Not many people know that Vienna and Austria in general has a fascination with death. Proof of this are the existence of a number of buildings where the dead are still preserved and remembered.
One such building is the Undertakers Museum which showcases the funerals and mourning traditions of Austrians and lets visitors explore the history of death in all aspects. Founded in 1967 and redesigned in 1987, this Funeral Museum can be found below the Central Cemetery and displays some 1,000 objects. Some of the items on exhibit here are coffins, hearses, uniforms worn by pallbearers, wreathes, sashes, mourning attire.
A popular attraction in the museum is the reusable coffin which was originally proposed by Emperor Josef II in 1784. The main goal was to save wood and hasten decomposition of the dead body and as such, a trap underneath the coffin was made to drop the bodies in the graves and then reused for another funeral. The law, however, was never passed as the Viennese objected to such practice.
Another device that is well known in the Funeral Museum is the cord that’s attached to the hand of the dead to prevent premature burial.
The role of the cord is to let the deceased ring a bell above the ground in case the person was still alive. This issue of premature burial has, in fact, prompted some Viennese to state in their last will that they be stabbed in the heart with a sword to make sure that they don’t come back to life.
Did you know that there are more than 50 cemeteries in Vienna alone? The Austrian capital is also home to the second largest cemetery in Europe.
Also, Vienna has its Imperial Crypt where the hearts of the former members of the royal family are still preserved.