An ASCE conference is only a start

Card game for children
From the discovery of the Flemish and Brussels funerary heritage to the publication of a book and the development of a card game for children.

The AGM and Conference 2019

The City of Ghent (Belgium) hosted in 2019 the ASCE Annual General Meeting & Conference. Although the presentations, the conversations between the participants and the discovery of the Flemish and Brussels funerary heritage were the main objectives of the organising committee, some two years later the return is much bigger than four wonderful and intense days.

International friendships were made and are maintained. A like on Facebook or Instagram, the sharing of fascinating posts, photos of each other's work and shared interests inspire us in our daily work, bind us internationally together and make us long for a return visit.

But there is more.

The Ghent ASCE AGM & Conference has also meant a lot for Flanders itself. People, organisations and cities who worked together on the conference got to know each other better and learned about each other’s work. We know better now who to contact with questions, ideas and concerns. An e-mail is quicker send and a phone call is easier made. Experiences are shared and more inventive solutions are implemented.

Publication of a book

Those contacts resulted this spring in a book that is pioneering for Flanders and fills a void: Memento Mori, In dialoog met de begraafplaats (Memento Mori: in dialogue with the cemetery). The book is based on the same ideas as the conference: use, shared use and re-use. But it goes further than that and looks at the design of the cemetery as a place for mourning, evolutions through time and the handling of our heritage as an obvious task for the cemetery manager. It has become a book about the place of the (historical) cemetery in our modern society. The cemetery as a space for the bereaved, the local resident and the visitor. The place to deal consciously with death, burial, last wishes, farewells and memories.

Without the ASCE conference, this book might never have become a reality. Initiators of the book are Lieve Destoop of the City of Ghent and Tamara Ingels of Intro Cultuur en Media / Grafzerkje. Several of the authors were speakers at the ASCE conference such as Nandy Dolman, Marc De Bie, Maarten Herbots and Hendrik de Bouvre or hosted a chair such as Joeri Mertens. The book was presented on the occasion of the opening of the 2021 Week of Discovering European Cemeteries (WDEC) in Flanders and Brussels.

It does not stop there. 

Activities during WDEC 

The Corona pandemic has taught us all to organise a variety of activities during the WDEC instead of the classical guided visits. Self-guided walks in small groups, family activities, a special attention towards children and online lectures became increasingly popular.

The city of Ghent, together with Intro Cultuur en Media, has therefor developed a card game for children called Speurneuzen (detectives). It's a game that allows parent and children to talk about death, burial and heritage in an active yet playful and fun way. The project is not site-specific and can be used at any cemetery. The Dutch cards can be downloaded and there even is a nice little box to fit the cards in. You can make the box yourself and it’s great fun to colour and decorate it together with the kids.

On the last Sunday morning of WDEC, Marc De Bie presented the aperitif lecture The origins of burial and family: a prehistoric perspective. From behind their screens, he took visitors on a journey to Belgian prehistory and the story of life, family and death in our distant past.

The impact of AGM & Conference

To say that the ASCE AGM & Conference 2019 has put funerary heritage on the Flemish map is perhaps an exaggeration, but it has certainly given it a boost and brought people and ideas together.

Altogether we now reflect, think and write even more passionately about the values of our common funerary heritage resting in our cemeteries.

Joeri Mertens
Heritage Flanders

You can access the original article HERE.

Skogskyrkogården: 20+ years of being unique

Skogskyrkogården (Stockholm, Sweden)
Skogskyrkogården (The Woodland Cemetery) is unique in its own way. It is characterized by the interaction between landscapes and buildings, richness of detail, essential vegetation and varied lines of sight.
For 20 years, the Association of Significant Cemeteries in Europe (ASCE) has been a select group for cemeteries considered to be of historical or artistic importance. Through activities and dissemination of knowledge, ASCE has drawn the attention of citizens and tourists to the values that the significant cemeteries possess. ASCE has also created an important network and meeting place for cemetery enthusiasts around Europe who work for the preservation of these essential and valuable environments.

Skogskyrkogården (Stockholm, Sweden)The member cemeteries represent a diversity of; culture, religion, tradition, history and architect- ural expressions. What all the cemeteries have in common, is that they are unique, in their own way, and that is what makes them significant.

