A dry stone wall and a hedge mark the border between this semi-wild place and the nearby cemetery, where hundreds of uniform stelae are lined up in a concrete area. “Some visitors next door sometimes cross the border,” says Dominique Bodin wandering in the quiet wooded plot of 4,000 m2 where there are already a dozen dead. It evokes this lady who came to bloom the grave of her husband, next, then to recollect, here, in the shade of lime trees.
The place was designed “to minimize the ecological footprint and make the link between the deceased, visitors and nature,” said Eve-Marie Ferrer, landscape manager of the public spaces of the town hall of Niort.
In 30 years, continues Dominique Bodin, the uses of the cemetery have changed. With an exploded family unit, “the relatives are no longer necessarily established on the communal territory and the need to perpetuate the space of rest and meditation has dwindled”. The municipalities have understood this by abolishing the perpetual concessions for the most part and making fixed-term concessions of 50 or even 30 years.
Educated by the examples of Northern Europe (United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Scandinavia), the Conservative measures “the delay of France”, where the number of deceased being cremated has increased tenfold in 30 years (35% today), with a growing demand for adapted proximity cineraries. “And we have been content to multiply colombariums (niches for funerary urns), aesthetic very doubtful,” he laments.
With these findings and a budget of 50,000 euros, allocated by the City, the Curator and the landscape architect have imagined together this “necropolis greener and cheaper by relying on recycling,” says Eve-Marie Ferrer.
The shrubs come from communal wastelands and a grindstone serves as a bench in the center of the peaceful “Garden of Ashes Dispersion”, where the “Tree of Spring” was planted, a metal sculpture, also recycle.
But we must adhere to the “Charter”, he warns, and to the idea that there is no vault or tombstone, but a desk of 30 centimeters in local limestone. No concrete tank, but a burial in the ground.
Shrouds and clothes of the deceased are made of natural fibers and the chemical care of thanatopraxy (body conservation) strictly prohibited. The coffin is made of untreated wood or recycled materials and the varnishes are certified without solvents. And here, the flowers are natural.
The Fradon, a retired couple of teachers came to visit the place: “The merchants of death charge everything: wrists, dimples and even the cushion under the head! But do we need it? “Said Monsieur. He therefore finds “brilliant” this idea of ”ecological and cheap cemetery”.