Death Wedding with Wreath and Crown Death Wedding with Wreath and Crown
Death Wedding with Wreath and Crown
© Museum für Sepulkralkultur, Kassel, Bildarchiv
Photo: Frank Hellwig


30. September 2007 – 2. March 2008

On the symbolism in the customs of the single burial

Crowns and wreaths are well known: Ruler's crowns, torah crowns, harvest crowns, victory wreaths, poet's wreaths, wedding wreaths ...

But who knows death crowns and funeral wreaths? They originate from an old custom: the so-called wedding of the dead. The wedding of the dead is rooted in the archaic thinking of the indispensable passing on of life, which in Christian times led to the 'heavenly wedding' as soon as an unmarried deceased person was buried. Accordingly, a crown of the dead was dedicated to them and in some places a wreath was given as a replacement for the bridal crown that had not been received during her lifetime. Indeed, the death crown often looked very similar to the bride's crown varying in form and colorful in design. In this way the line between life and death is blurred.

The idea of a post-mortem marriage is one of the most mysterious phenomena in funeral customs. Crowns of the dead, which have been preserved since the 16th century, prove that a marriage of the unmarried deceased was also a common ritual in modern times. Death crowns were still used in the 70s of the 20th century. However, authorities in the centuries before already tried to curb this superstitious and costly custom by regulations and prohibitions.

The custom of this type of crown is documented nationwide and was equally common among Protestants and Catholics. However, there were regional differences in the way it was practiced. For example, the crown was placed on the head of the deceased, placed in his or her hand, carried on a cushion in front of the coffin, or laid on top of it until the burial. In glass cases and on consoles they decorated the interiors of many churches for a long time. The fact that the custom of using death crowns at the end of the 19th century generally came to an end is certainly due to external circumstances: Clergymen often declared the crowns to be 'dust catchers' or banished them from the church in the course of renovations - accordingly, the knowledge of their significance disappeared. Since hardly anyone knows more about these crowns and wreaths, the exhibition wants to show these special folkloric testimonies of the wedding of the dead primarily with exhibits from Hesse, southern Lower Saxony, Thuringia, Franconia and the Mark Brandenburg. In addition to death crowns, wreaths and archival documents, there will be graphics and paintings from the 16th century to the present day, such as an original manuscript by Fontane, printed works by Goethe and Hölty and an original drawing by Heinrich Zille.


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Arbeitsgemeinschaft Friedhof und Denkmal e.V.

Zentralinstitut für Sepulkralkultur

Museum für Sepulkralkultur

Weinbergstraße 25–27
D-34117 Kassel | Germany
Tel. +49 (0)561 918 93-0

Die Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien
Hessisches Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Kunst
Kassel Documenta Stadt
Deutsche Bischofskonferenz