For 20 years, Skogskyrkogården (The Woodland Cemetery) in Stockholm, Sweden, has been one of the significant cemeteries. What makes Skogskyrkogården unique is that it has also been a UNESCO World Heritage Site for 20+ years.

It all started in 1914 when the cemetery committee announced an international competition to design Stockholm’s new southern cemetery. Cemetries of that time were designed as magnificent parks with lavish grave monuments as a tribute to the dead. The cemetery committee now wanted to create a unique cemetery where nature and architecture formed a harmonious whole. The winners of the competition were the young, Swedish, architects Gunnar Asplund and Sigurd Lewerentz.

The Landscape

With the competition entry Tallum, the architects fulfilled the requirements to create a cemetery integrated with the existing nature by making use of the site’s existing topography and forest.

The cemetery is surrounded by a 4km long stone wall. Inside the semi-circular main entrance, the rolling landscape opens up. The iconic Almhöjden (Elm Hill) and the stone cross, designed by Gunnar Asplund, catches the visitor’s eye. In the distance, the pine woodland of the burial ground appears as a dark green silhouette. The 900m long processional path Sju brunnars stig (Seven wells path) leads you through the woodland to the southern part of the cemetery.

Landscape architect Sigurd Lewerentz was the one who designed the majority of the landscape, such as Almhöjden and the garden of remembrance, which was inaugurated in 1961.

Skogskyrkogården is unique in its kind and is characterized by the interaction between landscapes and buildings, richness of detail, essential vegetation and varied lines of sight. Throughout the design is the idea of the journey between light and darkness, between joy and sorrow, through the cycle of life-death-life.

The Woodland

Skogskyrkogården is not only a World Heritage Site but also an active cemetery. The 107 hectare large cemetery houses over 100,000 graves, which makes it one of northern Europe’s largest cemeteries.

Skogskyrkogården (Stockholm, Sweden) The graves interact with the woodland on the pine-covered grassy areas. The cemetery’s 10,000 pine tree trunks tower up between the gravestones like roman pillars and their crowns form a green canopy against the sky.

The pines at Skogskyrkogården are one of the building blocks that make the World Heritage Site unique and the importance of its preservation is specially designated to maintain the World Heritage Status. One of the cemetery’s biggest threats is damage to the trees due to disease, grave digging or age. To ensure regrowth, new pines are planted in the cemetery every year. Seeds plucked from the original pine trees ensure that the right plant material is used.

The Five Chapels

Inside the forest lies Skogskapellet (The Woodland Chapel). The chapel, which is the cemetery’s smallest, was designed by Gunnar Asplund and is modestly subordinate to the pines and fir trees. Skogskapellet was inaugurated in 1920 in conjunction to the inauguration of Skogskyrkogården.

Soon after, it was established that the chapel was too small for a large funeral party. In 1925, Uppståndelsekapellet (The Chapel of Resurrection) was completed, which was designed by Lewerentz and was twice as big as Skogskapellet. The chapel with its neoclassical design acts as the destination at the end of Sju brunnars stig and is visible all the way from the top of Almhöjden.

At the entrance of Skogskyrkogården, Asplund designed the cemetery’s main buildings. Due to financial and practical reasons, construction was delayed. In 1940, however, Skogskrematoriet (The Woodland Crematorium) was completed with its three chapels, Tron (Faith), Hoppet (Hope) and Heliga korset (the Holy Cross). Functionalism now had its impact, which permeates through the entire design.

The unique layout of each building shows the architects’ eye for richness of detail, focus on the visitors experience and the cycle of life-death-life.

Skogskyrkogården (Stockholm, Sweden) Skogskyrkogården (Stockholm, Sweden) Skogskyrkogården (Stockholm, Sweden)

The Crematoria

Skogskyrkogården (Stockholm, Sweden) In 2009, history repeated itself when the cemetery committee announced a new architectural competition at Skogskyrkogården. After more than 60 years in operation, Gunnar Asplund’s crematorium closed down, as a more modern facility was now required. Five international architectural firms were invited to compete and the winning entry was En sten i skogen (A Stone in the Forest) by Johan Celsing in collaboration with Müller Illien Landschafts- architekten.

