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

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

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 Egyptian mummies on display in the Museum of Egypt, in Cairo.

The pictured mummy belongs to Ramses II. 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.


Russia - Moscow - Red Square - Lenin Mausoleum

The Lenin Mausoleum on the Red Square, in front of the Kremlin. Moscow, Russia


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


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


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


Further reading

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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