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Burying the deceased, that is the character and form of burial, has been changing rapidly. It can be clearly seen by the rising popularity of cremation. The fact that there are more and more urn burials seems to open for stone companies a vast array of possibilities as regards development of green cemetery areas (park sites).  

Although social and cultural role of cemeteries, burial forms or necropolis development elements is evolving, one thing remains unchanged: it is a stone which is still an important material in sepulchral (related to worship of the dead: burials, burial place decorations, tomb architecture) art. The significant role of the stone is a result of its solid structure, durability, eternal beauty and symbolism connected with it. Properties of stone make us think that the power of the dead and spirits of our descendants are still alive in it. Therefore, stone symbolises eternal life.

According to the Eurostat forecasts, old-age dependency ratio (number of people who are 65 years old or more per 100 people aged 15-64) will have doubled by 2050. Consequently, the number of deaths will rise and the demand for burial grounds will grow significantly. The above forecasts say that the number of people in Poland will go down from around 38.5 million to 34.8 million. These numbers should encourage authorities of towns and villages to look for grounds and solutions which will provide burial places for dying members of local communities. We can observe, however, that cremation is getting more and more popular among people in Europe, also in Poland. Cremation is an alternative to traditional burials (the so-called inhumation). This visible reorientation in the way of burying the dead has an impact on stone industry and gravestone branch. It determines the demand (or lack of it) for particular sepulchral products. It is a good idea to find out more about the current data (it is not easy to do it, though, as we see below) to be able to react to changes that are happening in Polish society regarding culture of death, burial and commemoration of the dead. Only then stone companies will be able to adjust their offers to the changing needs.   


For the living, the gravestone is seen as the most important element of the cemetery. It is commonly said that the grave is an identification of the person who is buried there, a material testimony of the person who used to live on earth. It is a symbol of memory. Due to a huge emotional and symbolic load, it is not a surprise that family of the dead pay a big attention to which burial form to choose as this decision will influence the look and arrangement of the grave. Due to the fact that costs related to erecting a tomb are partly covered by the social insurance company, we may assume that no matter which form of burial will become more popular in the future, erecting tombs will continue. Polish tradition says that you need to erect a tomb within a year after the death. The people who do not erect tombs for their close relatives who died expose themselves to social ostracism. We can observe it especially in smaller communities. “Nagle Sami” (Suddenly alone) foundation informs that every year around 100,000 families in Poland lose somebody who is close to them. 100,000 families must cope with the loss and emptiness. Finally, 100,000 families must choose the form of burial and make a decision how to commemorate their beloved dead. Stone companies must adjust their offers to the form of burial that is dominant in a given country or region. The first thing we should do when discussing contemporary funeral industry in Poland is to specify the share of cremation and inhumation in the total number of deaths. It seems necessary, especially if we take into account all the changes that occurred in the last decade.  


In Poland there are no databases that inform about the number of cremations performed in particular provinces over the years. Polish crematoria do not inform about such details. We do not know much about cemeteries as well. There is no central registry of burial sites and institutions that manage cemeteries. In other countries, however, statistics related to burials are important when planning cemeteries and business activities. Such data have a great impact on the type of offered services and often decide about “to be or not to be” of that kind of business.

We are mentioning it because this report has been based on the data provided by the Polish Funeral Association, Central Statistical Office (GUS), Eurostat and the Cremation Society of Great Britain. This report discusses trends of current sepulchral art and suggests entrepreneurs how burial forms (cremation or inhumation), sepulchral investments in the region (opening new cemeteries, extending the existing ones, building crematoria) may affect the demand for “the stone assortment.”  


Despite the fact that traditional burial (coffin) is still the dominating one in Poland, disparities between inhumation (putting a dead unburned body into grave) and cremation are getting smaller and smaller. Over the decade the share of cremation in the total number of burials has grown by as much as 16 percent (from 4.42% in 2005 to 21% in 2014!) Ground burials were very common by early 1990s. Transformation of the political system and opening of borders allowed for free movement of goods, services, people and ideas. The idea of burning a body after death was introduced by launching first Polish crematorium in Poznań in 1993. By 2007 there had been 10 crematoria in Poland.  After 2010 a sudden growth of the number of crematoria was recorded. This increase was caused by the fact that more and more crematoria were being established with the help of European Union funding programmes (for example Regional Operational Programmes in particular provinces). In 2016, according to the data provided by the Polish Funeral Association, there were 46 crematoria across Poland. Moreover, there are plans to create more crematoria in Świętokrzyskie, Małopolskie, Lubelskie, Łódzkie and Zachodniopomorskie provinces. These figures clearly show that cremation in Poland is booming.

