Separated even beyond death

July 18, 2013 • 1:03 pm

This is one of religion’s more minor malfeasances, but still shows the insanity of the whole enterprise. Some faiths segregate men from women while they’re alive, but here’s one that enforced it after death.

The photo and caption are from Retronaut courtesy of alert reader Michael:

“The graves of Colonel J.C.P.H and Catholic noblewoman J.W.C Van Gorkum.  They were married in 1842.  In 1888, Van Gorkum died, she wanted to be buried next to her husband. Pillarisation (a form of religious and political segregation in Holland) was still in effect at the time, and according to the law, this was impossible.  His wife was buried on the other side of the wall, which was the closest she could get to her husband.”


54 thoughts on “Separated even beyond death

  1. While this is specific to the idea of “pillars” in Holland, there is still segregation in grave yards today (Catholic consecrated ground for instance). It’s weird that nowadays the grave has segregation but there isn’t that strict enforcement in life. I guess it’s the last place they can get away with it.

      1. If we are made in his image then god is almost certainly a pervert. Its body will likely be found wearing two wet suits next to a large assortment of exaggerated sex toys and a commercial size can or Crisco.

  2. Catholics are buried in consecrated ground, and by catholic church law it is forbidden to bury non-catholics there. This is general, not specific to any country, so I suppose it is the case in the US. The point of the photograph is that is was in some way forbidden at the time to bury a catholic in the general, then protestant, cemetery. And of course, the monument.

    Jews have special cemeteries with their own rules: I remember a Harry Kemelman book “Saturday the Rabbi went hungry” that has a subplot involving the rules of Jewish cemeteries. Come to that, Islam has some burial rules too, and tend to be buried in a separate cemetery section, if not transported to the country of birth.

    1. A morbidly funny episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm has Larry plotting to get his mother (deceased) moved from the non-consecrated “special section” of the Jewish cemetery & back to her original plot in the consecrated section. She got moved because they found a tattoo on her buttock.

  3. A handshake? Considering what marriage more specifically allows, one can imagine a somewhat different monument across the fence – if one has a particular kind of imagination, and one supposes that Colonel Van Gorkum’s sculptor was allowed to exaggerate outrageously.

  4. Then there’s the interesting phenomenon you find in old cemeteries where newborns are buried off on the edge of the cemetery because they hadn’t been baptized yet.

    The cemetery where my grandparents are buried (in Haugen, Wisconsin, should you wish to visit) is actually two cemeteries… Catholics on one side, everyone else on the other. There used to be a fence between them.

    It was a community settled by Bohemians (Czech Republic, now). The community was split between Catholics and Freethinkers. The latter were happy to be able to escape the grip of the church here in America. This was during the time of Robert Ingersoll. During a family gathering a few years ago I ran into an old man who my father and his siblings were supposed to avoid when they were kids because his family were freethinking. (This was described in a history written by my uncle.) I loved it. His name was Darwin! (My uncle apparently ignored his mom and hitchhiked to North Dakota with Darwin when they were teens.) The town’s freethinkers built the ZCBJ hall, an opera house for social gatherings. It is now on the National Register of Historic Places. We rented it for the family reunion.

    There is the grave of a civil war vet buried off on the edge of the Catholic cemetery, along with the unbaptized kids. I would love to know what his story was.

  5. It’s silly on multiple layers; if she really wanted to be buried next to her husband, why didn’t she convert to protestantism?

    And then, why should one care how one’s dead body is disposed of?

    I have a bit of difficulty developing too much sympathy for people who let their own superstitions lead them to be mistreated because of the superstitions of others.

      1. Thanks for the link. At first I thought they must be talking about the pillar-like construction of the memorial, but no. From the Wiki article:

        These pillars all had their own social institutions: their own newspapers, broadcasting organisations, political parties, trade unions and farmers’ associations, banks, schools, hospitals, universities, scouting organisations and sports clubs. Some companies even hired only personnel of a specific religion or ideology. This led to a situation where many people had no personal contact with people from another pillar.

