That was then, this is now — churchyard burial edition

by on August 26, 2017 at 2:14 am in Books, Economics, History, Religion | Permalink

Although all church fees were wrong, argued Francis Sadler in a much-reprinted 1738 tract, “selling” one part of the churchyard for three times the price of another “to keep Rich and Poor asunder as if there were a difference in their dust” was especially ridiculous.

Within the courtyard, “the chancel was a better address than the center aisle, which was, in turn, preferred to the side aisles.”  And lead coffins cost ten times more than coffins of wood.

That is from the excellent The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains, by Thomas Laqueur.  Here is a truly splendid Marina Warner review of the book.

1 Steve Sailer August 26, 2017 at 2:34 am

Evelyn Waugh’s “The Loved One” has detailed sales pitches for different price sections of the cemetery modeled on Forest Lawn in Glendale, CA.

My father and I paid a little extra for my mother’s gravesite to be under a shade tree. That proved a good investment when my father died in July and was buried next to her. Because of the shade, none of the mourners suffered sunstroke.

2 dearieme August 26, 2017 at 6:51 am

“Although all church fees were wrong, argued Francis Sadler”: did he explain how the costs of the church were to be paid?

3 adelanto August 26, 2017 at 8:20 am

…voluntary contributions, charity, tithing, etc

… just the same as how the government funds ObamaCare & its overseas wars (lots a burials required)

but yes, the very concept of voluntary human cooperation & personal charity seems incomprehensible to most modern Americans… who have been conditioned to expect government taxes, directives and enforcers as the universal solutions to problems

4 Anonymous August 26, 2017 at 8:34 am

These preposterous lies, as group membership tokens, are what really damage America.

How can any problem be considered and solved when a masking lie is the first thing told?

5 Anonymous August 26, 2017 at 5:06 pm


Which preposterous lies?

6 Thiago Ribeiro August 26, 2017 at 8:53 am

Maybe Americans should try to fund their Army through charity and see how long their country lasts… I recommend bake sales.

7 CorvusB August 26, 2017 at 11:19 am

Plus 1 on that. Also worth mentioning are the subcultures in the United States – and the colonies preceding it – that were founded or based on “voluntary human cooperation & personal charity”. The religious sects of the 19th century, with perhaps the Shakers as an example, are gone. The Mennonites and Amish are still around, and are still teeny tiny little insignificant communities that well over 99% of Americans would refuse to live in. As is obviated by the fact that 99+% do NOT live in such communities.

8 LS August 26, 2017 at 12:11 pm

— original issue here was churches selling burial plots at different prices, prompting a secondary question as to how churches were supposed to pay for their expenses.

How do churches and religious organizations pay their expenses in your local community?

You seem doubtful that churches are a “voluntary” efforts and even if so are an insignificant fraction of American society. What percentage of organizations/institutions in American society do you think are “voluntarily” joined and supported by their individual members?

9 Anonymous August 26, 2017 at 5:07 pm

The Mennonites and Amish are growing explosively and do not easily accept new members

10 John Thacker August 26, 2017 at 9:15 am

Apparently he preferred a poll tax to either a flat tax or a graduated income tax.

11 John Thacker August 26, 2017 at 9:15 am

Charging the rich more for them getting what you think is nothing of value should be attractive to those who want to reduce inequality, yes?

12 Tom T. August 26, 2017 at 1:32 pm

Exactly. This was a progressive estate tax.

13 rayward August 26, 2017 at 7:28 am

One cannot appreciate the level of demand/price for burial space in cemeteries located next to historic churches. And the demand isn’t limited to locals: people from far away will buy burial very expensive spaces in order to spend eternity (or however long) next to the historic church in the historic graveyard, people who not only are not members of the same denomination but aren’t even religious. The historic church I have been attending recently recently engaged architects to develop a master plan for the church, and the biggest item in their plan was for the expansion of the historic graveyard. For those who cannot afford to buy space in the graveyard, all is not lost. The graveyard has a columbarium to store the ashes of those who are cremated and wish for their ashes to spend eternity (or however long) next to the historic church in the historic graveyard. For those who might see something inconsistent between a devout Christian and cremation, a priest speaking at a funeral I attended several years ago told us that the resurrection of the body (no, grandma is not in heaven, as she must wait until the Last Judgment like the rest of us sinners, unless she is a martyr, in which case she can avoid the long wait) is not the worn out ugly body when we die but the handsome and robust body of middle age (say, age 35 to 40). If that priest’s message spreads, it should save grieving families (an foolish people who “pre-plan” for death) from being gouged by the death industry (funeral homes, makers of caskets, sellers of burial sites, etc.). Christians need to be saved, from the death industry.