The International Cremation Statistics provided by the Cremation Society of Great Britain prove that Poland is one of the most rapidly developing markets of cremation services in Europe. In 2010 the body of every tenth dead person was cremated. This figure has doubled over just four years. In 2014 cremation was chosen in 21% of all burials. The Polish Funeral Association estimates that in 2016 the percentage share of cremations could reach 28%.    

Although the cremation index is rocketing up, it is still true that Polish society is highly polarised as regards the attitude to death and funerals. This can be proven by the study carried out by the Public Opinion Research Centre CBOS in 2011 entitled “On dying and death”. Cremation as a form of burial was then accepted by 44% of respondents. When compared to the similar study carried out in 1994, the number of cremation supporters increased by 7%. In spite of the fact that these figures are well out of date, they show certain dependencies that can be useful for stone companies and their trade offers. The more educated the people are, the more they accept the fact that the body of the dead person may be cremated. Religiosity favours accepting only one form of burial. If we have a look at social and professional groups, the fewest supporters of cremation can be found among farmers and the retired.  











Number of crematoria









Cremation index








28 (?)


A negative attitude towards cremating people among the retired people is frequently caused by “historical burden”. For those who survived World War II crematoria remind of concentration camps, Holocaust and mass extermination of millions of human beings. Due to the fact that 90% of Polish people say they are Catholics, it is worth to know what Catholic Church says about cremation. Although right now the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in its instruction on burying the bodies of the dead and keeping their ashes does not see any doctrinal reasons to forbid cremation, Catholic Church still prefers burying the corpses of people in the blessed grounds of cemeteries. Many people who see how many cremations are performed in Sweden, Germany or the Czech Republic feel a serious internal objection to this depersonalised way of treating a human body (they think that in those countries cremation became a part of industrialisation, a kind of disposal of corpses; there are some reasons to think like this if we analyse how many cremated ashes are not collected by families of the deceased).   

What are the arguments provided by cremation supporters in Poland? First of all, they speak about money. Urn burials are cheaper than traditional ones by, on average, 15-20%. Cremation burial with urn field costs around 2,600-2,800 zlotys (circa 650-700 Euro) whilst traditional burials cost at least 3,000-3,500 zlotys (750-850 Euro). In Poland there are now quite a lot of people who are for cremation because this form of burial contributes to alleviating the problem of overcrowded cemeteries as well as not very aesthetic ones, This is a big problem especially for authorities of large cities. It is enough to mention some figures to show spatial advantages of cremation: 4 coffins can be buried in the area of 10 m2 whilst in 10 m2 columbarium (a place where urns with ashes of the deceased are stored) you can put 200 urns (!). You can save a lot of space this way. Urn burials also allow for bigger space arrangement options (you can implement a varied system of paths as well as large green areas that enrich cemetery and improve its aesthetic and social values). Cremation allows for implementing the idea of “keeping the earth for the living”  promoted by, among others, “La Flamme” (Fr. “Flame”; a quarterly published by the French Cremation Federation).


Basic acts governing the issues related to establishing and maintaining cemeteries as well as conducting cremation policy in Poland are the act of 31 January 1959 on cemeteries and burying the dead (Journal of Laws from 1959, No 11, item 62); Ordinance of the Ministry of Communal Administration from 25 August 1959 indicating properties where cemeteries can be located; Ordinance of the Ministry of Culture from 7 March 2008 indicating the criteria that cemeteries, graves and other places of burial of corpses and remains must fulfil (Journal of Laws from 2008, No 48, item 284), Construction Law Act from 16 May 2003 (Journal of Laws from 2003, No 207, item 2016). More and more people in the world are choosing cremation and anonymous burial with no grave (for example scattering ashes outside a cemetery), but Poland is one of the few countries where citizens are forced to bury the deceased in a cemetery. Polish law forbids scattering ashes of the dead person or keeping an urn with ashes out of a cemetery. The law imposes an obligation to fence the cemetery area (fencing should be made of a solid material and its height should not be lower than 1.5 metres). The burial area includes space for vaults and liners and for placing corpses and remains in catacombs and columbaria.

