It’s quite rare to be comfortable with death and that’s why we find cemeteries creepy and creepy. Death scares us and frankly it is understandable a little. Unsurprisingly, we’re not here to teach you what happens after death. On the other hand, we can answer the questions you ask yourself about cemeteries, places that are ultimately more soothing than scary.
1. How much does a concession cost? And what happens if we stop paying?
The price of a plot varies a lot depending on where one wants to be buried. In a city like Lyon, a concession of 2 m² costs 1300€ for 30 years whereas in Lille, it only costs 400€. In Paris on the other hand, it is necessary to count nearly 3000€.
One can choose to pay a concession for 10 years, 30 years, 50 years or even in perpetuity but when the term expires, the family must renew the purchase. If all the family members agree to abandon the concession, it is possible to recover the remains of the deceased to cremate them, re-bury them elsewhere or place them in a communal ossuary.
2. Are there specially secular or religious cemeteries?
Since the end of the 19th century, cemeteries have become neutral places: they must respect everyone’s religion without imposing one. It is therefore forbidden to erect religious signs in the common areas of the cemeteries; although there are still crucifixes that may have remained if they were considered monuments.
We sometimes speak of a “confessional square” to designate a perimeter of the cemetery where people of the same faith are buried, according to their wishes. This was authorized following numerous requests from believers, but it is forbidden to delimit these “squares” with a wall or even a sign; it’s just a grouping.
3. What is a real will-o’-the-wisp?
It has long been believed that the will-o’-the-wisps, these lights having the appearance of a flame, were the manifestation of souls in pain who wandered on Earth. In truth, the explanation is much less poetic. In a soil that lacks oxygen, the presence of methane and phosphorus can create an emanation of phosphorescent gas which is called a will-o’-the-wisp. We see this phenomenon especially in marshes and cemeteries because it is created because of the decomposition of plants and corpses, whether animal or human.
4. Is it well paid as a job as a cemetery caretaker?
The cemetery caretaker generally begins by being paid the minimum wage, but his salary may change over time. Contrary to some beliefs, the guardian does not guard the cemetery at night. He opens and closes the premises, ensures security and ensures the good condition of the cemetery and the management of the concessions. He is also present during burial ceremonies. Sometimes the guards occupy a house next to the cemetery to be able to avoid intrusions.
5. Are there animal cemeteries?
In France, it is forbidden to bury animal carcasses within 35 meters of dwellings, wells or water sources. Officially, it is therefore not allowed to bury your hamster in your garden (we learn about it every day). Most masters of deceased dogs or cats opt for cremation, but there are also animal cemeteries all over France. At the Asnières-sur-Seine pet cemetery, there are even famous dog graves like Rintintin’s.
6. What exactly is desecration?
The legal term “desecration” appeared in the 1990s and goes far beyond the simple violation of a grave. Profanation is an attack on respect for what is sacred, it is therefore a degrading act for the deceased, his relatives or his community. Funeral trades are now highly regulated to respect the laws: opening a burial without authorization is tantamount to desecration and is punishable by two years in prison and a fine of €15,000.
7. Can you have absolutely whatever you want engraved on your epitaph?
On a grave, it is mandatory to write the name of the deceased, their dates of birth and death as well as the number of the location. It is of course possible to add a personal message and some people choose a funny message for the epitaph. Despite everything, you can’t put everything you want; the General Code of local authorities specifies that the approval of the mayor is required to place an inscription.
Me, I would like to have the same message as Phoebe in Friends on my grave: “buried alive”.
8. Can two people be buried in the same coffin?
In France, it is impossible to bury two people in the same coffin. This prohibition is linked to the law of bodily integrity; one cannot undermine the integrity of a corpse and burying two bodies would cause a mixture during decomposition. There are only two exceptions to this rule: you can bury together twins born dead or dead just after childbirth, but also a mother and her child if both died during or just after childbirth. It’s weird, but it’s the law.
9. Do you have to be known to be buried at Père-Lachaise?
Officially, any Parisian can be buried among the stars of Père-Lachaise since it is a public cemetery, like all cemeteries in France; you just have to have lived in Paris and died there or have a place in a family vault. The problem is that the cemetery is full, so we can no longer reserve a place. Buying a Concession is only possible at the time of death and there is no queue, so you have to die right when a Concession becomes available. Or be part of a wealthy family that’s been paying for a vault for a very, very long time.
10. How come there is room for everyone?
In fact, there is no room for everyone. Already, cremation is increasingly preferred: 36% of funerals were cremations in 2016 and 59% of French people say they want cremation on their death, according to BVA. On top of that, most concessions aren’t paid in perpetuity, and leftovers are salvaged to make room for the next ones.