architecture : urban : visual culture

Sacral space: urn cemetary in Ábrahámhegy

In her diploma work, Mokos Mariann designed a building ensemble which includes an urn cemetery and a funeral home. In accord with the religious experience of space in the writings of Mircea Eliade, the formation of masses is centralized.

"Around the main attributes, secondary attributes can be categorized, according to which, in this day and age, death is a repugnant, shameful event that is best to disguise. The thought of the "death-ideal" supports the unnoticed, tender and ideal vanishing, which appear as typical aesthetic elements and foster the modern desire for pain-free existence." - Tamás Herczeg, doctoral dissertation 2009

I chose a Roman Catholic urn cemetery in Ábrahámhegy for my diploma work. Ábrahámhegy is a village with 421 inhabitants, that belongs to the administrative unit of Badacsonytomaj. In the village and in its immediate vicinity there are several small chapels on the hillside. Among them, one of the chapels is St. Iván chapel, which, according to the data of the National Heritage, stood beside the medieval cemetery in the village of Ábrahámhegy.

In this cemetery, funerals took place until 1914 and afterwards. Later on a non-denominational, public cemetery was formed here too, as it was the common practice in many other Hungarian villages. In this public cemetery, the only way of burial is in caskets, and its territory is up to 80% full. That is why I decided that the new cemetery, which is being built, will be returned to the original site of the funeral, to the area near St. Iván chapel.

Since cremation is becoming more popular and the percentage of casket ceremonies is decreasing, I have decided to design an urn cemetery, which is considered to be more modern. In the formation of the urn cemetery, the main idea that led me was how much the linear arrangement of urn walls seem unfit for their function. Linearity, as such, is not a typical sacred space, as we see in ancient Christian examples that birth and death (Baptistery and Mausoleum) are always central spatial formations.

"For religious man, space is not homogeneous; he experiences interruptions, breaks in it; some parts of space are qualitatively different from others. For profane experience, on the contrary, space is homogeneous and neutral; no break qualitatively differentiates the various parts of its mass. Geometrical space can be cut and delimited in any direction; but no qualitative differentiation and, hence, no orientation are given by virtue of its inherent structure." 

Mircea Eliade
Sacred and profane


The other important design aspect was to create a complex that includes both the urns and the farewell chapel. Because of the choice of location, a third aspect was also introduced during the design phase - it was also important for the complex to fit into the terrain's features as well.

The organization of space was finally created in the following way: an external "corridor" was created, a path encircled by urn walls leading to the chapel. This includes a closed funeral home, monolithic in its appearance. The inside of the funeral home opens up again into an open space, the inner urn ring. The funeral home is concentric, with an entrance on both sides, and a secondary area for restrooms and storage.

"It does not devolve upon us to show trough what historical processes, and by which changes in spiritual attitudes and behavior has modern man desacralized his world and assumed a profane existence. For our purpose, it is enough to observe that desacralization pervades the entire experience of the non-religious man of modern societies and that, in consequence, he finds it increasingly difficult to rediscover the existential dimensions of
religious man in the archaic societies."

Mircea Eliade
Sacred and profane

Mariann Mokos

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