Düsseldorf 2013, ISBN 978-3-936057-40-9 .
  • Central Institute for Sepulchral Culture Kassel (ed.): Large lexicon of funeral and cemetery culture . Dictionary of Sepulchral Culture. 5 volumes. Thalacker Medien, Braunschweig since 2002, DNB 963152122 .
  • Central Institute and Museum for Sepulchral Culture Kassel (Hrsg.): Room for the dead: the history of the cemeteries from the grave roads of Roman times to anonymous burials. Thalacker-Medien, Braunschweig 2003, ISBN 3-87815-174-8 .

Web links

Commons : Cemeteries  - Collection of Images
Commons : Cemetery Wall  - Collection of Images
Wiktionary: Friedhof  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Günter Bergmann: Small Saxon dictionary. Bibliographisches Institut , Leipzig 1989. In the entire area, except the Lausitz, but out of date: "Behind the Karch is the Gottsacker."
  2. Wolfgang Pfeifer: Etymological Dictionary of German . Munich 1995, p. 376.
  3. ^ Deutsche Friedhofsgesellschaft Changed culture in cemeteries.
  4. Augsburger Allgemeine Buried together: Pet as companion until death , October 2015.
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