The burial in the earth

Tradition and faith under scrutiny

Die Erdbestattung

Historical development

Earth burial is one of the oldest forms of burial in the world. Evaluated records date back to more than 10,000 years BC.

At the beginning of this time, the deceased persons were sunk into moors and swamps. In addition, mummification and the sinking of the body in water were also used.

About 4,000-1,800 B.C. the first burial in the form of the great stone graves developed.
From 1,000 B.C. to ca. Chr. birth, the Celts buried their relatives in large burial mounds. After that cemetery places developed slowly (often in front of churches and on the outskirts). At that time the churches took over the burial. It was not until the 18th century that the municipalities took over this work.

Nowadays, especially in rural areas, burial is one of the most chosen burial methods. However, since cremation is becoming increasingly common due to the lower costs, the increasing number of atheists and the increasing “anonymity” of our society, burial must fear for its leading place as the most chosen form of burial.

In addition, there are modern burial methods such as forest burial, sea burial, meadow burial, etc. As cremation is a basic prerequisite for all these types of burial, this contributes decisively to an increasing number of cremations.

Legal regulations

In the Federal Republic of Germany, funeral law (public law) and municipal statutes (cemetery law) determine the proper burial of a deceased person. It is regulated by state laws, which means that there are no national regulations and laws. These legally binding regulations eventually lead to the cemetery regulations of the respective municipalities. Due to the fact that the funeral law is a state matter, there are different laws from state to state, which are mostly similar, but not always comparable. This can often lead to a greater formal effort if a deceased person is to be transferred to another federal state or even abroad.

Choosing the right grave

In order to decide on the right grave, one should ask oneself what the deceased would have wished for and what financial means are available. In my opinion, less is sometimes more. It certainly doesn’t help much if you can afford an expensive single grave and have to pay for it for months or even years.

The series Grave

A terraced grave is also a single grave, just like an optional grave. The difference, however, is that with a row grave, you cannot choose the grave location yourself.
More important, however, is that after the lease expires, the right to use the grave expires and cannot be extended. This means that the period of the deceased (usually 20-30 years) cannot be extended and the grave must be levelled.

The grave/family grave

As the name already indicates, the election grave can be leased at a certain place of the cemetery. Furthermore, double graves and possibly even larger grave areas can be leased. After the end of the rest period, the right to use the grave can be extended. A subsequent burial can then also take place in this grave.

Sometimes a subsequent burial of an urn is also possible. Please note, however, that in most cases only the sequence

  1. burial
  2. urn burial

is possible due to the peace of death.

The crypt/the mausoleum

The crypt is an underground or above-ground room in which the deceased are buried. Often a kind of family crypt is built, in which family members have been buried for centuries. Understandably, this is a rather rare type of burial nowadays due to the immense costs involved.

The mausoleum is set apart from a crypt in that it is a tomb in the form of a building. In these graves are often buried kings, very rich people and high dignitaries.

Info: Please note that this is only general advice. The exact regulations often differ from cemetery to cemetery. Further information can be found in the article Grabarten in Deutschland!

Choice of coffin & Co.

Coffin model

As with many other things in life, the choice of coffin model is a choice of personal taste. Pine, oak or poplar: depending on the type of wood and workmanship of the coffin, the price varies immensely. Between 600 euros and several thousand euros are possible for a coffin and must be planned in. Of course, the border is open at the top. In the meantime, for example, there are also coffin models that are decorated with Svarowski stones, or coffins that are made of aluminium.

Nevertheless, you should ask yourself the question of financing and necessity.

Ceiling set

A set of blankets is the pillow and the blanket with which the deceased person is covered. These are usually in white, beige, silver or gold and differ in design, material and weave.

My personal recommendation is a white ceiling set for men and a gold-coloured ceiling set for women. Since this is however pure matter of taste, my opinion represents naturally only a personal recommendation to it.

Talar or own clothes

No other subject occupies me as much as this one. Often I get written from third parties that a funeral director would say that own clothes are not possible or even forbidden. In principle, it is always possible to wear one’s own clothes during a burial (unless there is a risk of infection). Even in the case of cremation, today’s crematoria are equipped with modern filter systems, so that there are usually no prohibitive reasons for this.

Usually, however, it is the comfort, because a gown is quickly dressed and does not cause great circumstances. With the hygienic supply of one’s own clothing, more time is needed to prepare the person.

Therefore again the hint: If the funeral director says it would not be possible, let him give you the exact reasons. If you have any doubts, ask another funeral director in the area or ask the local authority. Your own clothes are a part of the human being and should therefore always be preferred to the gown! Even if a gown is often recommended.

Tips from Sebastian Goetz

  • Many relatives would like to add personal memorabilia to the deceased, such as pictures, CDs, flowers or letters. This is often possible. Give the items to your trusted undertaker when you pick them up or during the subsequent consultation.
  • I often notice that relatives only hand in “half” their clothes. Sometimes the funeral director also tells me that personal clothing is not allowed. Of course, a deceased person can usually be dressed completely (see above), including shoes and what he liked to wear.
  • Place the farewell at the open coffin one day before the funeral. For many, the open farewell and the funeral immediately after is too much of a burden. The separation of these two touching events in terms of time gives relatives some time to arrange their many feelings. You can also say goodbye in peace before the funeral day.