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Jennifer Hopkins wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • How does one come to be buried in a cathedral? (specifically, a lay person)
  • And, how are the bodies physically buried in the Church, under the memorial plaques?
    (e.g., standing up, laying down with head facing to the east, fit into the smallest possible position so as to save space in the church floors for other burials, etc.)
  • In traditional Catholic burials, the head of a lay person is positioned towards the east, whereas a priest is buried the opposite way, i.e., with their head towards the West, but would this be possible in the seemingly limited space underneath the cathedral floor?

I've been wondering about this for a while, and haven't been able to find an answer.

Thanks for shedding any light on the issue.

Jennifer H.

  { How does someone come to be buried in a cathedral and how are their bodies physically buried? }

Fr. Jonathan replied:

Dear Jennifer,

Canon Law states:

Bodies are not to be buried in churches unless it is a question of burying in their own church the Roman Pontiff, cardinals, or diocesan bishops, including retired ones.

Canon 1242

Hope this helps,

Fr. Jonathan

Jennifer replied:

Thanks for this information, Father.

This gets me closer to an answer!

Wishing you the best,


Mary Ann replied:

Hi, Jennifer —


That is the present rule. In older times, many of the faithful were buried in the Church,
either under the floor (often stacked) or in special tombs for notables. It was an expression
of the communion of saints gathered at the Mass.

Mary Ann

Jennifer replied:

Great, Mary Ann!

Thanks for the information.

  • Do you happen to have any sources that I could use to further investigate this?


Mary Ann replied:

Hi Jenn,

I think your best bet would be sources on medieval cathedrals.

A cleverly worded google search should turn up something interesting.

Mary Ann

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