4 Unusual Cemeteries to Visit

4 Unusual Cemeteries to Visit

Monday, March 19th, 2012

Most of us will be laid to rest in a traditional cemetery, or have our ashes scattered somewhere nice. But not all of the world’s burial sites are quite so conventional. Listed below are four of the most bizzare!

Hanging Coffins (The Philippines, China and Indonesia)

The practice of suspending coffins on cliff faces is an ancient tradition in China, the Philippines and Indonesia. It originated more than 2000 years ago and is still practiced in the three countries today by some minority groups.

The coffins can be hung in two different ways. Some of them make use of natural platforms jutting out of the cliff face, whilst others are suspended on wooden poles that have been inserted into the rock.

Each people have a different set of reasons for hanging coffins on cliff faces. In the Philippines (where this photograph was taken) it was believed that the higher a body was laid to rest the closer the soul was to heaven. It also meant that the graves could not be robbed or destroyed by monsoons.

Neptune Memorial Reef (Florida)

The Neptune Memorial Reef, or Atlantis Reef, is an underwater cemetery that currently has space for 850 cremated remains. It is spread across more than 600 thousand square feet of ocean floor and is thus the largest man made reef in the world.

If you’re thinking that 600 thousand square feet sounds like far too much space for 850 cremated remains you’re absolutely right. It’s hoped that one day the remains of over 125,000 people will be laid to rest in the mausoleum three miles off the coast of Florida.

The Hallstatt Ossuary (Austria)

At first glance the Halstatt Ossuary looks like something straight out of a horror film. A room filled with 610 painted human skulls sounds pretty terrifying to me but there’s a very logical reason for its emergence.

In the 12th century the population of Halsatt was flourishing and there wasn’t any space left in the town’s graveyard for the dead to be buried. So a grave rental scheme was introduced. People were buried for ten years and then dug up so the grave space could be reused. Their skulls were then placed on display in the Ossuary and towards the end of the 18th century relatives began to paint them, as they were missing out on the opportunity to decorate their graves with fresh flowers.

Today the majority of residents choose cremation but if they want their skull to be placed in the ossuary all they have to do is ask. Still freaked out? Me too!

The Merry Cemetery (Romania)

There’s no rule that says cemeteries have to be sad places. After all there supposed to be places where we can remember our loved ones and celebrate their lives.

There’s nothing solemn about the Merry Cemetery in the Romanian village of Sapanta, which sets it apart from pretty much every other burial site in the world. You’ll find colourful tombstones decorated with childlike paintings, upbeat poetry that focuses on the positive aspects of their lives and even some graves that have been decorated with unusual gifts and toys by the locals.

The Merry Cemetery is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must see for many tourists travelling to Romania. Image by premus