Last rest on the sheet: Munich is carrying out its first burials without a coffin – this is how they work
Since April 1st, new rules apply to undertakers in Bavaria. For Muslims in particular, they are groundbreaking: From now on you can be buried in a cloth and without a coffin. Three of these burials have already taken place in the Westfriedhof – after years of rehearsals.
West Cemetery – The body is buried, the coffin rolls back to the morgue. It was a strange sight on Monday in the Westfriedhof, but no sight. After all, funerals without a coffin have been allowed in Bavaria since April 1st. Wrapped only in linen cloth, the dead person is laid in the earth, lowered onto a sling and the grave is then filled. For Muslim tradition. But new and a challenge for the Munich cemetery administration. A corpse wrapped in cloth is different from a solid wooden coffin.
“We rehearsed the processes with a dummy,” says Kristin Englerth, project manager for caseless burials in Munich since 2019. How do we lower the 80 kilogram and 1.75 meter tall doll into the grave without it tipping over? When do the sheets she is wrapped in or the sling she is lying on tear? Questions that Englerth had to answer by tinkering with the material and doing many test runs before the first funeral took place without a coffin.
Munich West Cemetery: The first three burials without a coffin have already taken place
In the meantime, three people have been buried without a coffin at the Westfriedhof. Whereby: You can’t do that without a coffin either. The undertaker brings the body to the cemetery in a loan coffin. The cemetery workers then lift him out together with the sling. “It has loops through which the risers are threaded. The corpse is then placed contactlessly over the grave on the longitudinal bolt and lowered after it has been removed, ”says Englerth. “The bottom of the grave is sloping to the left. Muslims, for example, are traditionally buried on their backs, turned on their right shoulder and facing southeast towards Mecca. “
For many Muslims in Munich, this is an important issue. Because a coffin-free burial was not possible with us up to now, corpses were repeatedly flown from Munich, for example to Turkey, and buried there according to the rite.
Bavaria: Coffin-free burials are also possible for non-Muslims
But from now on, non-Muslims can also be buried like this in Munich. “A wooden board is placed over the corpse in such a way that an air space is created between it and the floor,” says Englerth. This is important for the decomposition process in moist, clayey soils and imitates the cavity that otherwise exists in the coffin. The sheet is rotting.
As soon as the board is in the grave, the ceremony no longer differs greatly from the one with the coffin. Because then relatives can fill the grave with soil or flowers. “With or without a coffin, the costs for the grave are about the same,” says Englerth. Draining the corpse and the board would be more time-consuming depending on the duration of the rituals and would be billed. In Munich, coffin-free funerals are now generally allowed to take place in every cemetery. Muslim grave fields can only be found in the west, south and forest cemeteries. (sco)
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