Without the body: the catafalque

Ages ago, I said I would work on some ideas for remembering the dead when no physical remains could be found. This weekend seems a good time to pick that back up, and let’s begin with the catafalque.

A catafalque is a draped wooden frame in the shape of a coffin, which may be used in proxy for unrecovered remains at a requiem mass. My point here is that there might be a use for reasonable proxy in the future, though I think the use is likely to sway to the use of the framed photograph.

Today, the catafalque’s use seems to be favored among Anglicans so high “that the air’s too thin to breathe” for a requiem mass for All Souls (Day). The most famous “civil” catafalque is the one in the US Capitol, and is used for lying-in-state, beginning with Lincoln, but in each case bearing the actual remains.

Australians in war dead remembrances muster a “catafalque party” — a guard of four service personnel — as a part of ceremonies, but this touching honor is better associated with monument, which I’ll get to next.

Suggested order of ceremonies on Anzac or Remembrance Day (itself a model of how, if not the content, community services might be structured; ministers take note)
Page with a picture of a catafalque party with customs

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