Austrians love death.
Rebecca and I just spent a few days back in Vienna. Before hopping on the train to the airport we spent a couple of hours in the vast Zentralfriedhof. And I mean vast. Row upon row of graves and crypts, all lorded over by a massive and beautiful Jugendstil church. Tourists come here to see the graves of the composers, but it’s just as interesting to wander around the graves of the ordinary people. Particularly moving is the Jewish section: observing the neglected graves of early 20th century Viennese Jewry (some of which as a Mormon missionary I helped restore) is a lesson in history.
This isn’t like an Anglo cemetery: “ordinary” people here often enjoy massive and elaborate graves and headstones, all bedecked with symbols of Austro-Catholic death-ology.
I say that Austrians love death. Of course, this isn’t strictly true, although their suicidal Autobahns sometimes suggest otherwise. What I mean is that Austrians unashamedly embrace their morbid fascination with death. Theirs is not a garish Latin death, but a darkly grand (Germanic) memorial to Hades. If you’ve seen the Hapsburg crypt in Vienna you will know what I mean.
One of the quirks of being a state-recognised church in Austria is that you are afforded certain privileges that are not enjoyed by other religions. (It also creates a legal entity known as the Kirchenvorstand which exists as a kind of para-authority beside the two Austrian stakes.) The Mormon church in Austria has been able to acquire its own section of the Zentralfriedhof (“Gruppe 57c”) as an exclusively Mormon cemetery. There will be room for 165 graves and 6 crypts.
In the middle of the cemetery will be a peculiarly Mormon statue. I don’t much like the execution, but the symbolism is splendid. Apparently, donations for the commission of the planned Denkmal are welcome. (I can’t imagine such a statue ever passing correlation, but do they even know, and do the Austrians care? Another benefit, perhaps, of the Austrian church’s para-authority? At the very least, I welcome such things as a development of that local autonomy some of us speak of in hushed tones.)
Any other cool stories of Mormon graveyards?