Religious Buildings (11) After death – Taking care of human remains

Dec 29, 2013Abstracts of the World, Special Articles

Mummification is a rite known mostly from Egypt, in the times of the Pharaos. They used to be kept inside the pyramids or in the tombs of the Valley of the Kings. Today we may see ancient Egyptian mummies on display in the Museum of Egypt, in Cairo and in several other countries.

Mummification is also practised in Buddhism, although rarely. Different mummification techniques were employed in the cases of Lenin and Mao, important political leaders in modern times. These two mausoleums, the first on the Red Square in Moscow and the second on the Tiananmen Square in Beijing have drawn spectators for decades – including myself. The featured image above is from the Lenin Mausoleum.

In addition the two previous leaders of North Korea, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, have been preserved and are lying at state in the Kumsusan Memorial Palace of Pyongyang. I have also been there. There is a fifth leader who has been treated like this, and is exhibited as such. His name is Ho Chi Minh and one may find him in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The Kemal Atatürk Mausoleum in Ankara is also an example of a national leader being offered a huge mausoleum, but unlike Mao and Lenin with no mummification involved. As far as I know.

 

Turkey - Ankara - Kemal Atatürk Mausoleum

Kemal Atatürk Mausoleum in Ankara, Turkey

 

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These three leaders would obviously object to them being presented in a series about religious buildings. The first two would certainly deny any relation to “religion, the opium of the people”.

 

Myanmar - Yangon - Shwedagon Paya

Myanmar – Yangon – Shwedagon Paya

 

The practice of relics may be viewed as another way of taking care of the remains of a deceased person. According to legend there are eight strands of hair of the Buddha in the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar. Taking care of relics is very common in Buddhism.

A small mosque near the Mevlani Museum in Konya, Turkey, is said to contain the beard of Muhammad the Prophet.

 

Turkey - Konya - The box contains strains of hair from the beard of Muhammad the Prophet

Turkey – Konya – The box contains strains of hair from the beard of Muhammad the Prophet

 

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The cathedral pictured below, that of Nidaros in Trondheim, Norway is according to tradition a place where pilgrims would come. Reason? A shrine with the remain of Norway’s patron saint St. Olav was said to be kept here, behind the high altar. 

 

St Olav Cathedral (Nidaros) in Trondheim, Norway

St Olav Cathedral (Nidaros) in Trondheim, Norway

 

Read more

All chapters in this series about Religious Buildings.

(1) Introduction

Theme I, Places of worship (chapters 2-6) Read the first

Theme II, Monasteries and educational institutions (chapter 7) Read

Theme III, Housing for the deity itself or its premier representatives (chapter 8) Read

Theme IV, After death (this part)

(9) After death – Cemeteries as final resting places

(10) After death – Burial sites as World Heritage Sites

(11) After death – Taking care of human remains

(12) After death – Special memorials, with no identified dead persons

 

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