The Koningsakker, in the Netherlands, was the site of part of the World War II Battle of Arnhem immortalised in the book and film A Bridge Too Far.
Now, apart from the soldiers who fell in that battle, the “King’s Field” is opening up its arms again 75 years later, to receive more dead.
This time, the Dutch people who opt for the “natural burials” offered by the Trappistine Sisters of the Abbey of Koningsoord, who’ve acquired this beautiful patch of land.
Driving the news
The Katholiek Nieuwsblad told the story of the nuns and the cemetery they’ve just set up in the King’s Field.
The project began some six years ago, when the sisters, looking for income for the upkeep of their abbey and adjoining nature reserve, found inspiration in members of their congregation in the United States.
The Trappistine Sisters in Virgina have been running a natural burials cemetery for years.
In this way of burying the dead, the emphasis is on sustainability and being eco-friendly.
The coffins and urns for the remains are all biodegradable, and shrouds must be made out of natural fabrics linen, jute, hemp and wool.
Instead of tombstones, each grave is marked with a simple wooden disc with an inscription.
“We thought the idea fitted in perfectly with our way of life: Silence, prayer, and a sober life connected to nature are important parts of it”, Sister Pascale told the Katholiek Nieuwsblad.
Abbess Sister Julian admitted that “at first we meant to open a Roman Catholic cemetery, but there were a lot of issues involved with that in terms of regulations”.
“One of the reasons was that we’re not a parish.
“In the end, a public cemetery turned out to be a better reflection of our intentions.
“It reflects beautifully what has been said by St. Benedict: ‘Welcome every guest like Christ’. We don’t want to be large landowners, but to share everything we have”, the abbess said.
“We took on a big responsibility”, continued Sister Julian.
“Nature is given all the space it needs, and the graves will always remain intact, even in the event the abbey disappears in the future. That has been all put in writing.
“Life and death are closely connected here, to each other and to nature”.
Where it stands
Only four people have been buried so far in the King’s Field cemetery, but the Katholiek Nieuwsblad said dozens of people have already reserved their spot.
And burials here are not just limited to Catholics, either.
Regardless of faith or nationality, everyone is welcome at the cemetery, and to take a long walk around its four fields – called Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter – to select a plot in which to be buried.
“Natural burials are a perfect fit for this day and age”, explained cemetery location manager Riny Bergervoet.
“At the end of their lives, people are looking for connection with the ground they came from and on which they are living.
“Close to the abbey, people find the sense of belonging that they need.
“Choosing this as a resting place is a testimony to one’s identity. People know that we are praying for them on a daily basis, which they find very uplifting”.