Cremation today is a practical and respectable means of laying your loved one to rest upon their demise. But it wasn’t always accepted as the cultural norm by mainstream civilizations of the past. By learning more about the history of cremation, we can gain a greater appreciation for the service it provides for us today.
Cremation has a long and interesting history, leading back to thousands of years in the past. The word itself has a Latin origin and means “to burn.” The practice is believed to have originated in Europe and was commonly used in both Rome and Greece by 800 and 600 BC, respectively. In contrast, cremation was shunned by major civilizations such as ancient Israel, Egypt, and China who preferred to use traditional burial or embalmment for their deceased in conjunction with their religious beliefs.
Even the early Christian church rejected this practice, believing it “desecrated” the body as the “temple of God.” In fact, when the Roman Empire declared Christianity as its official religion, burial became the only acceptable form of disposing of deceased bodies in Europe.
It wasn’t until the early 19th century that cremation was integrated into Western society. The first crematory chamber was built by Professor Brunetti of Italy in the 1870s. This opened the door for the practice to grow in both Europe and North America.
The U.S. Cremation Movement
Cremation was introduced in the U.S. by Dr. Francis J. LeMoyne when he performed the country’s first cremation in a crematory furnace he built on his property. At this time, the concept was still considered radical and far-fetched by society at large. LeMoyne used the argument that bodies decomposing in the ground could generate germs and cause disease. In contrast, having a body cremated sterilized the remains, making it a safer and more sanitary way of disposing of the dead. Cremation also freed up valuable space taken by cemeteries which could be used to expand cities.
The cremation debate raged for decades before it slowly integrated into U.S. society. Over time, cemetery directors began to see the advantages that cremation had to offer. In the meantime, cremation societies were springing up around the country and promoting the construction of public crematories that resembled chapels so they would be more readily accepted by the public.
By the early 20th century, cremation had become a way of life. People no longer viewed the concept as sacrilegious or odd but began to appreciate its many advantages. By eliminating the need for burial plots and elaborate headstones, cremation helped simplify funeral arrangements and reduced funeral costs.
Today, millions of people choose cremation over traditional burial when preparing funeral arrangements for a loved one who has passed on. At Northside Chapel Funeral Directors and Crematory, we offer professional onsite cremation services to ensure your loved one is properly laid to rest at the end of life. For more information about our cremation or traditional funeral services, give us a call at 770-645-1414.