14 Thiago Ribeiro August 26, 2017 at 8:49 am

And yet, isn’t it what America has become? A churchyard erected to the Almighty Dollar where the living instead of the dead lie separated by the wall of social difference as if their dusts were different?

15 Anonymous August 26, 2017 at 9:09 am

If only that were over the top.

Trump attorney Jay Sekulow’s family has been paid millions from charities they control

We have not, per adelanto, given up on charity, but we have lost a lot of the meaning when we let stuff like that slide. When it becomes not unacceptable, just side news.

16 TMC August 26, 2017 at 11:24 am

Chump change next to the SPLC or Clintons. Not that it makes it right, just that shows WP’s hypocrisy.

17 Anonymous August 26, 2017 at 12:06 pm

I guess you have to understand how things work to understand how wrong that is.

You would have to show funds flowing through a charity and then paid as salary or for personal benefit, as in:

To my knowledge “the SPLC or Clintons” never did that. They kept separation of funds.

18 Thiago Ribeiro August 26, 2017 at 12:30 pm

Let’s be blunt: the cash nexus controls the American society.

19 Bill August 26, 2017 at 9:47 am

Does the coffin

Come with


20 Ray Lopez August 26, 2017 at 10:52 am

Is this a Haiku, Bill?

One of the more strange patented inventions I’ve seen is a coffin that has a signaling device, a pull string attached to a flag, so that if somebody was buried alive, as has happened throughout history, they could signal to outsiders they were still alive by pulling on the flag.

Bonus trivia: in Greece they’ve run out of space and thus the bones of people are pulled up from a plot of land, and put into an urn. Unless you are as prominent as my family and have your own plot. I personally would prefer the ancient Roman ritual of cremation, but my family forbids it for religious reasons. In India they let the vultures have a feast, and/or caste you on the Ganges river, where your corpse would swim by some worshiper.

21 Ray Lopez August 26, 2017 at 10:53 am

errata: cast you, no pun intended.

22 Bill August 26, 2017 at 3:00 pm

Ray, Not applicable to you, but

Those who ask

Don’t know


Those who Kno*

Don’t ask.

*Urban dictionary definition of Kno: how the mentally challenged spell the word, “know”

23 zbicyclist August 26, 2017 at 12:53 pm

Nothing new about cemetery segregation.
In Forest Home Cemetery in the Chicago suburbs, the rejected groups got the last laugh.
This was one of the few places prominent far leftists of the 19th/early 20th century could be buried. Emma Goldman, for example, and many of those accused in the Haymarket riot. But they had to be buried in the far corner, not too far from the gypsies, another group cemeteries of the time didn’t want.

But … when the Eisenhower expressway was built, the entrance had to be moved. The gypsies are now near the front entrance, with the far leftists not too far behind them (turn left, of course, when you enter).

24 August 26, 2017 at 11:07 pm

Last century there was restriction on Chinese burials in the Peruvian Catholic cemeteries, so they picked places with more ‘fensui’, on top of the Peruvian pyramids. There was no restriction there.

“””Gomez said the huacas had a sacred association that might have made them attractive places for burial by Chinese laborers. “””

25 Julia K. August 26, 2017 at 11:55 pm

This reminds me of one of my favorite satirical poems, The Levelled Churchyard, by Thomas Hardy. He wrote it after seeing a cemetery leveled and the tombstones redistributed indiscriminately.

I love how it evokes a darkly amusing connection between the visceral and social upset of physical “restorations of Thy fane” (church renovations) and “smoothings of Thy sward” (landscaping) – and the socially equalizing promise of spiritual “restorations of Thy fane” (the coming of the Kingdom of God) and “smoothings of Thy sward” (“Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low”).

“O passenger, pray list and catch
Our sighs and piteous groans,
Half stifled in this jumbled patch
Of wrenched memorial stones!

“We late-lamented, resting here,
Are mixed to human jam,
And each to each exclaims in fear,
‘I know not which I am!’

“The wicked people have annexed
The verses on the good;
A roaring drunkard sports the text
Teetotal Tommy should!

“Where we are huddled none can trace,
And if our names remain,
They pave some path or p-ing place
Where we have never lain!

“There’s not a modest maiden elf
But dreads the final Trumpet,
Lest half of her should rise herself,
And half some local strumpet!

“From restorations of Thy fane,
From smoothings of Thy sward,
From zealous Churchmen’s pick and plane
Deliver us O Lord! Amen!”

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