Ok, if I had known this place existed, I would have prioritized visiting Kassel way earlier. Now, I’m based here for my internship with the Felsberg Institute, a research institute, where I’m focusing my research on Eritrea. Kassel probably isn’t at the top of anyone’s Germany-must-visit list, but it’s a fine place to spend a few months. Since I love museums, and in an effort to explore my new town, I decided to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon checking out one of the coolest museums I’ve ever been in – a museum dedicated to death and death culture.
The Museum für Sepulkralkutur (Sepulchral Culture) in Kassel, Germany caters to anyone interested in history, local cultural practices, religious studies, or dark tourism (like me).
Upon entering the museum, one of the most striking things was that it was a lot bigger than I imagined, and honestly a lot brighter and… nicer? I’m not sure what I was expecting from a museum dealing with death and funerals, but I definitely wasn’t expecting huge open windows with an amazing view, a vast room with columns, TVs and headsets.
Following the order of exhibits and galleries recommended to me by the ticket-guy, I started in this dark hallway depicting various art work and representations of death from the 17th-18th centuries. The section also discusses religious approaches to funeral practices, such as a cleansing while on one’s death-bed and priestly death-bed blessings. The exhibit seemed to move chronologically, in terms of getting ready to die –> dying (coffins, funerals) –> mourning.
Unfortunately for me, most of the plaques and signs were in German, so I was unable to understand most of it. I did take a ton of photos of basically everything in the hope that I would Google Translate it later (yes, that’s a verb now). So maybe I’ll get around to doing that eventually!
In the main hall of the museum is a large collection of gravestones and other funerary and cemetery artifacts:
As you can see, the whole museum is placed on a large hill with a beautiful look out over the city, and the building is wide and airy and full of light.
Learning about the history of sepulchral culture from the Middle Ages to the present in Germany (or German-speaking regions, historically) was really interesting — from what I could understand? But the coolest part, in my opinion, was the section devoted to different funerary customs around the world.
The museum also had an exhibit showing the destruction of guns and bullets. It had a large focus on Afghanistan, though I didn’t understand the rest since it was in German.
I will definitely be checking out this museum again, and I hope I can find their calendar online – maybe they’ll be hosting some events or guided tours in English? I made this video of my trip to the museum as well. I don’t think photos do it justice, since there are a lot of videos located in the various exhibits. Watch below to see a short section of a documentary about cremations as well as how funerals feature strippers in Taiwan (???)!