In Vienna we laugh at death, despite the coronavirus

In Vienna we laugh at death, despite the coronavirus

Vienna (AFP) - Even in times of pandemic, Viennese like to face death in a museum devoted entirely to funeral directors that evokes the afterlife bluntly, with puzzling humor.

Installed in the basements of a fiery Art Deco chapel in the central cemetery of the Austrian capital, this place was the first in the world to exhibit, in 1967, a collection of coffins and shrouds to trace the evolution of the culture of mourning.

"A lot of people fear the grim reaper, but it's like taxes, you can't cut them," quips a seventy-year-old Viennese of American origin, Jack Curtin.

He came with his companion, an expert on the diseases of the most famous deceased and both roam the rooms in the dim light, finding the idea of such a place "excellent".

Japan, Canada ...visitors used to come from far away, but with the coronavirus pandemic and the border closures, Austrians now have this 300 m2 site just for them on All Saints' Day.

Here, the saying goes that death is Viennese and the public is passionate about the temporary exhibition mounted on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of the birth of Beethoven, located close by.

It does not retrace the life of the German composer, but unveils his death mask and meticulously describes his agony linked to an illness.

Ditto for Joseph Haydn, whose skull was stolen in 1809 by young medical students and buried nearly a century and a half later.

"Vienna is well known for its morbid side", explains Julia Würzl, a young woman who has come for a deliciously melancholy autumn walk through the graves.

Posted Date: 2021-03-18

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