Fearless. The 7th Work of Mercy Fearless. The 7th Work of Mercy
Fearless. The 7th Work of Mercy
© Kuratorium Deutsche Bestattungskultur e. V.


17. September 2006 – 11. February 2007

The cultural history of the mortician’s profession

In Cooperation With the Kuratorium Deutsche Bestattungskultur e.V.

The Museum of Sepulchral Culture dedicates its annual exhibition in autumn 2006 to the people and groups who have participated in burial, the 7th work of mercy in Christianity, since the Middle Ages. Despite numerous exhibitions on funeral customs in recent years, a systematic examination of the professional providers of funeral services has not yet taken place.

The history of the profession of the mortician and its changes is the theme of this exhibition and thus enters new territory. There is quite a lot of preliminary work on the regional and local conditions of burial, and an increase in sociological discussions, but a cultural history of the professions that help with a funeral is missing up to now.

The spectrum ranges from urban or rural neighborhoods, spiritual and secular brotherhoods to the individuals involved in the burial, such as nuns, morticians and gravediggers, as well as the modern funeral master, which developed as an independent profession just in the 19th century. The subject is illustrated in 7 departments by means of paintings, graphics, different realities and installations and is divided as follows:

1. Death as gravedigger and the pictorial value of the mortician profession

2. Funerals as a work of mercy

3. The funeral/ material and spiritual care of the dead

4. a. Monasteries, churches and spiritual brotherhoods

          b. Neighbors, guilds and funeral societies

5. People assisting at funerals

      a. The gravedigger

      b. Undertaker, coffin maker, pallbearer

6. The role of women at funerals

7. The beginnings of the mortician profession

8. The modern mortician

The exhibition and a comprehensive publication describe – partly overlapping, partly complementing each other - the development of the seventh work of Mercy from the Middle Ages to the present. It becomes clear how many formerly separate activities converge in the modern profession of the undertaker.

This publication, edited by the Kuratorium Deutsche Bestattungskultur e.V. and accompanying the exhibition, documents that the supposedly tabooed professions of caring for the dead have been worthy of illustration throughout the centuries and have found their way into art history for the first time.


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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