Last Saturday was All Saints Day, which Austrians traditionally celebrate by gathering up families, spending a quiet day together, and thinking of the loved ones who have passed. Technically All Saints Day, which is an official holiday, is mostly for the fancy dead, i.e. those declared saints by the church. All Soul’s Day, which is on November 2, is dedicated to ordinary people and is only a school holiday, but stores are open. Therefore, in practice celebrations only take place on All Saints Day and they cover everyone. This year, November 2nd was a Sunday, so the regular dead got a holiday as well…slowly subverting the church hierarchies. Just kidding – they are pretty solid.

I spent the weekend in my little home town, went to the cemetery to visit the grave of my ancestors, and spent the afternoon at my grandmother’s house reminiscing about granddad and my great-grandparents, hearing some new (to me) stories about crazy relatives, and munching cake.

As I didn’t feel comfortable taking pictures during the ceremony at the cemetery in my hometown, I’ll show you a photo I snapped last week, when I went for a walk in Zentralfriedhof, Vienna’s main cemetery. This is the grave of Franz West, an artist who died a couple of years ago. As in the cases of some other artists, a piece by the deceased serves as grave stone:


3 thoughts on “Zentralfriedhof

  1. What an interesting sculpture. I went to the Zentralfriedhof a while ago and it was interesting to see the various art pieces put at the various graves.

    I was in the country up north over the weekend and it was my first time to see the celebration of the dead. There were candles lit at the graves and we went to a family member’s grave to clean it and remember the deceased. It was especially touching for me because in Zambia we generally regard graveyards as scary places.

    • I do appreciate that Vienna has opened up a bit in the past years and allows space for the modern and contemporary, in addition to preserving the past.

      Oh yes, cemeteries are important here. In small towns, there is a lot of pressure about keeping the family grave neat and clean (a little too much for my taste). Somehow people equate the appearance of the grave with how much one cares about the deceased, and if it’s not meticulous enough, one can easily become the target of nasty village gossip.

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