Graves in the Pieterskerk
The custom of burying the dead in a church started in the early Middle Ages. It was done in an attempt to protect the bodies of Saints and important people in times of war and looting. The dead were preferably buried close to the altar and the choir. One would be closer to the Lord. The sales of graves was also a lucrative business for the church.
Being buried in the church was originally a privilege for the clergy and people in high authority. From the 14th century it was common practice. It was bound by certain rules. Buying a grave was a costly affair not everyone could afford. For the less affluent and the poor there was a large common basement available. The poorest were buried outside the church under the 'hedge' or the strongholds of the city.
Because space in the vaults of the churches was limited, other solutions had to be found to handle the influx of the dead. It was decided that the graves - without too much piety - would be shaken after a few years. The bones were collected, sifted to get rid of the sand and - often with the remains of several dead people at a time - buried in a caskets. As a result, in the Pieterskerk there are few undisturbed graves from before 1600 to be found.
The last burial in the Pieterskerk took place in 1825, later the Royal Decree of 1827 banned burials in churches. In 1869 the funeral law was introduce, finally burials in churches were illegal. From that time on cemeteries were placed outside the city.
The tombs in the Pieterskerk:
During the restoration of the Pieterskerk between 1978 and 1982, 205 burials were investigated and documented. A total of 40 tombs were excavated. Of the skeletons of 101 adults, knowledge could be gathered about the change in height over the centuries. After the inventory and documentation the tombstones were put back into their original place.