Sunday, June 23, 2013

Day 14. Cemeteries.

At first glance, I assumed the thickly forested and beautifully groomed space behind the American Embassy in Copenhagen was just another handsome park. "It's not a park," a Danish coworker remarked, "It's Garnisons Cemetery."

Based on my observations and on the opinions of my coworkers, Danish cemeteries are all quite beautiful. It helps that they're maintained by government employees. Like the UK, Denmark is a constitutional monarchy where the king/queen serves as head of both church and state. There's little to no separation between the two institutions.

In fact, the upkeep of cemeteries and anything else related to the Lutheran Church of Denmark is largely supported not by collection plate donations but by taxes: kirkeskat (kirke = church, skat = tax). The exact percentage of tax varies by municipality, but Danes might pay upwards of 1.5% of their income toward kirkeskat. Citizens have an option not to pay, though doing so voids their right to a free wedding ceremony and funeral at a Danish church and a plot in one of these incredible cemeteries.

I walked through Holmens Kirkegård (kirkegård = cemetery) today and - perhaps this is in bad taste - took some pictures. I was impressed by the bright flowers everywhere, the tidy rows of shrubs separating the plots and the little benches for visitors. A flock of ladies in black "Holmens Kirke" vests tended the gardens as I explored.

"Beloved husband, father and grandfather"

The cemetery's chapel, in the style of Norse stave churches

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