Nya krematoriet (The New Crematorium) was inaugurated in 2014 and opened for business in 2015 after Skogskrematoriet conducted its last cremation No. 285,944. Once again, a unique building had been constructed at Skogskyrkogården, which was discreetly integrated into the surrounding woodland. In 2013, Nya krematoriet received the national Swedish Kasper Salin-Prize for high architectural quality.

The World Heritage Site

Since 1994, Skogskyrkogården has been recognized on the UNESCO World Heritage List of invaluable cultural and natural heritage sites. The motivations for this recognition are as follows:
  • ”The creation of Swedish architects Gunnar Asplund and Sigurd Lewerentz at Skogskyrkogården established a new form of cemetery that has exerted a profound influence on cemetery design throughout the world”.
  • “The merits of Skogskyrkogården lie in its qualities as an early 20th century landscape and architectural design adapted to a cemetery”.

Skogskyrkogården is unique in its kind as the world’s only active cemetery established as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2001 ASCE was founded with the City of Stockholm being one of the founder members. Soon afterwards, Skogskyrkogården was recognized as being significant.

In September 2020, Skogskyrkogården celebrated its 100 years anniversary. For more than 20 years, it has been a World Heritage Site and of course, it also celebrates 20 years as a significant cemetery.

The Woodland Cemetery is proud to be part of ASCE and in the celebration of its 20th anniversary. We hope to be a member for another 20+ years alongside all the other unique significant cemetery.

About the article

Text by: Sara Carlquist, City of Stockholm, Cemeteries Department
Photos by: Per Stjernberg & Sara Carlquist

You can access the original article HERE.

Contemporary funeral trends shaping the cultural heritage of the future

The new multi-purpose complex at Pobrežje Cemetery
Straight clean lines. Modest decoration. Absence of traditional religious symbols. This is the cemetery heritage of the future.  

The new farewell hall at Pobrežje Cemetery

Pogrebno podjetje Maribor, the presiding member of ASCE, has completed the construction of a new farewell hall at Pobrežje Cemetery. One of the largest investments of the company offers a modern space for the implementation of funeral and cemetery activities as well as other occasions, such as meetings and conferences. It includes rooms for the reception of mourners with 72 seats, advanced audio and video equipment and a landscaped outdoor park. 

Cultural heritage of the future

With straight clean lines and without excessive decorative elements, the design of this modern complex reflects the architectural and funerary trends of today. Minimalism and practicality are at the forefront and with the absence of traditional religious symbols this complex is moving away from the traditional cemetery infrastructure we are used to seeing in European cemeteries. A similar trend can be observed on graves and tombstones that are becoming more and more typified, simple and unadorned. In a way, similar to each other. 

Nevertheless, graves, monuments, architecture, symbols and funerary customs present at today's cemeteries are a representation of our current society. They are the legacy that we will leave behind and will tell stories of the world that we live in now. Therefore, it is necessary to acknowledge their importance and try to protect and preserve them, just like we try to preserve every other aspect of cultural heritage in cemeteries.

AGM 2021 in Budapest

Budapest Fiumei Road Graveyard
Let's meet again! On Friday, September 17th, 2021, the Annual General Meeting without conference will be held in Budapest, Hungary. All ASCE members invited to attend.
The LIVE ASCE meeting will be held on Friday, September 17th, 2021, and will be followed by a rich cultural program during the weekend. As usual, we will take a walk in the cemetery of the hosting city and discover some of the other amazing cultural attractions of Budapest.

The ASCE Conference will take place separately in November 2021 via Zoom.

The AGM is for ASCE members only and an online sign up for the event is required. Please, apply via this REGISTRATION FORM, no later than July 15th, 2021. 

Accommodation and all other logistics will be arranged to smoothly accomodate participants, you do not need to make any accommodation reservations.

The host member will take care of all the security measures that may be necessary at that time so that we can safely enjoy each other’s company and have a carefree and productive weekend.

We look forward to seeing you in person!


