Flanders’ first natural cemetery opens in Lanaken


Those wanting to forego a casket and an urn can become part of nature in Limburg at the new Natural Burial Site Rekem

Forest funeral

Anyone who lives an environmentally friendly life can now continue their green efforts after death, at the country’s first natural burial ground. The new cemetery (pictured) in Rekem, part of Lanaken in Limburg, opened on Wednesday.

The Natural Burial Site Rekem is located in Isaekshoef forest, part of the Hoge Kempen National Park. It surrounds an historical cemetery located on the site.

The new cemetery is made up of eight zones connected by a footpath, offering space for about 250 biodegradable urns that will disappear after five years. Each zone contains a totem – a wooden sculpture in the form of an animal – where relatives can place a small name plate in memory of the deceased, and the site contains only natural materials such as boulders and wooden benches.

The idea is to have as little impact as possible on the natural surroundings. No flowers, photos, crosses, teddy bears or other memorials are allowed.

No burials yet

The Lanaken pilot project was created in 2015, but there have so far been no enquiries from anyone wishing to bury their loved ones in the new graveyard or be buried there themselves.

“Perhaps some people are put off by the fact that they won’t have a real grave or memorial. They might still want a grave where they can place flowers,” said Marino Keulen, mayor of Lanaken, at the official opening of the site. “But I expect that requests will come first from people who love nature and want to become one with it after they die, or from people without children who worry about who will tend their grave.”

As the cemetery is located in the national park, it is managed by the Agency for Nature and Woodland. Residents of Lanaken will pay €300 for a burial place, while non-residents will be charged €1,200. Organic urns cost approximately €125.

Photo: Joris Vliegen/BELGA