It may come as no surprise in a city that houses Europe’s second largest cemetery, the excellent Josephinium Museum as well as a separate Pathological collection at the Narrenturm, and where a visit to the Imperial Crypt is on the average tourist’s sightseeing list, that there is also museum specifically dedicated to funerals and funeral services.
Historically, the Viennese have something of a love affair with death, and the concept of “A schöne Leich´” (literally mistakeable as “a beautiful corpse”, but actually meaning “a beautiful funeral”). Funerals were a BIG DEAL.
In 1951 the Bestattung Wien, or Undertaking Service of Vienna became the sole provider of funeral services in the city, and continue the tradition to this day. The Funeral Museum was founded by them in 1967, and redesigned in 1987.
The collection about 1000 objects related to Viennese funeral traditions, including a collection of items designed to help out should you find yourself unexpectedly buried alive. Also on display: hearses, coffin, mourning attire, and a unique re-usable coffin proposed in 1784 by Emperor Josef II, from the bottom of which a corpse could drop through a trap door into a void below, thus opening up the space for a new occupant - all in order to save precious wood. Unsurprisingly, the idea did not go over terribly well.
The new museum features interactive media and focus more heavily on the “Viennese Cult of the Dead,” local cemeteries, and Viennese mourning ceremonies.
Know Before You Go
Next to the main entry of the Zentralfriedhof