        Not just the Nederlands, either. There’s quite a list of other countries that have done this to themselves.

      2. Nice wikipedia summary.
        Wikipedia forgot to mention the country-wide youth organisations for nature study:
        CJN (Christian Youth Nature study – Protestant)
        KJN – Roman-Katholic Youth Nature study)
        apart from
        NJN – Netherlands Youth Nature study, often thought to be rather socialist.

        1. Not to forget that in a small village there could be a catholic club for breeding goats and a protestant one (or so goes a Dutch joke).

          1. It must’ve been an administrative & social nightmare to maintain this system in such a geographically small area like the Netherlands.

            I know that in various areas (even though physically not far a part) the Dutch is slightly different. I wonder if this is a hang over from this old system. My dad’s friend went to back to Holland last summer and he went to buy a licence or something; the government officials knew exactly where he was from in Holland based on how he spoke Dutch and it was a small town a few kilometres from there!

    1. “And then, why should one care how one’s dead body is disposed of?”

      Exactly. This fetishization of a plot of land (to house flesh that is set to rot to then leave behind an assortment of bones) as a remembrance of a person is no less absurd just because it is so commonplace.

      1. Yeah but it’s cool to be part of the archaeological record. If I’ve learned anything from the Romans, it’s make sure you have a witty grave marker.

  6. Wow!
    I know exactly where that is!
    And it must have been about 50 years ago when I saw those graves for the last time:
    As a kid I used to spend the summers with my grandmother who lived in Roermond, in the province of Limburg, in The Netherlands.
    At the end of the ‘avenue’ (Kapellerlaan) where she lived was a chapel, and near that chapel were those two cemeteries with those two graves. It was the endpoint of our nightly walk.
    And now I see them again .. here on your website .. what a small world.

    1. There are several pictures of this curious monument on Google Images – google “Oude Kerkhof Roermond”.

  7. Even in the City Council cemetery at Makara (Wellington NZ) you can drive around and see signs to areas for religions you probably never new existed.

  8. Well, at least they have faith that their gods are incapable, even of handling the affairs of the dead without the intervention of humans that are alive.

  9. Here in France, until the law of 1905 Protestants could not be buried in a cemetary with catholics, so Protestants were buried on private ground. Some of these private graveyards are still in use.

  10. As sad as the circumstances that made it necessary may be, that is an enormously affecting construction.

    It puts me in mind of the many stories and songs of dead lovers from whose graves grow plants that intertwine in a post-mortem embrace.

  11. Others have rightly pointed out that this is not a typical result of pillarisation, but general practice in the RCC. What would be pillarisation is a catholic or protestant priest refusing to marry the couple. Interfaith marriages used to be quite a problem.
    At the end of the 19th Century pillarisation just had caught steam in The Netherlands; in ended in the roaring 60’s, which is also when secularization began.

  12. US society is also pillarized. How many of us are good friends with a member of the opposite political party, let alone with creationists?

    1. Perhaps a good metaphor but true pillarisation dictates that you cannot work or socialize with these people so there would probably exist companies that legal could only hire creationists and other companies that could legally only hire republicans for example. There’d also be separate shopping facilities for each type etc.

      1. Being a Dutch person outside of my country, I feel homesick and need to defend: pillarization was never “regulated” (so a legal matter), but socially controlled. Still backward, but at least not governalized.

        1. Ah just a social nightmare than! 🙂 If you feel homesick have some dubbelzout and hagelslag (probably not together). 🙂

    2. <raises hand />

      Monday morning I’m meeting with an Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate at my parents’s place for tea and for me to sign some paperwork that he’s helping me with.

      Granted, his path to the Copper Dome depends at least in part on the Tea Party candidates cannibalizing each other; he’s one of the few sane Republicans in the state. But, still….


    3. I am. We have mutual agricultural interests and generally avoid talking about religion and politics. It can be done.

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