Cemeteries in Luxembourg: a public space like no other

If Luxembourg is known for its diverse and multicultural population, this has not been evident at cemeteries until recently. In a conference that took place in Luxembourg city on the 28th October, Prof. Dr. Sonja Kmec discussed the growing number of new funerary rituals in the country and how they are being accommodated with stakeholders and an interested audience.

This conference is part of the Cemi-Hera project, which examines cemeteries and crematoria ‘gardens’ as public spaces of social inclusion, exclusion and integration, with a particular focus on migrant and Established Minority experience, needs and provision, and how these intersect with established practices in the North West of Europe.

Cemeteries in urban areas offer a sense of belonging and allow for commemorations and “continuing bonds” that continue even in death, especially for diasporic communities. Religiosity has declined in the past fifty years but these bonds, which need not be religious (e.g. prayers for the dead), are kept in many ways (personal messages and celebrations of anniversaries).

Historically influenced by French laws, Luxembourgish cemeteries are confessionally neutral grounds. They are supposed to be interfaith but adequate local funerary provisions are a complex topic. Some traditions and needs are more difficult to address, or even met by funerary providers. For example, it can be hard for Muslims to find a separate site following their burial prescriptions in their own municipality. At the moment, this is only possibly in Esch/Alzette and Betzdorf as well as in Merl, in the capital, which is in principle open to all Muslims living in the country but because of the Covid-pandemic also turned down requests.

In Luxembourg, the burying tradition is also changing. Many people prefer nowadays an ‘intimate’ burial with very few people present during the burial. In some cultures, however, this moment is crucial for the larger community. But cemeteries are often not equipped to accommodate that many people at once, and special permits need to be created in that regard.

As a result, some obstacles stand in the way of making the Luxembourgish burial places an inclusive space for its new diverse and multicultural population. Death is a visceral emotional experience for many people and integral part of life and the community. Actors of the funerary sector in Luxembourg thus have a most important role to play in accommodating these new populations and making burial sites inclusive public spaces.

Mobilities in Life and Death. Negotiating room for migrants and minorities in European cemeteries” is a book that will published in 2022 in the Imiscoe book series with a chapter dedicated to Luxembourg.

People related to this project