THE PAST AND THE PRESENT: THE DEVELOPMENT OF CREMATION

Crematorium in Gotha
Source: Verlag A. Gimm, Gotha
Crematorium in Heidelberg
Source: RP Karlsruhe,
Ref. 25 Denkmalpflege
Crematorium in Mainz
Source: Metall-Technik GmbH

For centuries, funeral culture was dominated by the Christian faith and by church institutions. It was only during the Reformation that Germany saw initial structural transformations which spread gradually in the following centuries, particularly in the 19th and 20th centuries.

This transformation can be described as "technical and secular development", aiming for a "modern" approach to death, which was reflected particularly in the large cities in the form of new places for mourning. These included out-of-town cemeteries, mortuaries and crematoriums. With progressing technical development and advancing industrialisation, social mourning was based no longer in the Christian church but in the municipal mortuary or crematorium.

The construction of the first crematoriums in Germany completed the technical transformation in dealing with the dead. The reason for introducing modern cremation procedures in those days resulted from the hygienic conditions on cemeteries, together with demands for space-saving, low-cost burial procedures.

But cremation was not an invention of civic industrial society: on the contrary, in the ancient world, cremation was a normal means of burial. However emerging Christianity was very critical of cremation, even portraying it as a deplorable heathen custom. But in time, the enlightened middle classes, industrialisation and the huge growth in the population favoured the introduction of technical cremation.

Industrial developments provided the technical prerequisites for crematorium construction. The first German crematorium was commissioned in Gotha in the state of Thuringia, already back in 1878. The city of Heidelberg had a crematorium built in 1891, the Hanseatic City of Hamburg in 1892 and the city of Mainz in 1903.

With the start of the last century, when many crematoriums were taken over by the local authorities with a resulting decrease in fees, the population at large turned increasingly to using the services provided by crematoriums. Cremations became established in society, particularly among the working classes, because it was clearly the least expensive means of burial.

The fact that industrialisation was giving funeral culture a technical aspect found its expression above all in architecture. Decorative elements were used as an attempt to conceal the actual technical purpose of the building. The crematoriums in Gotha and Heidelberg were characterised initially by a still relatively simple classic style of building, but later in many other places a wide range of architectural styles were used.

The past and the present: consequences for today

Thanks to its knowledge of this historical development and based on many years of experience, Metall-Technik GmbH offers its customers in Germany and Europe a wide range of services for the planning and development of cremation systems and for all crematorium requirements.

Our services are always based on the three aspects:
Environment protection
Occupational safety
Economic efficiency

  • Management

    Dipl.-Ing. Reiner T. Nierula
    (Graduate engineer)

    Phone: +49 171 4754075
    E-Mail: rh[at]metall-technik.de

    Sales Management

    Dipl.-Ing. Gregor Kaiser
    (Graduate engineer)

    Phone: +49 151 23263347
    E-Mail: gk[at]metall-technik.de

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