Although the people of Lübeck definitely resented Napoleonic rule, it wasn’t all bad from today’s perspective as the French introduced new, even revolutionary methods. For example, the French prefect introduced an official death register in 1811, and in 1812 a decree was issued banning burials within the city walls. Previously the dead – apart from victims of the plague, leprosy or cholera – had usually been buried in the churches, churchyards or within the walls of a monastery. There were good reasons for doing so as people were aware of their fallibility, saw themselves as weak sinners and felt threatened by Satan and his machinations. The fear that the Devil could seize their soul on their death was very real, and in spite of prior confession and absolution, people simply felt safer on ground over which Satan had no control. This led to a considerable shortage of space at the beginning of the 19th century and to problems of hygiene. Although the new directive on burials was initially rejected by the people of Lübeck and lifted again one year later when the city was freed, reason finally prevailed with the inauguration of the Castle Gate cemetery outside the gates of the city in 1832.
If you would like to immerse yourself in the exciting story of the medieval Castle Monastery, you can visit the European Hansemuseum and explore this historical monument that has been integrated with the modern architecture of the Hansemuseum.