A Multiconfessional Cemetery

Photo: Eva Larsson

The Woodland Cemetery’s graves reflect multiple faiths. Originally, all religions shared the same area but there are now also sections for different confessions.

Catholic

The Roman Catholic communion is dominant and graves are spread over many sections. A separate Catholic grave area with a place for outdoor ceremonies was opened in 1997. Ceremonies are held in the city’s Catholic churches or in a chapel at the Woodland Cemetery, often with many mourners. Cremation is not traditional but permitted.

Orthodox

The most commonly represented communions are Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox, with most of their graves in the southern section. The Orthodox cross has most often three crossbeams, with the third slanted. Ceremonies are held in Orthodox churches or in a chapel at the Cemetery. They can be very grand and traditionally include open caskets, incense and olive oil poured over the coffin at interment. Cremation is not allowed, and the body is buried with feet facing east.

Muslim

Many Muslims came to live in Stockholm in the 1920s. There are Muslim graves from the 1950s along the wall to the south and in the south section. The symbol is a crescent with a star. Traditionally, a simple ceremony is held by the grave, but a chapel is sometimes used. Cremation is banned. The body is to be buried on its side with the face turned towards Mecca. Graves can be very simple but gravestones are now common.

Mandaean

The area for Mandaean graves is a few sections inside the southern part. Their symbol is a cross draped in cloth. Mandaeism comes from the Middle East where it appeared at the same times as Christianity in Late Antiquity. John the Baptist and baptism are fundamental concepts. At funerals, rites for the soul and the spirit are central. Marked graves are a recent tradition.

Bahá’í

Graves for Bahá’ís are in the southern section. The symbol is a nine-pointed star or a ringstone with stars. The Bahá’í faith was founded in 19th-century Persia and is a monotheist religion with global spread. Bodies are to be buried close to where death occurred and cremation is not allowed. The corpse is buried facing Bahjí (the founder’s grave) in what is now northern Israel.

Romani graves are to be found in several sections. Roma can belong to several of the world’s religions. In Sweden, most Roma are Catholic or Evangelical. Romani graves are individualistic and often painstakingly formed, sometimes in black marble with etched portraits and generously decorated.

The Jewish community has a separate cemetery plot, the Southern Jewish Cemetery, opened in 1952. It is attached to the Woodland Cemetery and has similar landscaping and a chapel built in 1969 from a design by Sven-Ivar Lindh.

The Woodland Cemetery 100 years

Skogskyrkogården, The Woodland Cemetery, celebrates its 100th anniversary with a new outdoor exhibition. September 19—November 1, 2020. Free admission.

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