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Kyrkogården i framtiden

ur ungdomars perspektiv

Sörensen, Ann-Britt (2003). Kyrkogården i framtiden. Alnarp : Sveriges lantbruksuniv. , Movium rapport, 1651-3401 ; 2003:2
ISBN 91-576-6598-2
[Licentiate thesis]

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This study is an attempt to capture visions of churchyards and cemeteries in the future from young people’s perspective. The background for the study is the radical change that has already taken place in Swedish society regarding the Church and churchyards and the further changes that have been proposed. One such change is the relationship between the Church of Sweden and the State. A reform introduced in 2000 means that the Church of Sweden no longer has the status of State Church. Another important change is that due to immigration, the religious map of Sweden has changed rather dramatically. The focus for this study was the churchyard as a physical and social location. In order to obtain the opinions of young people on this question, it was necessary to seek information from different angles. A combination of qualitative and quantitative methods was used, comprising a questionnaire, descriptive writing and group discussions. A churchyard tour was also included. Fifty-one young people participated in the study, 17 girls and 34 boys, from an upper secondary school in Landskrona. Of these, 71 % were members of the Church of Sweden and 20 % were members of other religions (Muslim, Catholic, Orthodox, etc). The remainder were not members of any religious body at all or did not know. As regards attitudes, these young people believed that the churchyard as a place has cultural values, has the spirit of togetherness with family roots and is an agent for memories. However, they did not think that the churchyard is a place to go to in difficult times or to experience nature, or that the giant trees at the churchyard contribute to fresher air in the city. They want to feel reverence and respect for the churchyard and some consider it holy. It is a place they seek to feel close to their ancestors and ”talk” to them, a place where they entertain specific feelings. The place must have quality, content and experience. It may be what Norberg-Schultz describes as Genius loci, the spirit of the place, where the site holds memories and feelings as well as concrete phenomena. It is also obvious that the young people experience the place by their senses. They believe that every place has its individual function and thus that parks and churchyards have different functions. At the churchyard, nothing should be allowed to disturb the visitor: no noise, no pictures. To use the churchyard as a park, as a museum or for art exhibitions would be strange to the young people interviewed here. A concept of virtual churchyards was proposed as an appealing idea for young people of today, who have a positive approach to IT and many of whom are globetrotters and have a lifestyle involving living abroad. However this turned out to be a wholly unpopular idea and was totally rejected. Young people want to experience very specific feelings and they believe that these feelings can only be mediated by a real churchyard, where they can go and “talk” to their ancestors. For these young people, the emotional ties to the physical environment are important. A proposal to locate churchyards in residential blocks was greeted with ambivalence. On the one hand, it could bring another quality to the area. The young people pointed out that places for peace, reflection and contemplation will be needed in the future and that churchyards could be such places. In this regard, a churchyard in a residential block would bring a peaceful place closer to people’s everyday life, as well as providing access to another green outdoor space. On the other hand, however, it could bring a sad atmosphere, while noise from playgrounds would disturb the peace of the churchyard. When it came to the maintenance of the individual graves in the churchyard, 65 % of the young people believed that the people concerned should have to pay for the maintenance or do it themselves. The remainder of the interviewees preferred solutions involving collective maintenance. Only 8 % were interested in contributing to the maintenance of the churchyard and very few were interested in a role in churchyard administration. The view of nature plays an important role in both people’s actions and their views of the future. The young people in this study regarded nature as “the wild”. On the other hand, they wanted churchyards to look well kept. They could scarcely contemplate a transformation of the churchyard from garden to meadow. They considered a meadow to be an area which is not looked after and thus perceived a risk for churchyard decline. This can be interpreted as an expression of appreciation of the cultural heritage represented by churchyards, but it can also be a expression of ”topophilia”. Anonymous graves did not appeal to these young people. This may be a manifestation of the desire of this generation to create individual solutions in combination with a wish to identity, even after their death. It can also be an expression for ties between their identity and the place. However the picture is divided, since 33 % of the overall group of young people studied expressed a preference for having their final resting place in nature, i.e. they are prepared to give up their identity and their ties to the place. It is obvious that they are aware of their free choice - tradition or not. A grave in nature is in line with these young people’s view of nature, with a preferences for “the wild”, assuming that their choice of burial place reflects their ethos. The young people in this study stressed that they highly value tradition, but they also demonstrated that this is a free choice for them. This freedom to choose also applies to the question of integrated churchyards. Some of those interviewees who are members of Church of Sweden are in favour of fully integrated churchyards and are prepared to give up the traditional appearance of the churchyard for the possibility of creating new traditions. Others advocate separate churchyards for each religion, or at least separate areas of the churchyard. This may be a wish to manifest their own culture. This study shows that young people have unexpectedly clear visions and ideas about churchyards and what these should be like in the future. Although the statistical basis of the study was too small to allow generalisations, the limited quantitative part together with the qualitative part can provide a more general picture. In order to obtain sufficient data, the study needs to be repeated at other locations within or outside Sweden. Some questions need deeper investigation and illumination, especially those concerning integrated churchyards and the connection between view of nature and choice of final resting place. In addition, the question of the importance of the view of nature and the vision of the future churchyard needs further study.

Authors/Creators:Sörensen, Ann-Britt
Title:Kyrkogården i framtiden
Subtitle:ur ungdomars perspektiv
Series Name/Journal:Movium rapport
Year of publishing :December 2003
Number of Pages:130
Place of Publication:Alnarp
ISBN for printed version:91-576-6598-2
Publication Type:Licentiate thesis
Full Text Status:Public
Agris subject categories.:P Natural resources > P01 Nature conservation and land resources
Subjects:Not in use, please see Agris categories
Agrovoc terms:public parks, planning, design, landscape, youth, religion, social groups, human behaviour, sweden
Keywords:Churchyard, cemetery, future, youth, place
Permanent URL:
ID Code:412
Department:?? 4050 ??
Deposited By: Ann-Britt Sörensen
Deposited On:01 Dec 2003 00:00
Metadata Last Modified:02 Dec 2014 10:04

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