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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsSaunterings - The Gottesacker And Bavarian Funerals
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Saunterings - The Gottesacker And Bavarian Funerals Post by :redryder Category :Nonfictions Author :Charles Dudley Warner Date :May 2012 Read :3514

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Saunterings - The Gottesacker And Bavarian Funerals

To change the subject from gay to grave. The Gottesacker of Munich is called the finest cemetery in Germany; at least, it surpasses them in the artistic taste of its monuments. Natural beauty it has none: it is simply a long, narrow strip of ground inclosed in walls, with straight, parallel walks running the whole length, and narrow cross-walks; and yet it is a lovely burial-ground. There are but few trees; but the whole inclosure is a conservatory of beautiful flowers. Every grave is covered with them, every monument is surrounded with them. The monuments are unpretending in size, but there are many fine designs, and many finely executed busts and statues and allegorical figures, in both marble and bronze. The place is full of sunlight and color. I noticed that it was much frequented. In front of every place of sepulcher stands a small urn for water, with a brush hanging by, with which to sprinkle the flowers. I saw, also, many women and children coming and going with watering-pots, so that the flowers never droop for want of care. At the lower end of the old ground is an open arcade, wherein are some effigies and busts, and many ancient tablets set into the wall. Beyond this is the new cemetery, an inclosure surrounded by a high wall of brick, and on the inside by an arcade. The space within is planted with flowers, and laid out for the burial of the people; the arcades are devoted to the occupation of those who can afford costly tombs. Only a small number of them are yet occupied; there are some good busts and monuments, and some frescoes on the panels rather more striking for size and color than for beauty.

Between the two cemeteries is the house for the dead. When I walked down the long central alle of the old ground, I saw at the farther end, beyond a fountain, twinkling lights. Coming nearer, I found that they proceeded from the large windows of a building, which was a part of the arcade. People were looking in at the windows, going and coming to and from them continually; and I was prompted by curiosity to look within. A most unexpected sight met my eye. In a long room, upon elevated biers, lay people dead: they were so disposed that the faces could be seen; and there they rested in a solemn repose. Officers in uniform, citizens in plain dress, matrons and maids in the habits that they wore when living, or in the white robes of the grave. About most of them were lighted candles. About all of them were flowers: some were almost covered with bouquets. There were rows of children, little ones scarce a span long,--in the white caps and garments of innocence, as if asleep in beds of flowers. How naturally they all were lying, as if only waiting to be called! Upon the thumb of every adult was a ring in which a string was tied that went through a pulley above and communicated with a bell in the attendant's room. How frightened he would be if the bell should ever sound, and he should go into that hall of the dead to see who rang! And yet it is a most wise and humane provision; and many years ago, there is a tradition, an entombment alive was prevented by it. There are three rooms in all; and all those who die in Munich must be brought and laid in one of them, to be seen of all who care to look therein. I suppose that wealth and rank have some privileges; but it is the law that the person having been pronounced dead by the physician shall be the same day brought to the dead-house, and lie there three whole days before interment.

There is something peculiar in the obsequies of Munich, especially in the Catholic portion of the population. Shortly after the death, there is a short service in the courtyard of the house, which, with the entrance, is hung in costly mourning, if the deceased was rich. The body is then carried in the car to the dead-house, attended by the priests, the male members of the family, and a procession of torch-bearers, if that can be afforded. Three days after, the burial takes place from the dead-house, only males attending. The women never go to the funeral; but some days after, of which public notice is given by advertisement, a public service is held in church, at which all the family are present, and to which the friends are publicly invited. Funeral obsequies are as costly here as in America; but everything is here regulated and fixed by custom. There are as many as five or six classes of funerals recognized. Those of the first class, as to rank and expense, cost about a thousand guldens. The second class is divided into six subclasses. The third is divided into two. The cost of the first of the third class is about four hundred guldens. The lowest class of those able to have a funeral costs twenty-five guldens. A gulden is about two francs. There are no carriages used at the funerals of Catholics, only at those of Protestants and Jews.

I spoke of the custom of advertising the deaths. A considerable portion of the daily newspapers is devoted to these announcements, which are printed in display type, like the advertisements of dry-goods sellers with you. I will roughly translate one which I happen to see just now. It reads, "Death advertisement. It has pleased God the Almighty, in his inscrutable providence, to take away our innermost loved, best husband, father, grandfather, uncle, brother-in-law, and cousin, Herr---, dyer of cloth and silk, yesterday night, at eleven o'clock, after three weeks of severe suffering, having partaken of the holy sacrament, in his sixty-sixth year, out of this earthly abode of calamity into the better Beyond. Those who knew his good heart, his great honesty, as well as his patience in suffering, will know how justly to estimate our grief." This is signed by the "deep-grieving survivors,"--the widow, son, daughter, and daughter-in-law, in the name of the absent relatives. After the name of the son is written, "Dyer in cloth and silk." The notice closes with an announcement of the funeral at the cemetery, and a service at the church the day after. The advertisement I have given is not uncommon either for quaintness or simplicity. It is common to engrave upon the monument the business as well as the title of the departed.

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