The Good Funeral Guide Blog

12 comments on “This is the way to carry a coffin

  1. rebecca

    Tuesday 23rd February 2016 at 10:35 pm

    a casket should alwas be carried onto a marae or into a church head first not feet first

    • Jed

      Thursday 25th February 2016 at 12:54 am

      Tradition has it that only priests are carried into a church head first, laymen always travel feet first…

      “Historical precedence provides that if the corpse is a layman, the feet are to be turned towards the altar. If the corpse is a priest, then the position is reversed, the head being towards the altar. The earliest reference to this is in Johann Burchard’s “Diary”. Burchard was the master of ceremonies to Pope Innocent VIII and Pope Alexander VI.

      A little-known custom also exists that both before the altar and in the grave, the feet of all Christians should be pointed to the East. This custom is alluded to by Bishop Hildebert at the beginning of the twelfth century,and its symbolism is discussed by Guillaume Durand. “A man ought so to be buried”, he says, “that while his head lies to the West his feet are turned to the East…” For clergy, however, the idea seems to be that the bishop (or priest) in death should occupy the same position in the church as during life, facing his people who he taught and blessed in Christ’s name. ”

  2. Friday 24th June 2011 at 8:54 pm

    […] Respected voices don’t much like this arm’s length carrying, but I do. We don’t disagree, we just think differently. You can do that in Funeralworld. […]

  3. Thursday 24th March 2011 at 1:32 pm

    Of course, Maggie. Absolutely. And they must listen to each other and be sensitive to each other’s needs. There is a role for FDs here in exploring this with them.

  4. Maggie

    Thursday 24th March 2011 at 10:57 am

    Everyone has a different opinion on this (I personally prefer shoulder-high carrying) – but surely, the only opinion that really matters is that of the bereaved.

  5. Wednesday 23rd March 2011 at 10:55 pm

    I’m worried, Kathryn, that carrying a coffin should be seen by men to be a man thing – like driving the car and mowing the lawn and all those other bloke things. So of course I am correspondingly worried that women might feel it is their place to accede. I am speaking as a feminist here. I want to see women, children and the old doing their bit, and I want it to be possible for them — to feel the weight, not just to reach up and touch. Inclusiveness is the thing — and James seems to demonstrate that that may be barmily, precariously possible. Too perilous? I just don’t know…

  6. Kathryn Edwards

    Wednesday 23rd March 2011 at 10:43 pm

    I’m with James on this. For some, the ordinary, shopping-bag-ness of the low-level carrying will feel exactly right, while for others, hoisting on high, for all the precariousness, is the only way. I recall being struck how strongly my brother felt that our father’s coffin should be shouldered.

    It’s all part of the exploratory enquiry that must be our work: helping the bereaved to manifest, through gestures, the psychic environment that is right for them.

  7. Wednesday 23rd March 2011 at 7:14 pm

    There’s always a way, no matter how narrow the nave. Bit of fumbling, sure, but where’s there’s a will..
    boom boom.

  8. Wednesday 23rd March 2011 at 6:12 pm

    I’m coming round — to a position of ambivalence. Thanks for that, NN. Great moniker.

  9. Norfolk Nemesis

    Wednesday 23rd March 2011 at 5:57 pm

    From a purely practical point of view I can think of several Churches where the nave isn’t wide enough to do this.

  10. Wednesday 23rd March 2011 at 4:26 pm

    Point taken, James. Very much.

  11. Wednesday 23rd March 2011 at 11:56 am

    Sure, that’s nice. Trusting of the handles, too. But suitcases and shopping bags we carry like this; what, aside from our young children, do we carry and lift high onto our shoulders? Our dear dead – that’s who.

    So I’d counter this safe picture with my experience of the four sisters shouldering their youngest sibling’s coffin round the corner of Leckhampton church, staggering into the teeth of the January gale, high heels sinking into the turf, with half a dozen other family – old and young – each keeping a safe hand on the coffin, doubling up on the webbing until it was safely down in the ground. Even the minister’s voice was stifling sobs.

  12. Wednesday 23rd March 2011 at 11:25 am

    ahhhhhh LOVE IT! beautiful

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