According to the regulations that can be found in the Ordinance of the Ministry of Infrastructure on requirements that cemeteries, graves and other places for burying corpses and remains must fulfil (articles 10 and 15), a single vault in which urn is placed should be 0.5 m long, 0.5 m wide and 0.7 m deep. Single liners, however, in which urn is placed should be 0.5 m / 0.5 m / 0.7 m, respectively. The niche in columbarium should be 0.4 m deep, 0.4 m wide and 0.4 m high. The tomb on the grave cannot be bigger than the grave area. Additionally, at least 0.5 metre wide space between tombs must be left. In Poland there is a de facto monopoly when it comes to providing cemetery services related to cemetery administration. This does not apply to funeral services (that is burial, digging graves, erecting tombs). There is an absolute prohibition of limiting entrepreneurs in providing services related to burials and funeral ceremonies. Cemetery administrators are not allowed to introduce discriminatory regulations concerning using cemetery infrastructure which are in breach of provisions of the competition and consumer protection act (Journal of Laws from 2007, No 50, item 331). When accepting a stone and building work order, we should first read the regulations of the cemetery and find out what fees are covered by an entrepreneur – contractor. Fees and requirements as regards the use of cemetery infrastructure often vary. This situation makes it difficult to calculate costs and sometimes leads to discretion when putting services like this on price lists.


What possibilities does cremation create for stone industry? We are intentionally writing here about possibilities, although public opinion usually focuses on something else. Cremation is to limit the space taken by the dead to leave as much space as possible for the living. It is worth to think like this when administering cemeteries. Here I would like to make an appeal to cemetery administrators: when administering cemeteries and developing cemetery areas you should devote more attention to the living and their needs. Cemetery is not only a burial site. It is also an important place for the living. If cemetery administrators think like this, it will then turn out that cremation opens up a wide range of possibilities for stone companies: urn fields, memory fields, (so-called memory gardens), columbaria, crematoria buildings, etc. Each of those elements gives stone companies a chance to show how good and professional they are. German market could be a good model for us as regards effective dealing with cremation. In Germany there was a sudden change if it comes to the way in which the deceased are commemorated: from traditional grave fields through common graves to no graves at all. Consequently, stone industry is now suffering from the fact that fewer and fewer new classic tombs are being erected now.  

Below you can find references that show how you can take advantage of the trend of growing interest in cremation in Poland. I need to highlight that in Poland there are a lot of families which, in spite of cremation, decide to have a traditional tomb erected. They need a place for mourning after the loss of their beloved. A tailor-made space that creates a feeling of intimacy (but not alienation) that on one hand helps to work through grief and tame death, but on the other is not full of trashy,  kitsch, and simple (primitive?) elements like angels or waves. Many families choose cremation and placing urns with ashes in a columbarium because of tasteless aesthetics of tombs which are offered by stone companies. By choosing a niche in a columbarium they choose the lesser evil. But then the ideas of, among others, German stonemasons, that is a personalised tomb (German: Grabzeichen) as well as the so-called metamorphic tomb, may come to the aid. The latter one can be rearranged after some time and, as a result, adapted to the needs of the family of the deceased. In Poland it is recommended to get familiar with a book that contains tomb patterns for old cemeteries (published in 2009) with 18 modern interpretations of tombs which vary in price.  

Urn fields is a series of graves where only urns can be placed. On every grave there is a gravestone with personal details of the deceased. Another burial place is Garden of Memory (Garden Field), which is a place of a common burial of many urns with ashes. Erecting a tomb is not allowed there, but the space can be nicely arranged by, among others, lightning, litter bins, benches, plant pots or plant supports as well as paved paths. In Polish cemeteries we can often see grave plaques with personal details of the deceased placed on an installation or a wall which surrounds the place where ashes are deposited (for example in Junikowo cemetery in Poznan). Columbaria, that is tombs for urns, are common in contemporary cemeteries. This is a kind of a collective tomb (a building or a room) with niches for urns with ashes of the deceased. Moreover, columbarium complexes are more and more commonly found. By columbarium complexes we mean the area which surrounds a columbarium: with benches, water elements, sculpture installations, litter bins, lights or plants (frequently installed on supports). Gravestone decorations (vases or lanterns) often accompany urn fields and columbaria.  

Anna Długozima


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