Transience for your vest pocket Transience for your vest pocket
Transience for your vest pocket
© Museum für Sepulkralkultur, Kassel, Bildarchiv
Photo: Frank Hellwig


25. March 2005 – 29. May 2005

Cabinet Exhibition

Miniature coffins and "Betrachtungssärglein"

The "Betrachtungssärglein" (table coffin or memorial coffin), has long been known in folkloric research, at the latest since the much-cited essay by Leo Rungaldier in the South Tyrolean journal DER SCHLERN in 1959. There, below the South Tyrolean local mountain, in the Val Gardena valley, they are said to have been manufactured in large numbers by diligent hands in homework 100 and 200 years ago and distributed by travelling merchants: Wooden coffins, with a hinged lid and a decomposing corpse inside, are an impressive reminder of the path of all flesh.

Not only is the depicted already impressive enough, but the early coffins also bear striking inscriptions such as:

Beautiful I was in this life/but now everything is gone/thus mankind is striving for God/there you find the best gain//The otters’, worms’, and snakes’/source of food you soon will be/that only may come to be/your soul entering paradise

They are said to have been spread by the thousands, however less than half a hundred have survived in private collections and folklore museums, mainly in the Alpine countries. Still, we know hardly anything about their use and the handling of these morbid objects. For more than ten years the Museum for Sepulchral Culture in Kassel has been dealing with this object, which is typical for the examination of dying and transience, and was able to acquire numerous coffins itself. In a world premiere, the exhibition "Transience for the Pocket" brings together a representative selection of viewing coffins from the museum's own holdings and from lenders from Germany and abroad for the first time.

The diversity of the world of small coffins becomes clear. In addition to the "real" viewing coffins, other miniature coffins such as snuffboxes, money boxes, jewelry and theater props in coffin form are also on display.

In this way, the exhibition not only transports visitors into a world of comforting macabre, but also presents the miniature coffins in line with the results of current research.


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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