September 17th, Friday

  • 10 am - ASCE General Meeting
  • 12 noon - International press conference
  • 1 pm - Lunch
  • Afternoon: Sightseeing in Budapest, walks in Fiumei Street National Graveyard and Salgótarjáni Street Jewish Cemetery
  • Evening: Opening ceremony of “Cultural Heritage Days”

September 18th, Saturday

  • Optional sightseeing in Budapest and/or visit to the National Park of Mourning (central memorial place for victims of the communist dictatorship)
Program is subject to change and will be adapted to the situation.

20 years of tourism

City Cemetery Škaljari (Kotor, Montenegro)
All in vain is the amazingly preserved cultural heritage of the cemetery, if its sparkling stories of love, wars and discoveries are not joyfully talked about, touched and remembered.
In 20 years, our association highlighted the importance of the jewels that quietly absorb all of its surrounding history in small inscriptions and gigantic artistic expressions of eternal devotion. Passionate ASCE members developed an endless stream of projects and activities, guided tours, books and concerts, lectures and congresses which generated new attractivity of the cemeteries.

Sure, cemetery tourism was here a long time before. People visited cemeteries for the purpose of enjoying the culture and history of its region. Yet all such visits were often more of a rumour rather than fact. An awkward habit that cemeteries tourists kept as a hidden treasure for themselves. Knowing that talking about it would raise many eyebrows.

Tourism of change

Anyone that ever walked a cemetery just because they decided to do so, was changed by the experience itself. Quiet place in the centre of a vibrant city cleared their minds, washed their souls of all the unimportant, earthly and non-divine thoughts.

Within the diversity of all the stories discovered, cemetery tourists are introduced to his own uniqueness, her own belonging. Introduced by the memories of others they rethink the decisions made, actions taken.

Every tourist visit to the cemetery means accepting and appreciating life once again, much more than before.

Changing tourism

Past 20 years on the other hand were marked by the transformation of global tourism. The industry was pushed by an incredible share of information over internet channels, leading to major touristic points being swallowed by the masses. Reducing the experience to unthinkable nothing. Industrial, cheap, nothing.

Experts are desperately seeking solutions to the overcrowded cities and historical treasures. There awaits the unthinkable, obvious chance. Cemeteries are not meant to replace the major attractions, neither be overflowing with tourists. Yet they carry the most important essence of meaningful tourism: stories.

Guided tours over monumental cemeteries or small gardens of souls in villages across Europe are always filled out with most unusual and controversial stories that are hidden during any rushing visit to the city. Chapters of history and culture that are so rich that they are an opportunity for building completely new, slow down tourism products. Thus creating that essential switch that tourism experts are looking for.

Diverging tourism, diverging life

This is why we have to keep going. Organizing more events, getting cemeteries to every tourism map, every city flyer and destination website. Because cemeteries gained so much from this community. And they can give back so much more.

With sparkling stories of love, wars and discoveries joyfully talked about, touched and remembered, cemeteries are diverging tourism, diverging life.

ASCE members, fans and colleagues, keep this going for the next 20 years.

Dušan Vrban
European Cemeteries Route manager

Cemetery Tourism Study

City Cemetery Škaljari (Kotor, Montenegro)
The publication “Cemetery Tourism Study” aims to discover the model for future valorization of the Jewish part of the City Cemetery Škaljari, through the prism of cultural practice and tourism.

About the publication

The publication “Cemetery Tourism Study” was created for the needs of the pilot project of the Municipality of Kotor entitled “Rediscover, expose and exploit the conceived Jewish heritage of the Danube region” whose purpose was to rediscover the forgotten Jewish cultural heritage in the Danube region. Numerous cultural institutions from Montenegro and abroad participated in the preparation of the publication.

The study presents the historical development of the Kotor municipal cemetery, with special reference to the chronology of its development, the architecture of its chapels and churches as well as its monumental sculpture. A special section of this study was dedicated to the architectural, stylistic and chronological research of the Jewish cemetery, which is located within the City Cemetery Škaljari, and is the only one of its kind in Montenegro. The aim of the study was to discover the model for its valorization in future, through the prism of cultural practice and tourism.

