The Bestattungsmuseum in Vienna (Funeral Museum)

The Bestattungsmuseum in Vienna is a fascinating place. The Municipal Funeral Service of Vienna is solely in charge of death in the city and surrounding regions, and they perform all the functions from mortuary to burial. The museum collection is very difficult to photograph due to the darkness inside (how appropriate!), so the photos do not do the collection justice. The cultural anthropolgist in charge of the tours, as well as the designer of the exhibits, is named Vittigo and he is absolutely fascinating. Tours are available by appointment only but are solely in German.

I won't get into an exhaustive study of the history if funerals in Vienna - there are loads of resources on the web and books available. Suffice it to say, this is a collection worth the trip to Vienna alone, and I go there nearly every time I'm visiting, which is at least once a year! One benefit of being married to a Viennese!

Victorian Funeral "pearl work" wreath

Madame Recamier and the coffin designed for her which is foldable.

Funeral livery clothing.

Funeral livery clothing.

Widow's wear (for professional mourners specifically).

Funeral livery hat.

Funeral pearl work wreath.

Contraption to ensure that no one was buried alive - a string was tied around corpse's wrist leading to a bell above-ground which would alert gravediggers when rung. If they didn't answer, a dagger was provided in the coffin so the unfortunate person could stab themselves to death.

More Victorian pearl work.

For an extra fee, mortitians would stab the body several times to make sure it was dead.

Victorian hearse.

Funeral jewels.

Funeral crown for the upper crust.

Funeral parade moving panorama for children (how I would have loved one!).

Death mask of Josef Haydn.

One of the famous Halstatt painted skulls. The current gravedigger, a woman, is in charge of painting all the skulls now.

Trapdoor coffin for partial bodies - families couldn't bear the idea of not having a full-size coffin for their loved one, so this was invented.

Decorations for a child's grave.

Child's burial gown.

Memento Mori box meant to be kept in your sight to remind you of the fleeting nature of life.

Funeral coach lamp.

For an extra fee, the coffin would be outfitted with a lock that only the spouse could use.

Victorian paper cut-out.

"One Way" promotional poster for the museum.

Victorian Holy Card options.

Painted metal sign for grave with quotations.

Cremation urns available today, including the 3 Jungenstil options in the middle.

A new option available - turn your loved one into a diamond! For several thousand Euros, you can have a diamond of up to 1.25 carats made from the remains of your loved one. The process is fascinating - a portion of the ashes are put into a sealed contraption and after at least 8 months, with enormous pressure inside the machine, a diamond grows.

The first attempt at cremation was done in Vienna - these are the remains of a horse.

Toy for children of the trolleys that carried several coffins to the graveyard at once.

More Victorian pearl-work.

Coffin (which was built on-site) being taken to a memorial service while we were there.

Facade of the Funeral complex now.


  1. Fascinating! I love the painted skulls and the memento mori.

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