Challenging the Societal Death System: The Development of a Secularist Funerary Culture in Nineteenth-Century Belgium

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

This paper reconstructs the history of civil burials in Belgium during the long 19th century within a broader European context. Human agency was very important in challenging the Catholic hegemony over the cult of the dead in the societal death system of 19th-century Belgium. From the middle of the century onwards, anticlericals, driven by a new spirit of independence, began to arrange their own processions and graveside ceremonies outside the sacramental system of the Catholic Church. Freethinkers and Freemasons looked for ways to protect themselves from clerical efforts or efforts from their close family members to convert them in the final moments of their lives. The history of secularist funerary culture in Belgium was also determined by more impersonal variables such as class, region, urban geography and gender. The first civil burial associations in Europe were founded in Brussels in a context of skilled labourers and French exiles in the 1850s. In Antwerp and Ghent, durable socialist freethinkers’ organisations which functioned as burial societies only started appearing around 1880. In the urban areas of Liège and Charleroi, freethinkers in industrialised suburbs played a considerable role in the rise of civil burial movements in the 1870s-1880s.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)875-917
JournalRevue Belge de Philologie et d'Histoire
Volume95 (2017)
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2018

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Challenging the Societal Death System: The Development of a Secularist Funerary Culture in Nineteenth-Century Belgium'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this