XVII. Medieval cemetery

With the introduction of Christianity in Poland, the funeral rite changed. The new rite forbade cremation, but cremation graves functioned well into the 12th century. The Roman Council of 1059 ordered the dead to be buried in sacred places, near churches and chapels. It also specified the necessary size of cemeteries. It was 60 steps in each direction from the temple and 30 steps from the chapel. The Council also recommended fencing off cemeteries.

The dead were buried on biers, in coffins, on wooden logs or in wooden or stone surrounds. Graves – holes dug in the ground – were located along the axis of the temple on the east-west line, at small distances from each other (5–10 cm). Their number decreased towards the fence of the cemetery; „strangers” and misfits were also buried there. Digging the graves one into the other was forced by limited space. The graves were not permanent, although their arrangement – both in a row (early Middle Ages) and along the east-west axis (late Middle Ages) – would indicate that they were marked with, for example, stones, sticks, and then wooden crosses.

There were several burial zones around the temple in the necropolis, with the space closest to the sacrum, e.g.,  the altar, being the most intensively developed. The „lanterns of the dead” were common – burning at night and symbolising eternal light. An important element of cemeteries were ossuaries, e.g,. places where human bones were stored, and morgues. From the 13th century, the church and the cemetery were a place of asylum for all those who were being chased.