Beauty in Death

Have you ever considered a Graveyard as a place of beauty? Apart from the very important city cemeteries such as Paris’, Pere -Lachaise or Milan’s Cimitero Monumentale, filled with exceptional works of Art honouring departed family members, most country church cemeteries are relatively uninteresting, often dilapidated, untended or at the best new areas of “Bio-diversity”… Therefore it comes as a surprise to find, tucked away in a corner of Austria, a beautiful “Garden” of Remembrance.

The cemetery attracts one’s attention because of the riotous display of colours. On closer examination one realises that each and every grave is a miniature garden, lovingly created inside a strictly delimited area, which are known as “Sarchengraeber”.  Sarchen are wooden boards painted in black and silver, often decorated with sayings and quotations. Each grave is a miniature garden, lovingly tended all the year round. Only cast-iron and wrought-iron crosses are allowed, and these are often minor works of art, which also withstand the long cold winters better than modern day cement crosses. The oldest Cross dates back to the 1600’s.

On All Saint’s Day, as in all Catholic Countries, special attention is paid to the dear departed, but unlike Italy, where families tidy up graves, often forgotten throughout the year, in these tiny, country graveyards, immaculately kept throughout the year, All Saints Day is celebrated with the placing of a fir wreath on each grave. This uniformity is meant to underline the fact that in death, all men are equal.

…..Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world
Of eye, and ear, — both what they half create,
And what perceive; well pleased to recognise
In nature and the language of the sense,
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.

……and this prayer I make,
Knowing that Nature never did betray
The heart that loved her; ’tis her privilege,
Through all the years of this our life, to lead
From joy to joy

By William Wordsworth (1770-1850).


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