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'Sanctuary forests' offering a burial alternative in France

Cinerary forests, also known as sanctuary forests, are an alternative to cemeteries and have been popular in Germany for some years.
Cinerary forests, also known as sanctuary forests, are an alternative to cemeteries and have been popular in Germany for some years. Copyright Jens Meyer/Copyright 2019 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Jens Meyer/Copyright 2019 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Kristina Harazim with AP
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An ecological concept adopted from neighbouring Germany, cinerary or sanctuary forests are growing in popularity in eastern France as an alternative to cemeteries. They give people an option to be buried in a peaceful setting among nature.

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A growing number of people are choosing to not only be cremated when they die, but to have their ashes buried beneath a tree.

Cinerary forests, also known as sanctuary forests, are an alternative to cemeteries and have been popular in Germany for some years.

The concept is spreading to areas of France close to the German border, including the region of Alsace.

The small town of Muttersholtz, 40 kilometres south of Strasbourg, is offering burial locations in an existing forest.

Spending eternity at the foot of a hazel tree is the preferred choice for Gabrielle and Jean-Pierre Grasser, from the nearby village of Barr, who toured the site in Muttersholtz.

"Today's visit has confirmed our idea. I'm going to contact the town hall to make a reservation, hopefully as late as possible, but we know we'll get there," 81-year-old Gabrielle Grasser said.

"The natural, peaceful side of things. The idea of eternal rest in a setting like this suits me better than a niche in a cemetery columbarium."

Her husband, 85-year-old Jean-Pierre Grasser said he too preferred a forest to a cemetery.

"It brings us a little closer to our way of life. We prefer the environment and nature to large crowds.''

In Nancy in eastern France, trees are being planted in a cemetery where people will soon have the option of being laid to rest among nature.

Chantal Finck, deputy mayor of Nancy in charge of public service quality, said there is an increasing demand for sanctuary forests.

"We're the first major city in France to take an interest in the cinerary forest. Why should we? Because it meets a societal and environmental need. We're completely convinced of this."

The ashes of the city's residents will be buried free of charge, without flowers, wreaths or headstones starting in December.

For more on this story click on the video in the player above.

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