The full publication is available at this link.

ASCE Conference 2021: call for papers

Cemetourism: Cemeteries with stories to tell

Call for papers

This year’s conference of the Association of Significant Cemeteries of Europe (ASCE) has the
theme Cemetourism: Cemeteries with stories to tell. It will take a practical rather than historical
approach to significant cemeteries, looking at questions of ‘how’:
  • How can cemeteries communicate their cultural importance to the public? 
  • How can cemeteries establish why are they important, and to whom?  
  • How can cemeteries engage with visitors and potential visitors?  
  • How best can cemeteries share their understanding of their cultural value? 
  • How can cemeteries enrich the visitor experience? 
  • How can cemeteries do all this while respecting their primary purpose as places of burial?
We are seeking speakers with practical knowledge or experience who can communicate well to
a broad international audience.

Conference dates and venue

Thursday 11 and Friday 12 November 2021. Online, via Zoom.  
Organised by the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust for the Association of Significant Cemeteries of Europe.

Conference themes

Papers are invited along the following themes: 
  • Understanding the cultural significance of cemeteries
  • Developing the unique story of your cemetery
  • Wayfinding: helping visitors navigate to the parts that matter
  • Cemetery museums: complementing the outdoor experience
  • Cultural programming in cemeteries
  • Working with tourism promotion agencies
  • Reconciling tourism with burial activities

Conference papers

Papers should last no longer than 25 minutes, excluding questions. The conference language is English. You will need to be able to present online to participate.


Please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words summarising your intended paper no later
than Friday 9 July 2021. Please use the form at this link.
Successful contributors will be notified by 26 July 2021.  Conference bookings will open on 1 September 2021.

Editorial board

  • Ian Dungavell
  • John Moffatt
  • Ioanna Paraskevopoulou 
  • Andreea Pop

Further information

Please email Follow us on Twitter: @Cemetourism and Facebook.

Photo book "Crossroads of diversity"

Crossroads of diversity
37 photographs from 32 cities from 15 countries. Images of cemeteries that are so distinctive and unique, but still speaking the same language. Language of diversity.
As a tribute to the 20th anniversary of ASCE, Week of Discovering European Cemeteries 2021 is celebrating diversity in all its forms.

Individual WDEC activities were complemented with a joint international project “Crossroads of diversity”. A remarkable photo book revealing the diversity of cemeteries all across Europe. Cemeteries that are special and unique, but at the same time similar and connected through their common European history.

You are kindly invited to discover Crossroads of diversity.  

WDEC 2021 in Rijeka

WDEC 2021 in Rijeka
Week of Discovering European Cemeteries 2021 in Rijeka focused on doctors who left a deep mark in Rijeka and world medicine.
Week of Discovering European Cemeteries is the most important ASCE project that connects people and points out the heritage in our cemeteries. In Rijeka, the event was held for the first time in 2015, and during these seven years, our fellow citizens have recognized it as a new way to learn about the history of the city.

This year's theme: Doctors' resting places

The last year and a half was marked by the health issues, imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The dedication of health workers, who bore the great burden of this global situation, inspired KD Kozala to dedicate this year's WDEC to doctors buried in Kozala and Trsat Cemeteries and to the body donors at CGG Drenova. On this occasion, KD Kozala also prepared a special, short brochure.


In Rijeka, Week of Discovering European Cemeteries took place from 24 May to 30 May 2021.

The event began on Monday, May 24 at 18.00 in front of the entrance of Kozala Cemetery with a musical accompaniment and a photo exhibition of doctors' resting places in Kozala Cemetery. Then, an educational walk and introduction to the cemetery took place under the expert guidance of art historian, Mrs. Daina Glavočić.

On Tuesday, May 25, starting at 18.00, the program continued at the Trsat cemetery, also with an educational walk and introduction to the cemetery under the expert guidance of Mrs. Daina Glavočić. Visitors could also enjoy the occasional musical accompaniment and photo exhibition of doctors' resting places.

Other days were intended for individual visits and tours of the cemeteries.

Locations and information about the grave sites are also available in the ARtour mobile application, which allows individual visits and further research of the Rijeka cemeteries.